Skip to Content

Climate Change and the Australian Workplace

Created: 12 May 2014


Climate change and public policy measures to mitigate its impact are likely to lead to significant shifts in the composition of the labour market through the decline and expansion of certain jobs and industries. It is also likely to have an impact on employment relations and job quality. While the growth potential of certain green jobs, skills and industries has been analysed, there is little hard evidence of how this potential is translating into practice at the workplace level.

Workplaces generally are one of the greatest sources of carbon emissions, and so it seems reasonable to expect the labour market actors (employers, employees and their representatives) to have an interest in working together in this sphere, which affects productivity, quality of work, and workforce development. To this extent, forms of employee engagement, such as collective bargaining, represent a potentially important strategic mechanism for the labour market actors to identify the appropriate response to climate change at the workplace-level.

This report investigates the impact of climate change and the impetus for carbon reduction across the economy on work and employment. There are four components of our analysis:

  • A review of the existing academic and non-academic literature on work and climate change in Australia and other advanced economies (Section 2);
  • A content analysis of the policy positions and public statements of 25 labour market actors and key organisations in sectors that are affected by or play a significant role in carbon reduction (Section 3);
  • An analysis of the environmental clauses contained in 1280 enterprise bargaining agreements registered across all sectors in Australia from 2009 to 2012. This involves an examination of the incidence and sectoral spread of agreements with clauses relating to climate change and assesses the nature and substance of these clauses. These findings are used to generate conclusions regarding the viability of collective bargaining as a mechanism for allowing organisations to respond positively to the challenges of carbon reduction (Section 4).
  • An analysis of employer responses to climate change based on a survey of 682 organisations; including 466 medium-large businesses and 216 government agencies. Organisations were surveyed about their emissions reduction practices and the motivations for these practices. Findings are used to assess the level and nature of engagement by organisations in a range of carbon emissions reduction behaviours, their reasons for doing so, and their engagement with employees on the issue (Section 5).
  • Finally, we draw some overall conclusions about the attitudes and motivations of employment relations actors, the practice of carbon emissions reduction and the effects of policy, and employment engagement (Section 6).


Professor Ray Markey
Director, Centre for Workforce Futures
Faculty of Business and Economics
Macquarie University NSW 2109
Phone: 02 9850 7444

Read the full report here (PDF)