News - May 17, 2018


‘Welcome to the dark side.’ With her first slide, the teacher of Forest Management showed she was aware of timber harvesting’s negative image. And image is something students are sensitive to.

According to Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad, anyway. ‘Technical talent says no thanks to career with Shell’, proclaimed the paper recently.  The oil company had dropped a few places in the annual poll on preferred employers. When the paper asked around among Delft students who pretty much confirmed this impression, a trend emerged: students want no more to do with multinationals with a reputation for pollution.

So Shell is morally out of bounds for Delft technicians. But where does the lower limit lie for Wageningen idealists? If image really is the decisive factor, Monsanto is an obvious candidate. You can’t sink much lower in public opinion.

And yet when I asked around I could still find plenty of people interested in a career with the biotechnology giant. So maybe that rejection of companies with a negative image is not so widespread after all. Or, as Het Financieele Dagblad might put it: green talent says yes to Monsanto.

Is that a failure of idealism? Maybe. Unless what we already knew about timber harvesting before the lecture – that in spite of its image it can contribute to sustainable development – applies to a career with ‘dirty’ multinationals as well.