UNISON Carbon Literacy training in Stockport

UNISON’s team of environmental reps at Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) is helping deliver peer-to-peer training at the local authority to equip staff with the knowledge and skills they need to protect and improve the environment.

Green Reps at Stockport
© Paul Herrmann/reportdigital.co.uk

Over the past year, environmental officer Mary Clarke, environmental reps Cassie Mailvaganam, Don Naylor and Andy Pennell, and another five colleagues, have trained more than 150 staff at the council.

And now the council leadership is looking to transform what has been a voluntary carbon literacy course into a mandatory programme, to ensure that all of its 2,400 staff learn what they can do to meet the climate emergency.

It was Stockport MBC’s arm’s length social housing organisation, Stockport Homes Group (SHG), that began environmental awareness training, using an interactive course called My Planet and Me in 2018.

The one-day course is accredited to the standards drawn up by the Carbon Literacy Trust, the Manchester-based charity formed in 2013, to educate people about the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environments.

Learners who demonstrate that they understand the climate emergency and commit to making significant changes to reduce their own carbon footprint, can obtain a carbon literacy certificate at the end of the course.

Mary was one of a group of council staff who attended the course when SHG introduced it in autumn 2018. Mary recalls: 

There were a few of us who went along to one of the training sessions and we thought, ‘This is brilliant – we need to find out more’.”

The group decided they would customise the programme for local authority staff and begin rolling it out across the council, too.

Designed by Angie Jukes, a sustainability specialist within the council’s planning team, the course has been delivered since 2019 by the team of peer-to-peer trainers, with sessions held roughly once a month.

The course has proved very popular with staff who have already taken part. Mary said:

We get really good feedback from people who’ve been on the course: they say it’s the best council training they’ve ever been on!”

And the sessions also help tutors extend their knowledge of the issues and the steps different departments can take.

Every time I run a carbon literacy training session, I know I’m going to finish the course having learned something from somebody else in the room.” 

Stockport LG Branch has been working on environmental issues in partnership with the authority for several years, having signed the Joint Environment and Climate Change Agreement (JECCA) with Stockport Council in April 2014.

Mary said:

The JECCA gives us facility time to work on environmental matters and a formal channel we can use to feed in suggestions, query things and make corrections.”

The branch based the agreement on a template in the TUC handbook Go Green at Work, which helped a generation of reps tackle climate change when it was first published more than 10 years ago.

Mary explained:

After personnel changes among senior management in recent years, having the JECCA in place has proved the enduring worth of signing collective agreements.”

I was able to remind the new senior management team that we still have this agreement, so they have given us a foot under the table on the climate task force groups they have set up to help them draw up a climate action plan.”

Being part of the groups that include the senior officers that are tasked with climate change at Stockport – that’s very significant. As we’ve said to them, we all live on the same planet, we all breathe the same air: it doesn’t make sense for us not to work together.”

This case study first appeared in “Cutting Carbon, Growing Skills - green skills for a just transition”.