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A new report by Handels Union of Sweden shows that commerce workers are eager to influence employers to reduce the commerce sector’s negative impact on the environment, and want a just transition to sustainability that also creates good working conditions.

The report titled “Environment and climate as a trade union issue” is a compilation of four different studies and reports Handels (The Swedish Commercial Workers Union) issued in between 2020 and 2022 after the Congress resolution that mandated the union to work on environmental and climate issues.

The report informs on workers’ perspectives on climate issues in the light of the surveys conducted with Handels members:

  • Workers are interested in environmental and climate issues. 88 per cent of the respondents said that they are fully or partially interested in environmental and climate issues.
  • Workers are worried about the impact of commerce. 80 per cent of the respondents noted that they are worried about the commerce sector’s negative environmental and climate impact.
  • Amazon is a major concern. 72 per cent of the workers reported that the entrance of Amazon to Sweden in 2020 may both impair the working environment and environmental sustainability.
  • Workers demand the sector to reduce its impact. 71 per cent of surveyed workers agreed with the statement that “Commerce needs to reduce its environmental and climate impact” and another 20 per cent agreed with that statement to some extent.
  • Justice for climate, better conditions for workers. While workers ask for change, a huge majority of 64 per cent highlighted that the environmental actions to be introduced should be compatible with good working conditions and good work environment.
  • No trade-off between climate justice and workers’ rights. Almost 80 of the workers underlined that actions that can deteriorate working conditions and workers’ rights might be disguised by arguments related to the environment and climate.  
  • Workers are not trained properly. Only 24 percent of the respondents reported that environmental and climate issues are included in training and skills development initiatives at their workplaces.
  • Workers want to influence their companies. 9 out of 10 workers showed interest in increasing their influence on environmental and climate issues in the companies they work. “Improved skills development”, “a combination of environmental improvements and good working conditions” and “environment-friendly workplaces” topped the list of the areas where workers want to exert more influence.
  • Just transition should be at the core. Around 95 per cent of the workers asked Handels to focus on just transition. Workers expect their union to promote a climate transition that is compatible with good working conditions, good working environment and adequate skills development for workers. “A fair transition where everyone is able and can afford to consume sustainably” is the core demand of the workers.

The report underlines the fact that if trade unions do not engage in climate transition issues, they would be leaving the field to other forces -mainly the market forces and the workers would be paying a bigger price. Providing a detailed analysis on the difference trade union can make on environmental issues, the report also highlights the importance of international collaboration and global framework agreements in ensuring just transition.  Presenting over 40 measures and actions to minimize the negative impact on commerce on environment, the report calls on trade union movement to work together to take on challenges posed by the climate crisis.

The report is available in English below.