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About Major Groups: Workers & Trade Unions

Special Day:
Special Day of the Workplace at CSD-4


The Day of the Workplace, held at CSD-4 in 1996, was requested by the Commission on Sustainable Development, based on the CSD’s appreciation for the Day of Local Authorities organized for its third session in April 1995.

CDS Request

The actual request read as follows:

The Commission noted with appreciation the series of events highlighting the role of local authorities and the local Agenda 21 process, under the banner of ‘A Day of Local Authorities’, during the current session, and requested that similar projects and activities highlighting the role of other major group sectors be carried out in future years. One such activity, for the fourth session, in 1996, could involve case studies on partnerships in the workplace involving two major group sectors: workers and trade unions and business and industry. It could also involve case-studies of successful environmental management/sustainable development policies of small- and medium-sized enterprises. In that context, a programme of events focusing on the role and contribution of major groups could be organized on the margins of the fourth session. (paragraph 20, E/CN.17/1995/36)

CSD Request

General Aim of MGs "Special Days"

The general purpose of organizing special major group Days during the annual CSD sessions is to provide the representatives of one or more major group sectors with the space and opportunity to share their field-level experiences and views on sustainable development with the Commission and other participants of the session. The special Days provide an opportunity for dialogue, help collect and communicate positive messages on Agenda 21 follow up, and empower the major group sector(s) concerned.

Aim of the "Day Of the Workplace"

The particular purpose of the DOW project was to bring examples of best practices as well as view points and experiences from the workplace environment. Two major group sectors in the workplace, namely Business and Industry and Workers and Trade Unions, have been taking initiatives towards integrating sustainable development objectives into the mainstream of the workplace activities. Such initiatives have involved not only independent actions by either sector but also actions that were taken in partnership.

Operational Criteria

The lessons learned from the process of the Day of Local Authorities provided a set of operational criteria that were employed in the DOW preparations. These criteria included the following:

  1. major group partners should play an active role.
    (These included the main responsibilities in deciding the content of the events, designing the events and selecting their participants, managing the preparations of case-studies, and raising the funds as needed).
  2. expertise of relevant UN agencies should guide, but not determine the overall process.
  3. the preparations should emphasize a bottom up approach aiming to bring to the CSD experiences of the actors at the ‘field level’ rather than the relevant experiences of the organizing entities.


Two broad categories of outcomes were expected from the DOW process:

(i) Short-term outcomes: contributions to CSD-4:

  • a set of case studies, published as a background document for CSD-4, including:
  • a three-hour panel discussion (Day of the Workplace, 30 April 1996) with three segments including:
    • Business Panel: (4 case studies presented by Mid to upper level managers of large businesses and SMEs)
    • Labor Panel: (4 case studies presented by local/national labor leaders)
    • Synthesis Panel: (composed of a Moderator, a high level business executive, and a high level labor representative to synthesize the information from the first two segments).
  • a series of satellite events throughout CSD-4 on Workplace related issues, organized by the DOW organizing partners (see below for the institutional set up).
  • The tentative list of these events include over eight presentations on issues ranging from employment and sustainable development to implementation of environmental management standards.

(ii) Long-term outcomes: educational and networking contributions

The DOW process also had a positive effect, as was expected, on the current and future role of the major group sectors involved. The process of deciding, soliciting and preparing case studies often revitalize an existing network. Similarly, local and national actors within the sector are mobilized and their sense of ownership and awareness of Agenda 21 objectives are heightened.

It is a learning process for all concerned including those that were involved behind the scenes at the community, local and national levels. The efforts to prepare the DOW events have already lead to this type of long-term learning and increased motivation to contribute to the sustainable development follow up under the coordination of the CSD.

For example, the overwhelming response of local and national labor unions and affiliates have led the ICFTU, one of the organizing partners for DOW, to start making plans to prepare contributions to the 1997 review of Agenda 21 by a special session of the General Assembly as well as beyond.

DOW Preparations

The preparations for the DOW was coordinated by a Planning Group that kept the lessons learned through the first special Day effort in mind throughout its work (see above for the criteria). The Planning Group was composed of several major group partners and UN agencies, chaired by the Division for Sustainable Development.

Members of the Planning Group

The following list briefly introduces the members of the DOW Planning Group:

Lead Major Group partners

Labor inputs were coordinated by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). This organization is held numerous consultation meetings with its national and regional affiliates in order to enable a bottom up approach to prepare the labor contributions to the DOW.

Business inputs were prepared through collaboration several organizations including the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Business inputs related to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) was the particular responsibility of the International Network for Environmental Management (INEM) which also took part in the overall coordination.

UN Agency Partners

UN Environment Programme, Industry and Environment Office. This organization was invited to join the Planning Group on the basis of its extensive work on business and environmental management issues.

International Labour Organization. This organization was invited to join on the basis of its work both with Business and Labor.
Chair of the Planning Group

Division for Sustainable Development. In addition to its role as the chair of the group, the Division also serviced the Planning Group and made the initial logistical arrangements for the events.

Case Studies

The case studies are presented in alphabetical order by country of location and grouped in two sections: case-studies from Business and Industry, and case-studies from Workers and Trade Unions.

Case Studies on Sustainable Development Initiatives of Business and Industry

  1. Eco-efficiency in a Leather Tannery: the Case of Curtigran in Colombia
  2. Holistic Management in a Brewery: the case of Neumarkter Lammsbraeu in Germany
  3. Development of Environmental Market Opportunities by a Car Battery Manufacturer: The Case of Perion in Hungary
  4. Cleaner Production in a Paper Mill: the case of Raval in India
  5. Environmental Management and the Oil Industry: The case of CHEVRON in Papua New Guinea
  6. Environmental management in a Chemical Company: the case of SASOL in South Africa

Case Studies on Sustainable Development Initiatives of Workers and Trade Unions

  1. Training for Environmental Cleanup: A Union Case Study
  2. Green Jobs In Industry Programme: A Union Case Study from Australia
  3. Eco-Audits and Sustainable Tourism: A Union Case Study from Finland
  4. Social Partnership for Sustainable Development: A Union Case Study from Germany
  5. Collective Bargaining for Environmental Protection: A Union Case Study from the Philippines
  6. People, Working Life and the Environment: A Union Case Study from Sweden
  7. Supportive Environments for Health: A Union Case Study from Zimbabwe