Get involved through your job

Finding a job that does not contribute to accelerate the environmental crisis

By signing the Ecological Awakening a student Manifesto, more than 30,000 students affirmed that they wanted to take a step back from their seemingly inevitable professional future: they do not want to work on projects disconnected from the ecological urgency. By asking yourselves the right questions, It is possible today to find a job compatible with one's personal ecological commitments.

We dedicate a lot of time and energy to our professional lives: we may as well use it to initiate the changes on which our future depends.

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The ecological transition affects all professions

Should we slam the door to certain sectors? Should we boycott companies only interested in profits and focus only on the ones already committed; or should we try to transform these companies from the inside? It is a personal choice that everyone must make.

The ecological transition affects all professions and not only those qualified as "green". When your goal is to contribute to the preservation of an ecologically viable world and you have a choice between different jobs, it is essential to spend time looking for a position that matches this engagement.

A company that cannot recruit is doomed to fail

Hiring is a crucial process for companies: for all students and young graduates, it is an extraordinarily strong tool to put pressure on their strategies. Beyond communication, the expression « Human beings are our first resource" translates it: without people, without new employees, there are no production, no added value nor turnover. A company that has difficulty recruiting, or only recruits demotivated young people, is a company that is doomed to fail, and they know it.

Tools to wake up all employers

Our Manifesto has received resounding responses from the largest companies. We have conducted discussions with many leaders of large groups and their CSR managers, have addressed Boards of Directors, spoken at forums and conferences... We have always insisted on the fact that, as young people's ecological concerns are growing, companies cannot miss a real involvement in the ecological transition if they want to keep on recruiting.

We have met companies that are genuinely committed to the transition, but also with others that will not stretch beyond marginal actions- whereas they sometimes tend to over-communicate in this domain. We provide students and recent graduates with tools to distinguish them:


  • Choosing my job: on what criterias?

    After a year of collective reflection, meetings with companies and exchanges with experts, here are some tips to help us make career choices: essential questions to ask when assessing a company's level of commitment to environmental issues.

  • Job interviews: "Do you have any questions"?

    Not all the information is readily available, so here are some questions to ask during job interviews to further your thinking and determine your choice.

  • Transform your company form the inside

    For those who choose to work in a company or would have no choice and would be forced to work for an employer who lacks ecological responsability, there are a few ways to act from the inside in complete transparency.

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Choosing a job: ask yourself the right questions

Here are some tips and points of vigilance to support professional orientation choices. They are summarized in a list of 5 big questions provided to help analyzing the authenticity (or lack thereof) of employers regarding environmental issues.

The first step is to get answers. Here, we present a few tips on how to get this information and find reliable sources.

When looking for a job, you should also ask yourself which type of structure you would like to work for: a large international group, SME, startup, entrepreneurial project, non-profit organization, etc.

Our schools essentially prepare us to work in the service of traditional structures but there are many other possibilities – as well as many forms of commitment! The smallest or most original structures sometimes allow a more radical commitment where traditional companies seem to be stuck in a logic of profitability, incompatible with contemporary challenges. Obviously, one must remain pragmatic about social and ecological engagement: a startup is not necessarily virtuous, just as a conventional business can engage seriously.

Some technical words are marqued with a 💬 : this means they are defined in this glossary. Just clic on the bubbles to go to the page.

  • Usefulness and purpose of the company's activity
Purpose of the products/services

What's the issue?

In an environment constrained by the limitation of non-renewable resources, we need to save energy and maintain industrial activities at a sustainable level. The purpose of products and services is therefore a key criterion to determine their legitimacy to continue existing.

What to watch out for

  • Is the usefulness of products or services being requested at a strategic level in view of the current ecological emergency?
  • Has the questioning of the purpose of the company's activities led to a reassessment of its activities?
  • Is the company's strategy and investments reoriented coherently with these considerations?
Organisation of the supply chain and production

What to watch out for

  • Does the employer seek to rethink the supply chain 💬.and the production as a whole or does the employer merely carry out margin reduction or compensation measures without fundamentally reconsidering them?
  • Has the employer considered the profound transformations that it must undertake, because of its sector, to be in line with the climate and biodiversity issues raised by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) ?
  • Have these reflections led to transformative measures?
Marketing strategy

What to watch out for

  • Does the company implement communications campaigns that encourage overconsumption?
  • Conversely, does it encourage thoughtful sobriety?
  • What is the narrative presented to potential customers?
Where can I find this information ?

The employer's strategy is generally not public (except when the structure is public). In this case, try to find the information provided to shareholders. Sometimes information is published in specialised business journals for companies, the most effective way being to find a source of information internally.

  • Understand your employer's impacts on the climate, biodiversity and resources

A company's activities inevitably impact the environment: greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity erosion, extraction of non-renewable resources, water and soil pollution, etc. As part of a serious strategy for the ecological emergency, impact must be measured, communicated with transparence, and limited as much as possible through an impact reduction plan.

First, an assessment of the impacts of each sector on the environment is indispensable. As a first approach, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board's materiality matrix provides a good estimation. Through this matrix, it is easy to understand the main impacts sector by sector (greenhouse gas emissions, impact on biodiversity, air quality, energy consumption, etc.). This first analysis should be kept in mind and then be used to critically examine the credibility of the measures taken by an employer with regard to the major ecological issues in their sector of activity.

Greenhouse gases emissions

What's the issue?

Human activities result in greenhouse gas emissions. The increasing concentration of these gases in the atmosphere disrupts the climate, causing, among other things, an increase in the frequency of heat waves, rising waters, and a higher frequency of cyclones.

What to watch out for

  • Does the company publish its greenhouse gas emissions up to scope 3 💬?
  • Is the company's greenhouse gas emissions trajectory compatible with the Paris Agreement's objective 💬 of limiting global warming to 1.5° or 2°?
  • Are there annual greenhouse gas emission reduction targets? Are these objectives in absolute value 💬 (and not in relative value, which necessarily induces a bias)? Is carbon neutrality 💬 a target? If so, by when?
  • To what extent does the company rely on compensation mechanisms 💬 (purchase of carbon credits, tree planting, development of CO2 capture technologies)? To what extent is the company positioning asing itself on gross/actual reduction in emissions?
Biodiversity

What's the issue?

Nature provides us with food, medicines, it filters waters, etc. it offers us irreplaceable services whose value is estimated by the OECD at 150% of the world's GDP!

What to watch out for

  • Does the employer publish an analysis of the impact of its activities on biodiversity? Does this analysis appear complete and relevant in regards of the sector of activity? Is biodiversity preservation taken into account in the company's operational processes?
  • Does the employer seek to limit the artificialization of soils[definition]? Is the achievement of the objective of zero net loss of biodiversity 💬 being considered?
  • To reduce its impact, does the employer display an avoidance and then a reduction mechanism before compensation?
Non-renewable resources usage

What's the issue?

Our consumerist society is based on non-renewable resources: oil, sand, metals, etc. For example, without rare-earth elements, these metals with exceptional properties, no more smartphones, computer monitors, hard disks and solar panels! As resources are depleting, their consumption continues to increase.

What to watch out for

  • Are products designed to limit their environmental impact and maximize their lifespan? Are they necessary, reusable, repairable, recyclable or even compostable? Are there repair manuals on the company's website? Does the company take care of their end-of-life?
  • Has a life cycle analysis 💬 of the products been carried out?
  • Is the employer's business model based on sobriety? On a realistic circular economy model?
  • Are the global consumption and available stocks of the materials on which the employer depends (copper, gold, silver, gas, tungsten, tin, etc.) monitored? Is a calculation of the material and water footprint performed?
Caused pollutions

What's the issue?

Human activities cause pollution of air, soil and water. These sometimes irreversible pollutions have an impact not only on the environment but also on our health: we ingest the equivalent of a plastic credit card every week!

What to watch out for

  • Is an analysis of the pollution caused carrie out over the entire value chain of the structure?
  • Does the strategy planned to limit this pollution seem ambitious? Are measures being implemented?
  • Does the pollution reduction trajectory rely on technologies that do not yet exist and whose development is uncertain? In what proportion?
Where can I find this information ?

  • Taking into account climate and biodiversity issues in the work of employees
Staff training on climate, resources and biodiversity issues

What's the issue?

Environmental issues are complex. Being aware is necessary but not sufficient to provide relevant answers to the encountered problems ; it is essential for you to be seriously trained! In order for ambitious strategies to be deployed, all members of a structure must be made aware and then trained on operational issues, so that everyone can act in their respective positions within the structure.

What to watch out for:

  • Are there any internal training courses? Who is involved? Members of decision-making bodies (Board of Directors, Executive Committee, etc.)? The executives? All employees?
  • What is the quality of this training? What is its content? How long does it last? Who are the trainers? What means are put in place to ensure that the training leads to real implementation?
Employee participation in the company's transformation on environmental issues

What's the issue?

Within the company, each employee must be involved in the ecological transition. Despite this, many employees do not find it easy to be listened when they propose changes to limit the ecological impacts of the structure in which they work. However, they are often in the best position to identify problems, propose relevant solutions and implement them. Employers therefore have a strong interest in encouraging their employees in this direction and giving them enough flexibility to suggest and experiment their ideas.

What to watch out for:

  • Do the tasks listed on job descriptions include environmental issues?
  • Does the employer's dashboard contain environmental indicators?
  • Is the achievement of environmental objectives a factor in the variable compensation of employees? In what proportion?
  • Are there mechanisms for internal engagement (possibility of setting up working groups, free time to carry out projects, budgets, etc)?
  • Have there been any whistleblowers within the structure? If so, how were they considered?
The Sustainable Development Department

What's the issue?

Sustainable development departments (often linked to Corporate Social Responsibility departments) have historically had little power and budget in the company. Most of the time, their main mission is to meet a legal reporting requirement. With the growing awareness of ecological emergencies, these departments are now seeing their staff and budget increase, but too often remain at the margins of the company's overall strategy.

What to watch out for:

  • What is its level of reporting (general management, strategic management, communications, etc.)?
  • Does the director of the department sit in the decision-making bodies (Board of Directors, Executive Committee)? Does the department's activity seem to be more focused on symbolic measures, communications, or on truly transformative actions that affect the company's activity and its main environmental challenges?
Responsible investments and projects

What's the issue?

According to some international organizations, 10% of the world's GDP should be used to ensure an ecological transition. Going beyond this figure, it is undeniable that making a successful ecological transition requires massive investments. However, the relevance of these investments is difficult to assess, so it is essential to take a critical look at some "advertising" effects.

What to watch out for:

  • Does the structure communicate on the share of its “green”, responsible investments related to the ecological transition? On the share of its "green" projects?
  • Which proportion of the budget and investments is allocated to addressing environmental problems and implementing solutions, compared to other expenditure items (e.g. communications, digital)?
Where can I find this information ?

  • This information is rarely provided in official documents. You can seek information from the HR department or from people you meet at forums.
  • For the management of the company and the leeway of employees, you will probably have to look a little further. The easiest way is to talk to employees to find out their current levers within the organization.
  • Concerning whistleblowers and possible scandals to which the employer has been linked to, the main way is to look for press articles on the subject.
  • The level of reporting line of the CSR/Sustainability department can usally be found on the organizational chart of the structure.
  • Some companies have reintegrated sustainable development functions into their various branches or departments, which may be a relevant approach to ensure that these issues are integrated into operational realities. Their dedicated department is therefore small, but works with referents at various levels of the structure.
  • Integration of environmental issues into financial strategy
Adaptation of the company's long term strategy to the changes induced by climate change

What's the issue?

Climate change has a series of disastrous consequences for the environment in which structures operate. Thus, within their risk analysis, they must quantify ecological risks in the same way as financial risks which must logically affect their overall strategy. By excluding climate risks or neglecting their analysis, the structure adopts the "ostrich strategy", which is damaging in the long term for the company itself as well as for the whole society.

What to watch out for:

  • Does the structure communicate its risk analysis? Are ecological issues included ? Do the risks presented seem consistent with the structure's activity?
  • Is the influence of climate change taken into account in its physical dimensions (temperature rise, water rise, variability of precipitation, increased frequency of extreme phenomena, etc.)? Its economic dimensions (impact on the employer's finances)? Its socio-political dimensions (impacts on employee health, population displacements, destabilization of certain governments, etc.)?
  • Are the consequences of the collapse of biodiversity also taken into account?
  • Is there a longterm strategy that includes the issues of ecological emergency? In which time frame (5 years? 10 years? 20 years)? Is there a prospective approach 💬? Do high-stakes companies (energy, construction, mobility, agriculture) conduct scenario analysis?
Inclusion of the employer's extra-financial performance in its accounting system

What's the issue?

The current economic system is subjected to absurd shortterm financial profitability constraints. These constraints compete with the implementation of an ambitious ecological transition strategy and pull the company in the opposite direction. Appropriate steering instruments are therefore essential to make decisions consistent with the current ecological emergency, and not just based on short term profitability.

What to watch out for:

  • Does the company have an internal regulatory systems in place? For example, does it take into account an internal carbon price 💬 in calculating the economic profitability of its projects?
  • What influence does extra-financial performance 💬 have on decision-making?
  • Is there a variable remuneration for employees based on non-financial and environmental performance?
  • Do bonuses encourage a short term vision in the company? For example, many employees in the banking sector are only paid for their very short term performance.
Shareholders' objectives and priorities

What's the issue?

Many companies are owned by shareholders whose income depends on the short term profitability of the business. Thus, they may seek to block actions in favour of the ecological transition but unprofitable in the short term, as they limit their dividends.

What to watch out for:

  • Who are the main shareholders?
  • What is their climate & biodiversity strategy?
  • The structure’s relations with the rest of society
Lobbying and stakeholders

What's the issue?

We are all aware of the existence of powerful lobbies seeking to influence political action and legislation. There are many examples of lobbying successfully slowing down the ecological transition: fossil fuel, automotive, agri-food industries, etc. Yet, these same companies are participating in massive communications campaigns to illustrate their commitment to this same ecological transition. This deep cognitive dissonance goes against any concrete action in the light of the climate emergency.

Companies do not only interact with public authorities, they also influence other stakeholders such as suppliers and business partners, and of course customers and consumers. Adopting a coherent discourse among all these actors makes it possible to disseminate good practices and promotes systemic change.

What to watch out for:

  • Are suppliers and business partners evaluated and selected on environmental and/or social criteria?
  • Concerning the influence on government and regulation: what resources are devoted to public relations? Does the employer's influencing work take the direction of an ecological and social transition or in the opposite direction?
  • Concerning the influence on higher education programmes: on which boards of directors of institutions does the employer have seats? Does it have financial links with institutions (direct financing, shareholding, chairs, etc.)? Does it use its influence to promote education for all on ecological issues?
Where can I find this information ?

  • Regarding the choice of partners, looking for a call for bids published by the employer and looking at the required criteria provides good indications.
  • https://influencemap.org/ gives a good idea of the lobbying expenses of oil companies.
  • This report from the Multinational Observatory gives a good idea of the lobbying expenses of CAC40 companies. Just press Ctrl+F to find the right employer! The same goes for this other Attac report, which is shorter but just as interesting.
  • Finally, with regard to influence on higher education, the composition of an institution's board of directors is public.

Good sources to find good information

There is no unique miracle source that identifies all the information that answers the questions above. Here are some ways to get information:


  • Interactions with employees

    HR (during interviews for example), recruiters in company forums, personal contacts and former students contacted on LinkedIn. are probably the best sources of information.

  • The extra-financial performance declaration (or CSR report)

    The non-financial Performance Declaration 💬 is mandatory for listed companies with more than 500 employees and a turnover of €40 million (€100 million for unlisted companies), it must report on the company's progress on social, societal and environmental issues. It is included in the management report and must also be published on the company's website.

  • Companies’ answers to our questionnaire

    Some companies have agreed to answer our questions about the criteria mentioned on this page. We invite you to take a critical look at them and to cross-reference them with the other sources of information at your disposal: a reminder that, even when the questions are well constructed, it is only a declaration.

  • The registration document

    It gathers the information that must legally be communicated by certain companies. It is generally available on the company's website and includes information on the company's organisation, activity, financial situation, results and prospects: how to believe an employer's environmental commitments if they are not mentioned at any time in the general assessment of its activity? To begin with, you can do a simple CTRL+F with the words "environment", "sustainable development", "climate", "biodiversity", to assess the frequency of occurrence of these terms, their position in the report, to have already an idea .

  • The press

    More and more surveys are focusing on companies' ecological commitments and are useful in deconstructing the communication of large groups.

  • Any other communication document addressing a company's commitment to sustainability

    Taking a critical look at the company’s advertised messages, for example, allows you to analyze the image that an employer gives of itself and its activities. There is often a discrepancy between environmental and marketing strategies. For example, an automobile manufacturer may base its environmental strategy on the development of lighter, more fuel-efficient or electrically powered models, while continuing to communicate massively to sell SUVs.

    On the other hand, some companies communicate on their environmental commitments in a way that is disproportionate to reality (see the anti-greenwashing guide).

  • The companies’ website

    It is a useful platform to identify the strategy displayed and find some of the documents mentioned above.

Companies have answered to our questions

Job interviews: "Do you have any questions"?

Job interviews are the ideal place to question the ecological commitment of the company you are applying to. You are dealing with a recruiter who is also an employee and who must know their company especially well, in a format that leaves open the possibility to ask questions (typically at the end of the interview). These questions, well formulated, will only highlight your interest in the company, and even your motivation to join if the answers meet your expectations.

This may sound intimidating! However, the goal is not to be accusatory: it is to sincerely ask these questions and start a discussion on a subject that will directly impact your motivation and commitment level at work. These questions show an open mind and an interest in the company's actions, which is generally highly valued – and if not, run! Above all, don't forget to check in advance the company's initiatives in this area, as it will give you a starting point for the conversation.

Two good reasons to ask questions

For yourself

For yourself

This is the perfect opportunity to assess whether your recruiter is aware of the company's environmental initiatives, or whether such commitments are confined to the CSR department. If these questions are at the heart of the company's strategy, every employee will be aware of them. It may well be that such initiatives are non-existent, in each case you’ll be quick to know.

For everyone else

For everyone else

If the recruiter does not know how to answer the questions accurately and if these questions are regularly asked during job interviews, they are more than likely to talk to their superiors about them. A smart employer will then soon realize that it is urgent for them to change the strategy of their company.

Some sample questions

Non-exhaustive list!

  • "I have read that [this problem] is an important environmental challenge for your sector. What are you doing in order to deal with it?"
  • "Is there a discussion within the company on the circular economy and eco-design to address the problem of resource depletion?"
  • "Are there any major changes you are preparing for in your sector in the medium to long term, for example 10 years, due to environmental issues?"
  • "I discovered the X initiative on your website, has it made any difference in your daily work? Can you explain what this is about?"
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Transforming companies from within

When you are an intern, a student or a young graduate, it is complicated to transform the company you are working for. However, internal initiatives are a great way to move the lines!


Identify existing initiatives

It is necessary to start by identifying the initiatives or groups of reflections that have already been set up by the company (which can be found, for example, in the CSR report). These groups may not be enough, but it is a first step: you should not hesitate to join them, to understand if they can be an effective way to bring change into the company. To reflect on the relevance of these initiatives, you can refer to Choose your job: ask the right questions.

Gather and get organized

If such groups do not yet exist or if existing initiatives do not seem relevant, the second step is to lobby internally with other employees. To do this, you must first go to colleagues motivated by this approach (by discussing at coffee breaks, on the company's internal social network, etc.).

It is then necessary to gather and launch discussion groups to discuss environmental issues in general and their impact on the company in particular. Once the group is well established and initial ideas have emerged, it is time to make concrete proposals - even small ones at the beginning - to the rest of the company and its management. Gradually, the group's credibility will strengthen, and the existing obstacles and blockages on environmental issues within the company will become more and more blatant.

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Transform deeply

Finally, it will be a matter of engaging in in-depth discussions, if possible, in partnership with management, on the main areas of possible improvement for your company on environmental issues as they often impact the entire value chain of the company. Thus, it is necessary to prioritize each action to be taken to increase their chances of success.

In all your proposals, it should be kept in mind that most companies are still exclusively economic in nature. If your proposals are economically profitable, this must be highlighted. Otherwise, it is necessary to give rational reasons for making these changes, in addition to appealing to the ecological awareness of your interlocutors: highlight the regulatory risks, reputational risks or even recruitment risks, etc. that the company will face if it does not engage more in the transition. Not to mention that climate change is impacting and will increasingly impact the entire planet - and so the long term sustainability of the company.

That is why it is more than time to wake up.

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