The Sustainable Careers Week, an initiative organised by Oxford’s Careers Services, has come under fire from the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign (OCJC) due to greenwashing concerns. Despite an initial collaboration, OCJC decided to boycott the programme as a result of the Careers Services’ “continued refusal to engage with fossil free career demands”.
Spanning across last week, various panel discussions and information sessions took place to help students explore sustainable career paths in sectors such as conservation, policy, energy, food, development, and law.
OCJC acknowledge that the Sustainable Careers Week was “well-intended and introduced a variety of environmental careers to students here”, yet they claim that the Careers Service continues to promote careers in the fossil fuel industry, citing British Petroleum, Equinor, and Glencore as examples.
The Careers Service collaborated on their events with multiple societies, including a number of environmental ones. Their ‘Careers in Energy’ panel discussion, was jointly organised with Oxford’s Energy Society, who is, amongst others, sponsored by British Petroleum. OCJC said that this blatantly emphasised “the refusal to sever ties with the fossil fuel industry”.
Their boycott can further be explained with a talk during the week titled ‘Can a Corporate Career Ever be Sustainable?” OCJC calls this both “somewhat insensitive and somewhat callous”, given the current climate emergency.
According to OCJC, the greenwashing runs “much deeper than a superficial plenary discussion”; they allege that the Careers Service is “exploiting and transferring the virtue associated with sustainability onto themselves, without taking sufficient action to move towards the goal of Net-Zero”.
The Careers Services’ refusal to accept the Fossil Free Careers motion, which would demand that all new relationships with oil, gas, and mining companies should be denied, is another reason for the boycott. Both OCJC and the SU, who were mandated to support this motion following a Student Council vote last year, have been lobbying for this.
OCJC told Cherwell that halting complicity with the fossil fuel industry is a “reasonable and wholly feasible process which the [C]areers [S]ervice can quickly and easily undertake with sufficient willpower”. In the past, the University has already split with the tobacco industry and therefore fossil fuel companies “equally, if not more so, warrant a similar severing of ties”.
Oxford’s research guidelines for collaboration with fossil fuel companies also violate the University guidelines of receiving funding from “illegal or unethical activity” according to OCJC, due to the industry itself being “unethical at its core”.
The research guidelines entail that working selectively with companies that are committing an increasing and meaningful part of their resources towards decarbonising their products will allow the university to contribute positive ideas and innovations to the climate crisis. However, they also acknowledge that any collaboration in this regard will lead to accusations such as greenwashing.
Another initative, Oxford’s first Green Action Week, is set to run from the 20th to the 24th of Febraury. Organised by the Universities Environmental Sustainability Team, over 50 events to empower and celebrate environmental action will take place throughout Oxford. OCJC believes that this “shouldn’t just be another opportunity for greenwashing”.
Anna-Tina Jashapara, the SU VP for Charities and Community, told Cherwell she hopes that the Green Action Week will be “a chance for lots of students to engage with sustainability”, without losing sight of the essential institutional change.