Is student recruitment wrecking the planet?

Sep 2, 2020 | Attraction & marketing

A new movement, the Sustainable Recruitment Alliance, argues that all early talent recruiters could do more to reduce their carbon footprint.

Student recruitment is doing terrible things to the planet. For decades, recruiters have toured the careers fairs handing out piles of sticky notes, highlighter pens, stress balls and more – a lot of which goes straight to landfill.
We need to start thinking differently, and start now.

The Sustainable Recruitment Alliance is a movement established by Clifford Chance and Blackbridge Communications. Its purpose is to encourage organisations to take a more eco-friendly approach to student recruitment.

With over half a million graduate vacancies and apprenticeships annually, the results of our collective action could be truly significant. Already many top employers have signed the Alliance pledge and many more are signing up every week.


Saving the planet one hire at a time

Laura Yeates is a founder of the Alliance and Head of Graduate Talent at Clifford Chance. She says: “Organisations have been doing some exceptional work in the area of sustainable recruiting, but very often, it’s gone under the radar.

“The Alliance enables us to shine a light on best practices and create momentum around reviewing, reducing and reporting in the world of early talent. The magic will really come when we start to report on our aggregated data as an industry after the first year and realise the power of our collective movement.”

The vast majority of organisations rely on merchandise, travel and even catering when attracting early talent. All these play a part in the waste of resources and that all-important production of carbon dioxide.

But how precisely should student recruiters change their ways? Efforts made by Clifford Chance might help you to plan your own transformation.


The seven-year ditch

In 2013/14, Clifford Chance produced over 10,000 glossy brochures and bought a similar number of pens and notepads. They also procured other items such as mugs, umbrellas, oyster card holders and water bottles.

But every time they left a careers fair, the floors would be littered with discarded merchandise. The bins overflowed with unwanted brochures.

So by 2015/16, Clifford Chance had switched from producing brochures to a printed one-page leaflet. They took iPads to fairs, using them to share videos and help attendees engage with other online assets.

They also commissioned a report by Greenstone, a sustainability reporting organisation, that revealed that scrapping brochures saved a total of 5.7 tonnes of paper and avoided an additional 8.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

That’s the equivalent of charging 1,084,024 mobiles.


Thinking beyond merchandise

By 2019/20, Clifford Chance had even done away with printing flyers. They looked at graduate events in even greater detail, considering travel arrangements, meat-free catering and investment in virtual engagement platforms.

Additional changes meant a further reduction in emissions of 9% from 2013/14 to 2019/20 – a total of six tonnes of CO2.

So seven years on the campaign is very different to that of 2013. Clifford Chance now offers just two candidate giveaways – both of which have been thoroughly scrutinised in terms of their supply chains.

Their pens are manufactured from renewable raw materials made using green energy. Their notepads are made exclusively with recycled raw materials – covers are made from 100% recycled leather fibres and paper is FSC-certified, meaning that it’s derived from responsible forestry.


Signing the pledge

The Alliance is keen to see others follow in Clifford Chance’s footsteps.

At the time of writing, signatories include Babcock International Group, Co-op, DAZN, Enterprise, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, myGwork, National Student Pride, Pinsent Masons, Police Now, RPC, TLT LLP, Unlocked Graduates and Weil Gotshal & Manges.

Laura Yeates adds: “Interest in the Alliance has been coming thick and fast, which reflects the growing importance of the sustainability agenda within early talent strategies.

“Initially the focus was very much on the UK, but we are delighted to announce a move into Ireland with Arthur Cox becoming the first signatory in the region.”

If you want to join the signatories – supporting the Alliance in its drive to review, reduce and report – visit

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