Fossil fuel companies have been banned for the first time from recruiting students through a university careers service. Birkbeck, University of London’s new policy states that its careers service “will not have any relationship of any kind with oil, gas or mining companies”.
The decision follows a campaign, backed by the student-led group People & Planet, to cut recruitment routes to fossil fuel companies. The campaign is now active at dozens of UK universities.
The group said universities “support the corporations most responsible for destroying the planet”, while the climate crisis is “the defining issue in most students’ lives today”.
The campaign is backed by the National Union of Students and the Union of Universities and Colleges, which represents academics and support staff. He calls on universities to end all relationships with fossil fuel companies. Student protests have previously targeted events over fossil fuel careers, including at Oxford University, where students blocked an event organized by mining group Glencore, and at the University of Sheffield, where a sit -in protest prevented BP and ExxonMobil events.
Birkbeck’s new Ethical Careers Policy says it will not allow fossil fuel companies to attend their job fairs or participate in sponsorships or advertising. The policy also states that “job postings created by or on behalf of oil, gas or mining companies…will not be endorsed by Birkbeck.”
Julius Cassebaum, Careers Consultant at Birkbeck, said: “As the climate crisis continues, we are proud to help minimize exposure to these industries at all levels. We hope that our commitment can be a springboard for other universities to follow suit soon.
Chris Davis, one of the student activists, said: “Climate justice should be at the heart of the college’s institutional vision as it enters its third century. Birkbeck’s new career policy was developed through discussions between students, the careers department and university management.
Bill McKibben, activist and founder of climate campaign group 350.org, said: “The fossil fuel industry is clearly at war with the planet at this point and recruiting more troops to help them with their work is not in interest of anyone, including those students they might be trying to lure into a dead-end and deadly career.
Birkbeck’s decision represents “the first domino, which sets a precedent and shows that this is not only a reasonable requirement, but also achievable,” said People & Planet’s J Clarke.
Around 20% of UK universities already ban certain sectors from their careers services, including the tobacco, pornography and gambling industries.
Clarke said the ban on fossil fuel companies was justified: “One, these jobs are terrible for the planet.” Second, jobs “simply don’t make sense” from the perspective of students, since “these are industries that will quickly shrink or cease to exist altogether during the working life of students.” Third, Clarke said, almost two-thirds of UK universities have pulled their endowment funds from fossil fuels, so it would be hypocritical to allow these companies to recruit students.
Clarke hopes up to five more universities will announce a fossil fuel-free career policy by the end of 2022, and half will have done so within five years, although Clarke would like to see even faster progress. .