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Creating sustainable workplace together? Employment relations and workplace environmental sustainability

Bratton, Andrew



Outline - A critique of much research on ‘green’ HRM is that it often assumed an overtly unitarist perspective, generally neglecting trade unions. This empirical paper contributes to the current research on employment relations in supporting environmental sustainability in the workplace (for example, see Goods, 2017). It provides unique insight for both academics and practitioners into six public and private sector organisations in the United Kingdom. The purpose of this paper is to examine how employment relations influence environmental sustainability in the workplace. It investigates the actual and potential role of trade unions and union representatives in environmental sustainability (for example, see Farnhill, 2018; Hampton, 2015; Markey and McIvor., 2019). Specifically, it examines (1) the role of workers and union representatives in environmental sustainability, and (2) workers’ experiences of representative participation in decision-making (Markey et al., 2019) and the implementation of environmental sustainability initiatives in the workplace. The underlying argument presented in this paper is that union-management cooperation (Bray, Budd, and Macneil, 2020) can be a feature of an environmentally sustainable workplace.

Methodology – This research employs a mixed methods multiple case study approach in which qualitative and quantitative data were collected in six public and private sector organisations in local government, health, higher education, transport and energy in Scotland. To establish context and identify key workplace employment relations processes under investigation, the research design incorporated extensive fieldwork, such as selective semi-structured interviews and focus groups involving eighty-seven respondents spanning HR managers, environmental managers, line managers, union representatives and workers.

Key findings – The findings demonstrate the importance of the responses of employment relations actors in supporting workplace environmental sustainability. The findings provide an understanding of the challenges facing unions when management introduce an environmental sustainability strategy, and the opportunities for cooperation that accrue from union representatives and managers working together to support workplace pro-environmental behaviour change. The findings emphasise that high-quality employee-manager relations and active engagement involving managers, employees and trade union representatives can improve environmental outcomes in the workplace. The results suggest that trade unions can play a constructive role in encouraging workplace pro-environmental behaviour, and that union-management cooperation can be a feature of an environmentally sustainable workplace.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name BUIRA Annual Conference 2022
Start Date Jun 28, 2022
End Date Jun 30, 2022
Deposit Date May 2, 2022
Public URL