Paris, France – Greenpeace France, anti-corruption group ANTICOR and the student association La Sphinx cited TOTAL CEO Patrick Pouyanné for conflict of interest, pushing the company’s fossil fuels agenda through the prestigious French technology and science university “École Polytechnique”. [1]  Evidence indicates that Pouyanné used his position as member of the Board of directors of the Polytechnique to influence, on behalf of Total, the Board’s decision to establish a research and innovation center for the company Total, in the heart of its campus. The groups say Prosecutors specialised in financial crimes should investigate.

TOTAL is among the top 20 global fossil fuel companies whose joint exploitation of global oil, gas and coal resources can be directly linked to more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in our times. [2]

“TOTAL is pursuing its climate-killing agenda and seems ready to use questionable means to establish the social acceptability of its dirty business. The current generations of students  are increasingly reluctant to work in the fossil fuel sector, and to support the company’s vested interests. We ask the Prosecutor to investigate whether Pouyanné abused his power to force TOTAL’s fossil fuels agenda on a public education institution,” said Edina Ifticène, oil campaigner at Greenpeace France.

Professors, students and alumni of École Polytechnique, and Greenpeace France have opposed this initiative, which is the result of an attempt by the oil giant to intrude into the prestigious school through a decision-making process lacking transparency.[3]

Patrick Pouyanné was appointed to the Board of directors of the school in September 2018, while a strategic partnership was being discussed between his company and the school.  During his term of office, Pouyanné addressed the Polytechnique’s Board on behalf of TOTAL to advance the company’s interest in the project, its preference regarding the location and speed of implementation. The company refused to abandon the project despite opposition from students and teachers. The Board gave the green light to proceed on 25 June 2020, and on 30 September 2020 the association La Sphinx filed a request to revoke the decision. The case is ongoing before the Administrative Court of Versailles.

“The complaint is intended to shed light on the possible diversion of a public institution’s interests to serve private interests, those of Patrick Pouyanné and Total,” said Matthieu Lequesne of the La Sphinx association, representing students and alumni of the Polytechnique

The 12,000 square metre building project is expected to host for over 50 years several hundreds of company’s employees in the heart of the campus of the elite educational and research centre, which trains decision-makers intended for senior public administrative positions.


Notes to editor:

[1] On 20 April 2021, Greenpeace France, anti-corruption group ANTICOR and La Sphinx, representing former students of the Polytechnique, filed a complaint with the Prosecution Office in Paris against TOTAL CEO Patrick Pouyanné and others unknown for facts likely to constitute the offense of “illegal taking of interests” (in French : prise illégale d’intérêts). 

The “illegal taking of interests” (“prise illégale d’intérêt”) implies that a person in charge of a public service mission has a private interest in a public project that s/he has tried to influence. According to French case law, the influence can result from the power to express personal opinions before decisions are taken by others.  


[3] Since March 31, Greenpeace France has been publishing a documentary series “Total Grip”, which reviews Total’s strategy of influence and soft power, particularly within the “Grandes Ecoles” which groom France’s future decision-makers.


Greenpeace France, Edina Ifticene / Cécile Cailliez: 0033 6 13 07 04 29

Greenpeace France, Clara Gonzales, lawyer: 0033 6 37 57 39 44 / [email protected]

Anticor, communication department, [email protected]

La Sphinx, Matthieu Lequesne / Thomas Vezin: [email protected]

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