Tony Blair's aim to reduce the country's emission of six harmful pollutants by 2012 is looking grim. Everyday a top scientist predicts we will fall short of the targets, while another describes the submerging of Holland, Bangladesh and the extinction of polar bears.
With all this in mind, as members of one of the world's top engineering faculties, should we be more selective on where we apply for a job after graduation? While the majority of students will rank salary, flexibility, pension and health schemes as the top criteria in looking for a job after university, an increasing proportion are starting to consider the environmental impact their future employer is making.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the new buzz word for greener companies. The concept originates from companies being accountable for their social, economic and environmental impacts, not just pre-tax profits. This is not just about necessity, such as the growing investments by Royal Dutch/Shell or BP into renewable but companies acting with a conscience. Examples include switching to hybrid or electric pool cars, increasing office energy efficiency, reducing the use of paper and promoting alternative transport, an extension of sustainable development. Our very own Union building redevelopment included consultation with the Carbon Trust on how to improve its efficiency. There are even standards, such as ISO 14000 which companies can adhere to, providing a framework for environmentally friendly operation.
Talking to firms at a careers fair it soon becomes apparent who is taking real steps, compared to others whose clueless representatives draw a blank at the mention of CSR or even resort to 'we work for petroleum companies' accompanied with a grimace. But help is out there. ICU runs a yearly ethical careers fair. Organised by Pugwash and the Environmental society and found in the Great Hall it offers the opportunity for students to take steps to becoming greener in employment.
For more information on ISO14000, a user forum has been set up at www.14000.org, take a look at The Carbon Trust's website at www.carbontrust.co.uk or get involved by contacting [email protected] to find out how to help with this year's Ethical Careers Fair.