In the United Kingdom, multiple universities have banned fossil fuel companies from coming onto campus with the intent to recruit students, all under the guise of trying to fight climate change.
A project headed up by the activist group People and Planet, Fossil Free Careers demands that postsecondary institutions ban companies in the “oil, gas, and mining industries” from taking part in career fairs or even posting any of their vacancies on career websites. Birkbeck, University of London, has been marked as the “first campaign win” for the group.
The school’s policy previously stated that the career services department will “not hold relationships of any kind with oil, gas or mining companies as part of our commitment to increased sustainability and addressing the climate crisis,” as found on the People and Planet website alongside web archives. As explained by Bryn Richards, a student of Birkbeck that questioned a number of university officials concerning the choice, the school went on to make the choice to alter the reference to “oil, gas, or mining” and instead made the commitment to turn down relationships “with any companies that have not demonstrated a commitment to positive environmental and ethical business models.”
Richards noted that the new policy is much worse than its former incarnation, as the latter is less direct and has room for interpretation. “This is part of our commitment to increased sustainability and addressing the climate crisis,” the current rule continues. “This includes, but is not limited to, attendance at careers events and other recruitment opportunities, posting role vacancies, sponsorships, and advertising.”
University of the Arts London, the University of Bedfordshire in England, and Wrexham Glyndwr University in Wales have all banded together to go along with fossil-free recruitment policies, as explained by a report from the Guardian. The policies have been established just as the prices of energy for the United Kingdom have climbed to record levels due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Some have attributed the outsized energy prices throughout Europe due to its extreme overreliance on renewable energy sources. The European Union, which just recently had the United Kingdom leave, abides by the official goal of moving to be “a climate-neutral society” by as soon as 2050 in order to go along with both the European Green Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Similar activist groups from the United States have pushed for universities to retract investments in the fossil fuel industry and instead call for a drop in carbon emissions. This past year saw a celebration from Divest Harvard in the wake of Harvard President Lawrence Bacow announcing that the university would allow all of its current investments in that regard to expire and not create new ones. “For too long, Harvard has stood on the wrong side of history, lending legitimacy to the companies driving global warming and environmental injustice,” the group expressed.