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New research: student views on careers and fossil fuel industry funding

August 8, 2023

SOS-UK’s Breaking the Bank is supporting students campaigning for the world’s biggest banks to stop pouring trillions into the fossil fuel industry.

The campaign aims to influence banks that both fund the fossil fuel industry and have close partnerships with universities. The goal is for banks to end their fossil fuel funding, because banks are the industry’s main financiers and have significant power to limit the worst impacts of the climate crisis1,2. As banks rely on students and universities for recruitment, reputation, and business, we have a lot of power too.

Over the past 7 years, just 4 banks were responsible for 25% of all fossil fuel funding by banks, a massive $5.5 trillion from 60 banks in total3. The Dirty Dozen banks were behind 50% of the bankrolling, including Barclays, Europe’s top fossil fuel funding bank. Just 100 companies - fossil fuel producers and their investors - are responsible for 71% of all global emissions4.

The problem is clear: The fossil fuel industry needs money to cause the climate crisis, and banks are giving it to them. Banks must end this funding, because our future, our careers, and our planet can’t afford fossil fuels, they’re breaking the bank. Meanwhile, banks rely on students and universities for recruitment, reputation, and business, while continuing to act against students’ best interests with harmful funding practices.

To support our campaign, we needed a better understanding of student career prospects and their perspectives on fossil fuel industry funding. We undertook a survey in Spring 2023 of 2,728 students to find our answers, with results representative of the UK higher education student population.


The key findings from the research are:

  • 79% of students say that the chance to work for a business/organisation that makes a difference to social and environmental issues will be important to them when choosing jobs to apply for
  • 50% of students are not confident in their understanding in the links between UK banks and the fossil fuel industry
  • After receiving information on the links between the fossil fuel industry and the banking and finance sector, out of the respondents who would consider a career in the banking and finance sector, only 16% say they would consider a job or career in a company that currently funds the fossil fuel industry and plans to continue doing so

These results mean that the majority of students want jobs in companies that make a positive difference to environmental and social issues, and don’t want to work for companies that fund fossil fuels. Students are unaware that they’re being recruited for jobs they don’t want, by the fossil fuel industry’s biggest funders: banks.

Breaking the Bank is educating students to bridge the gap between their need for careers that align with their values and the lack of knowledge of fossil fuel funding, and empowering students through campaigning to effect real change on the issues they care about. We provide training, support, and funding for students to run their own campaigns locally. To join a campaign at your university or to find out more, contact us via email or fill out the form on our website.

For more information, check out our full research report, or read our other research reports.