Being Strategic: Building education trade unions’ strategies on environmental sustainability


On 5 June 2023, ETUCE organised an online seminar, titled “Education trade unions: How to build union’s strategy on environmental sustainability?” in order to shed light on the vital role of education trade unions in addressing environmental sustainability. This event provided members with a unique opportunity to engage in dynamic discussions, where they shared their experiences, ideas, and the challenges they encountered while developing strategies for a green transition in schools, trade unions, and wider society.

Over thirty education trade union members from all over Europe gathered to share their approaches to environmentally sustainable development as unions. Passionate to ensure a fair and inclusive green transition, experts were able to discuss the ways in which trade unions can implement strategies and internal policies towards goals and actions relative to environmental sustainability. Through various thought-provoking presentations and discussions, members delved into utilisation of social dialogue on the national and European level on the topic of environmental sustainability and building of a heightened capacity of their affiliates to deal with these issues.

Participants highlighted the importance of trade union cooperation, of effective implementation of national and local measures, and of the use of a whole-school and whole-community approach. Indeed, members, when explaining how to address the crucial intersection of education and the environment, asked for a transversal integration of the environment sustainability in national curriculums and for more investments in improving school buildings following environmental and health and safety recommendations. They also strongly advocated for an all-encompassing approach which includes teachers, students, parents, local authorities, NGOs and other potential stakeholders.

Education trade union members all expressed their desire to be examples of environmental consciousness within society. Therefore, they also stressed the multiple ways in which trade unions can promote sustainable practices within their union branches, such as by providing specialised teacher trainings, organising seminars, implement action plans on this domain, address environmental sustainability during their union congresses, adopting eco-friendly policies within their operations, and championing green representatives within their unions.

Furthermore, thanks to concrete example of trade union plans and actions presented by experts , participants were able to propose concrete steps for building a union strategy on environmental sustainability and to discuss the various challenges faced and how to address them. Building on the ETUCE Practical guidelines for trade unions on addressing environmental issues and sustainable environmental development in the education sector , participants shared inspiring good practices tools, and knowledge that support them in being agents of change in their trade unions, education institutions and wider society.

The success of this online seminar, following the ETUCE project “Education for Social Change: The role of Education Trade Unions in addressing sustainable environmental development”, reaffirms ETUCE member organisations' unwavering commitment to developing trade union policies and strategies that address education and the environment, aiming for both social change and a sustainable future, as underlined in the ETUCE Resolution For a sustainable future of Europe: the role of education trade unions in Europe in addressing education and environment for social change (2021).