Achievements: A Brief History of People & Planet
People & Planet was originally called Third World First. It was set up in 1969 to raise money for overseas aid. It didn’t take long for us to realise that raising awareness and campaigning are essential in achieving widespread long term change, and we shifted our focus to reflect that.
People & Planet now works to educate and empower students to take effective action on the root causes of social and environmental injustice. Working together democratically, our student network and our support office have had many successes, including:
The Sweatshop Free campaign has increased the number of UK universities affiliated to the WRC to eleven, campaigned in solidarity with Indonesian workers to win $1.8million in redundancy pay from Adidas, pressured over 30 brands to sign-up to the Bangladesh Accord, and launched the new Electronics Watch affiliation campaign in order to bring transparency and reform to public sector electronics supply chains across Europe.
People & Planet launched the Fossil Free campaign to divest UK universities’ £5.2 billion investments in fossil fuels and sever their ties to an industry fuelling the climate crisis. In October 2013, we organised a high-profile tour of the UK with 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben which catapulted the issue of divestment onto media front pages and mobilised a whole new generation of student climate activists. Over 40 Fossil Free campaigns have since got underway at campuses around the country, joining 400+ campaigns around the world in a movement that’s been described as “the most far-reaching threat to the global fossil fuel industry” by Oxford academics.
The Activism team worked hard over the last year to deliver and start reviewing People & Planet’s events and outreach. In 2013, for the first time, we held our annual gathering Shared Planet in a sixth form college, our Summer Gathering was attended by 86 student activists from around the UK and further afield, and our passionate regional organisers arranged well-attended regional events to train and support students in their area. We also trialled a successful freshers outreach tour - with staff visiting 35 freshers fairs and first meetings. This year we’re supporting 53 active People & Planet groups or affiliate student groups working on our campaigns who have so far received 65 workshops and trainings to develop the skills they need to campaign effectively.
In summer 2013, Education Secretary Michael Gove decided to drop climate change from the curriculum. People & Planet supporters joined thousands of people around the country in telling Gove and Energy Secretary Ed Davey not to be stupid on the climate, and managed to reverse their decision. Students in schools and colleges across the country have also been transforming the education sector, using everything from photo petitions to college open days to clothes-swapping events to make your voices heard. As a result, this year saw the first 8 signatories to People & Planet’s Green Education Declaration for schools and colleges - a public commitment to get serious about the environment.
The largest week of student action on climate change ever held - Go Green Week 2012 engaged over 140 universities, schools & colleges and over 20,000 staff and students.
Our Going Greener project to create Transition Universities has trained up and helped students at 12 universities to launch new Student Food Co-ops, or Scoops as they’re known on campus.
We persuaded the UK government to abstain from a key vote on the EU Fuel Quality Directive that would keep dirty tar sands oil out of Europe. Norman Baker was planning to vote no under intense pressure from Canadian lobbyists but over 1600 emails & creative actions from students helped to shift the government’s position. A huge win but we will be keeping the pressure up for a Yes vote in early 2013.
Over 500 students wrote to Universities Minister David Willetts calling for more action on climate change within the education sector from the “greenest government ever”
6 more universities joined the Worker Rights Consortium. Thanks to pressure from our activists, the number of universities with ethical procurement policies increased from 26% to over 70% in one year.
Over 100 students wrote to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister demanding justice for the murdered trade unionist, Aminul Islam.
We launched our campaign against adidas, where over 75 student officers, including NUS Vice President Dannie Grufferty, signed our pledge to picket, protest and boycott adidas. We will keep fighting until adidas pay their workers in Indonesia.
In 2011Worker Rights Consortium, a landmark for student anti-sweatshop activism. Many more will follow.
NUS Services Limited, the purchasing arm of the National Union of Students, unanimously voted to join the Worker Rights Consortium. It set a precedent for the whole sector and was commended by students’ unions across the country.
The People & Planet People & Planet University League went mainstream with a new publication partnership with The Guardian newspaper. Our 2011 eco-ranking of 143 universities became front page news and created a Twitterstorm that helped spread the results to over 500,000 people. We also launched People & Planet’s first ever iPhone app to help students keep track of their universities environmental and ethical progress.
Our Going Greener campaign empowered students to set up projects and campaigns that saved over 1200 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere - from student allotments to energy-saving projects and bike co-ops.
We took a group of 8 student activists accompanied by two People & Planet staff and a film crew to Canada for the Tarsands Youth Solidarity Exchange project with the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. Seeing the destruction caused by the tar sands industry firsthand has inspired both Cree and UK students to redouble their efforts to stop further tar sands oil extraction on their traditional lands. The project also resulted in a feature length documentary Taking on Tarmageddon which is now being screened across the country educating others about tar sands.
Image © Fairtrade Foundation 2010
Tescos agrees to double its supply of Fairtrade cotton school uniforms after People & Planet lobbying. The Wear Fair campaign in schools and colleges claims its first major success in calling on all schools to change to Fairtrade cotton uniforms.
Students across the country also target Asda, for being the only major supermarket chain not to sell any Fairtrade cotton uniforms.
Image © Team Sweat, 2010
Nike agree to pay $1.5 million legally mandated severance pay to Honduran workers after People & Planet joined the United Students Against Sweatshops campaign calling on Nike to ‘Just Pay It!.
People & Planet wrote a letter to Nike explaining that our network would decide by Skype call whether to run the campaign in three weeks. Within two weeks the campaign ended in all the workers demands being met.
Fruit of the Loom/Russell agree to reopen Honduran factory after ‘biggest student boycott since Apartheid’.
1,200 Honduran garment workers got their jobs back after an historic victory for international student campaigning, part of People & Planet’s Redress Education campaign. It has shown that students can fight back against exploitation and the race to the bottom, and secured income for 1,200 poor families.
The People & Planet University League entered its third year and kept up the pressure on universities to improve their environmental performance and policies. Since it began, we have seen a 54% increase in universities employing full time environmental managers. Previous Government reports had failed to generate action but we have succeeded in bringing about the creation and publication of environmental policies in all but seven of the UK’s universities.
We took the government to court over RBS’s carbon-intensive investments such as tar sands. The majority of RBS is now owned by the public and we argued that the government should be using its shareholding to invest in a low-carbon future not dirty fossil fuels. The High Court ruled that the Treasury can ignore climate change and human rights but the fight is not over, at the time of writing (December 2009) we are preparing our appeal case. We have a positive vision to transform RBS into the Royal Bank of Sustainability. Check out the People & Planet Ditch Dirty Development campaign homepage for the latest developments.
Image © Lucy Hiscox
Students flooded the streets of London on the biggest ever climate change march: The Wave, this colourful creative action included People & Planet’s huge wave machine and our ever-popular flash dance. Up to 50,000 people came to London, dressed in blue to show the flood of support for strong leadership on climate change at Copenhagen.
Over the years, People & Planet has also:
Transformed environmental performance across the higher education sector through our Go Green campaigning, including the award winning People & Planet University League.
Persuaded the UK government to lead an international commitment to provide HIV/AIDS treatment for all by 2010 — millions more now receive treatment.
Campaigned for Fairtrade in universities, schools and colleges. Over 100 universities, and 106 secondary schools have now achieved Fairtrade status.
Secured $88bn debt cancellation for the world’s poor, by playing a key role in the Jubilee 2000 campaign.
Persuaded a £20 billion lecturers’ pension fund to adopt a socially responsible investment policy.
Forced Pepsi out of Burma, ending their financial support for the military junta and receiving thanks from Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in exile.
For more details about People & Planet’s activities please visit our news pages.
Congratulations to the students in the network, our financial supporters in our FAN Club, and our funders for making a real change. Let’s keep on campaigning!