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No sustainable development without environmental sustainability and decent work

Geneva, 19 June 2013 – For the first time in the ILO’s near century-long history, governments’, workers’ and employers’ delegates have agreed on a strong common vision and key guiding principles to achieve a just transition to a greener economy. The contribution of the world of work to the greening of the economy is critical – and presents a real opportunity – to realize the ILO’s social goals, concludes the ILC Committee on Sustainable Development, Decent Work and Green Jobs.

For the first time in the ILO’s near century-long history, governments’, workers’ and employers’ delegates have agreed on a strong common vision and key guiding principles to achieve a just transition to a greener economy.

“The greening of economies presents many opportunities to achieve social objectives: it has the potential to be a new engine of growth, both in advanced and developing economies, and a net generator of decent green jobs that can contribute significantly to poverty eradication and social inclusion,” said the Committee on Sustainable Development in its conclusions, after almost two weeks of deliberations during the International Labour Conference (ILC).

The tripartite Committee – which discussed the best ways to achieve decent work, green jobs and sustainable development– was made up of 174 delegates from governments, employers and unions from around the world. Its conclusions were adopted by the plenary session of the ILC on Wednesday, 19 June, 2013.

“I am delighted to see such broad agreement on an issue that is so crucial for the future of the world of work and indeed of our planet,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “We now need to turn this agreement into concrete actions. That can and must be achieved through social dialogue.”

Compared to an unsustainable ‘business as usual’ approach to development, the transition to a greener economy could help reach many social goals over the next 20 to 30 years, including creating 15 to 60 million additional decent jobs – a substantial contribution to tackling global unemployment, the ILO said.

“Environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and Decent Work for all are three of the defining challenges of the twenty-first century. In my country and many other African countries, we already witness the havoc climate change can cause for workplaces, jobs and livelihoods. It is often the poorest who are hit the hardest. We must tackle these challenges together and at the same time,” said Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad from Sudan, chair of the Committee.

Brenda Cuthbert (Jamaica), vice-chair for the employers’ group, stated that: “Employers believe that proactively addressing higher energy efficiency and environmental issues of resource use, for example water consumption and the re-use and recycling of waste, helps to enable long-term sustainable growth. The savings from eco-efficiencies drive cost savings that can be reinvested in innovation, making companies stronger and providing more jobs. This provides advantages for all parties of the economy, including businesses, workers and governments.”

Gerardo Martinez (Argentina), vice-chair for the workers’ group, said: “Due to the dimension of the environmental and the employment crisis, trade unionists understand that change is not an option but a necessity. Economies have to be restructured to make them environmentally sustainable. But unionists want a different transition this time. The transition has to create green and decent jobs and should not make workers the variable of adjustment. The world needs an ambitious transition towards environmental sustainability and workers want it to be a just transition.”

More and better jobs

The ILO said that the greening of the economy can not only create additional decent jobs across the economy but also upgrade jobs and raise incomes as well, especially in sectors such as agriculture, construction, recycling and tourism. It also warned that there are environmental and employment challenges that the world needs to tackle jointly, not separately.


The ILC Committee called for all jobs and enterprises to become greener by introducing more energy and resource-efficient practices. This can be realized by increasing social dialogue and adopting coherent policies, customized to each country’s need, and by paying particular attention to labour standards, industrial policies and support to micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).


It also highlighted the need for a strong link between the world of work and the world of education and training, the implementation and respect for occupational safety and health measures, and the promotion of sound, comprehensive and sustainable social protection systems.


Special targeted assistance to groups, regions and occupations affected by the transition is also seen as essential. For example, public and private employment programmes can have a large multiplier effect by combining employment generation, income support and conservation of natural assets.


The ILC Committee called on the ILO to further develop its research capacity, to share best practices with constituents and to provide guidance for SMEs and cooperatives to green their production processes with greater energy efficiency and a better use of resources.


It also called on the ILO to continue to work with relevant global and regional institutions to promote the Decent Work Agenda in macroeconomic policies, to work to ensure that Decent Work is applied in practice and to provide active support for constituents advocating the inclusion of Decent Work, poverty eradication and a just transition for all, in the Post-2015 development agenda



The ILO will follow up with a strategic action plan to translate the conclusions into concrete initiatives and support programmes.



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