Youth activism leads to a Barclays ‘career boycott’

Alex Paszkowicz

Students from top-ranked Universities across the UK have initiated a ‘career boycott’ against Barclays over its climate policies. Penned by Students Organising for Sustainability, the letter warns Barclays bosses of the risk financing oil and gas companies pose for attracting graduates. Over 300 students from top recruitment universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, have signed the letter.

‘Research shows that 60% of students who would consider a job in the banking or finance
sector wouldn’t take a role in a company currently funding the fossil fuel industry and plans
to continue doing so’.

Michelle Hemmingfield, a representative for Students Organising for Sustainability said:
“New recruitment of the younger generation will be another headache for Barclays as long
as it continues to finance companies building new oil and gas infrastructure since it relies
heavily on STEM applicants from Oxbridge and other top universities”.

This initiative is not the first time students have demonstrated activism that supports
environmental change. The letter reflects a growing trend among the younger generation to
campaign against corporations that do not take their corporate environmental responsibility

The letter follows the last student ‘career boycott’ that focussed on insurance firms. More
than 500 students supported the boycott, warning against the lack of employment interest
from top talent if firms didn’t adopt proactive climate policies. The letter targeted insurers
who intended to work with TotalEnergies and Equinor as they sought insurance for the East
African Crude Oil Pipeline, which aimed to transport oil from Uganda to Tanzania.

Barclays has also become the target of other climate campaigners. The bank was targetted
by protests at its AGM last May and over their sponsorship of Wimbledon and the National

Since 2016, Barclays has provided $190 billion to companies like Shell, ExxonMobil and
British Petroleum. Since these firms have begun diluting their climate commitments, students
have become deterred from applying to graduate rolls.

Last year, although funding low-carbon algae-based biofuels for 12 years with $350 million,
Exxon pulled their support for further research. BP pledged to lower emissions by 35% by
2030 but now aims for a 20% to 30% cut instead. Despite increasing its spending from $172
billion from 2017 to 2022, Shell announced there would be no further increase in investment.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the director of Shell’s renewable energy program, Wael
Sawa, told investment analysts last February that ‘we want to continue to go for lower and
lower and lower carbon, but it has to be profitable’.

The change in climate policy by oil and gas companies has led to greenwashing by Barclays,
infuriating students. Being the number one fossil fuel funder compared to any bank in
Europe, the letter calls out Barclays against its attempt to claim its business has
sustainability principles

‘Your ambitious decarbonisation targets are discredited by your absence of action and the
roster of fossil fuel companies on your books. You may say you’re working with them to help
them transition, but Shell, Total and BP have all rowed back on any flimsy green
commitments they’ve made.’

The University of Cambridge is considering ending centuries-long ties with Barclays because
of the bank’s climate approach. The University is not the first client to move operations to
rival banks. This year, the charity Christian Aid and Leeds University both shifted to Lloyds,
claiming environmental policy motivated their decisions.

In response to the students’ letter aimed at boycotting careers at Barclays, a spokesperson
said: “We have set 2030 targets to reduce the emissions we finance in five high-emitting
sectors, including the energy sector, where we have achieved a 32% reduction since 2020.
In addition, to scale the needed technologies and infrastructure, we have provided £99bn of
green finance since 2018 and have a target to facilitate $1tn in sustainable and transition
financing between 2023 and 2030.”

Alex Paszkowicz



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