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Sustainlabour was founded to help the international trade union movement build sustainable development proposals and, especially, to defend the environment. Understanding the need for environmental sustainability and its consequences for workers and their communities is one of the major challenges for the trade union movement. The work carried out by Sustainlabour marked a turning point on the one hand in trade union positions around the issue and, on the other, in many other actors' understanding, such as NGOs, environmental activists and governments, of the need to align labour and environmental objectives.
Sustainlabour represented a space where unions could talk over policies focused on improving social-working conditions and the environment, where experiences and best practices could be shared, and where unions could learn from each other and agree on global proposals.
During its time, Sustainlabour witnessed the creation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and it worked with them so that environmental issues were included in their proposals.
Sustainlabour organised the first international meeting of trade unions on environmental challenges. The First Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment in the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) headquarters. In this meeting, and for the first time, unions supported the Kyoto Protocol.
Only 3 years later, work undertaken in the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen summit bore fruit when the trade unions supported a daring agenda on reducing emissions. They also proposed a key concept for sustainability in these times – a just transition towards a low carbon society and which has finally been included in the recent Paris Agreement.
Another noteworthy milestone was Rio + 20. There, Sustainlabour in conjunction with the International Trade Union Confederation organized a union meeting in which more than 450 trade unionists from all over the world took part. They approved a concrete plan of action on universal social protection, protecting the commons, the creation of green and decent jobs and financing sustainable development was taken to the assembly.
Sustainlabour was a key player in the discussions on sustainable development and green jobs at the International Labour Organisation that culminated in the adoption of the guidelines supported jointly by unions, governments and employers. Additionally, its team worked vigorously for a better governance of chemical substances through international processes such as SAICM.
During its 12 years of history, Sustainlabour worked with organizations from 120 countries and trained almost 3.000 unionists from all regions and all sectors on climate change and sustainable management of chemicals, among other issues. All training materials in diverse languages can be found in this website as well as the results of other activities and projects, that brought together many thousands of unionists, governmental representatives, business, NGOs, etc...
Sustainlabour projects supported agricultural workers' calls from east Africa who wanted a more rational use of pesticides; helped Ugandan truck drivers who wanted to learn how to drive more efficiently and improve their waste management; joined Uruguayan garbage collectors in their fight for decent and green jobs and backed Nepali forest workers, who wanted to fight climate change and take care of their forests.
In order to promote informed action, Sustainlabour produced a wide range of technical papers on environmental issues linked to employment, collective bargaining, organizing, labour standards, and so on that can be found in this website.
This is an important legacy to continue to work from, towards change inside unions, and towards transformation of national policies such as implementing the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sustainlabour was the result of much hard work from, among many others collaborators, Laura Martín Murillo, Judith Carreras, Laura Maffei, Julianna Angelova, Anabelén Sánchez, Beatriz Corroto and Joaquín Nieto.
Sustainlabour activities were possible due to the generous support from many organizations, above all from Comisiones Obreras and the United Nations Environmental Program.