Universities starting to adopt fossil-free careers service

Four British universities have now banned fossil fuel companies from recruiting through their career services as a way to promote the zero-carbon pathway. Damian Carrington discusses latest developments in an article on The Conversation website. Is this happening in other countries?


Fossil fuel recruiters banned from three more UK universities

Three more UK universities have banned fossil fuel companies from recruiting students through their career services, with one citing the industry as a “fundamental barrier to a more just and sustainable world”.

The University of the Arts London, University of Bedfordshire, and Wrexham Glyndwr University join Birkbeck, University of London, which was the first to adopt a fossil-free careers service policy in September.

The moves follow a campaign supported by the student-led group People & Planet, which is now active in dozens of universities. The group said universities have been “propping up the companies most responsible for destroying the planet”, while the climate crisis was “the defining issue of most students’ lifetimes”. The campaign is backed by the National Union of Students and the Universities and College Union, which represents academics and support staff.

“The approach supports future generations to make meaningful career decisions,” said Lynda Powell, the executive director of operations at Wrexham Glyndwr University (WGU). “Through this we are supporting the development of a sustainable workforce for the future.”

The WGU policy states: “We take our responsibility to social and climate justice seriously … there are some industries that we see as fundamental barriers to a more just and sustainable world.”

Prof David Mba, the deputy vice-chancellor at University of the Arts London, said: “In line with UAL’s commitment to climate justice and its social purpose, it does not work with companies in the fossil fuel, mining, arms or tobacco industries.”

The University of Bedfordshire policy states fossil fuel companies are excluded from all activities including careers fairs and work placements.

J Clarke at People & Planet said: “All three of these universities should be recognised for their climate leadership. It is vital that our universities show with actions, not words, that they are taking the side of climate justice and not of the industries driving us deeper into a climate crisis that is harming the least responsible first and worst.”

The Guardian revealed in May that the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms were planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits and lead to catastrophic global impacts. UN secretary general, António Guterres, also told US students that month: “Don’t work for climate wreckers. Use your talents to drive us towards a renewable future.”

Student protests have already targeted fossil fuel careers events, including at Oxford University, where students blockaded an event by the mining group Glencore, and at Sheffield University, where a sit-in protest prevented BP and ExxonMobil events.

About 20% of UK universities have already banned certain sectors from their careers services, including the tobacco, pornography and gambling industries. Almost two-thirds of UK universities have divested their endowment funds from fossil fuels.

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