How the young generations are urging companies to accelerate their CSR strategy
“We, young graduates, will not work for TotalEnergies if they keep launching giant pipelines”. Over 800 students and graduates from top tier schools – Polytechnique, HEC, AgroParisTech, CentraleSupelec… – signed a press column in Les Echos Start, on October 13th to protest against the TotalEnergies’ mega oil project in Uganda. And more generally, against the company’s action, which they claim “deliberately” refuse to follow the recommendations of the IPCC, particularly the recommendation not to create new fossil fuel infrastructures.
TotalEnergies was also the target of Polytechnique students on June 24. At their graduation ceremony, half of the students in the Paris Observatory auditorium turned their backs on the video of Patrick Pouyanné, their class sponsor but also the Group CEO.. These young people freshly graduated were denouncing his actions, who represent a “system responsible for climate change and unacceptable inequalities”.
Another graduation ceremony, another student demonstration. In May 2022, eight young graduates from the 2022 program in AgroParisTech gave a speech widely commented on, shared and viewed on YouTube (nearly one million views), in which they denounced a “school program that generally pushes to contribute to the current social and ecological disasters”. After declaring that they would refuse the “destructive jobs” to which their school predestined them, they called on their comrades to join the ecological fight in the face of climate emergency. Last week, France-Inter gave them the floor on their morning program.
Of course, the number of students involved in these actions remains marginal, but the fact is that these demonstrations are multiplying and show a fundamental trend. The young generations have grown up with the issue of climate change and are fully aware of these issues. In fact, their demands on companies are becoming more and more pressing. They want concrete environmental and societal commitments from them. And they refuse to join companies whose actions are not sufficient. These demands are increasingly echoed by companies, in a context where they are finding it harder and harder to recruit and retain the managers of tomorrow.
The quest for meaning is becoming a motivation for essential choices for young people who have recently entered the workforce. In the US, nearly 48 million people left their jobs in 2021 to favor of another job that better matches their values. The “Great Resignation” after the Covid crisis has not taken on such magnitude in France yet, but the number of resignations and early terminations is growing: + 19.4% for resignations and + 25.8% for early terminations in fixed-term contracts compared to 2019, according to DARES (Direction of animation of research, studies and statistics of the Labour ministry).
In this context, companies are more concerned than ever about their image with potential candidates. The employer brand therefore can be a lever to attract new talents, but it is not sufficient. The pledge must be followed by commitments but above all by concrete and measurable actions. “We are not fooled” declared the young signatories of the Les Echos Start press column, “as long as new fossil projects are initiated by the company [TotalEnergies], we will not join them, regardless of the job offer”.
Some companies have therefore taken up the subject and shown their willingness to act. Lately, 330 big companies such as Unilever, Ikea, Danone, BNP Paribas, L’Oréal, Holcim, Roche, Tetra Pak or Tata Steel thus signed an open letter on behalf of the “Business for Nature” coalition declaring: “We need the governments around the world to transform the rules of the economic game and to demand that companies act now”. Thus, they anticipated the conclusion of the international negotiations on the protection of ecosystems which will end in December in Canada, during the Biodiversity COP15.
Only companies that implement real and concrete actions to respond to social and environmental issues will be able to stand out among young candidates. Thus, under the pressure of an increasingly committed youth, brands could finally be at the forefront of the fight against climate change and for the protection of the environment.