Divestment 101

What is it?

Divestment means deliberately moving money away from companies you’re not happy with. It’s basically un-investing.

Investing is all around us - states have investment portfolios, local councils and universities have pension funds and even personal bank accounts are invested somewhere.

Big companies rely on money like this to keep running their businesses. Divestment takes that money away from the companies doing bad stuff and hits them where it hurts - in their wallets.

Why is it important?

Today, fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP are drilling for coal, oil and gas around the world, and causing climate change chaos in the process. Many institutions like city halls, universities and health groups invest in them. That money helps the fossil fuel companies keep going. But no one should be making a profit off climate impacts like fires, floods and droughts.

What’s already happening?

Since 2012, a global divestment movement has grown and grown. Ordinary people have come together to ask their local councils, universities or churches to cut their ties with fossil fuels.

They’ve seen some huge wins. Last year, Stockholm announced they would sell their investments in coal, oil and gas companies - worth $3.5m. The announcement followed an eighteen month citizen-led campaign where thousands took to the streets and one group occupied a coal mine for 48 hours.

Religious organisations have divested too - from the Islamic Society of North America to Sydney Buddhist Centre to the Lutheran World federation, who asked their 72 million members to do the same and put the money into tackling climate change instead. Almost 50 UK universities have pledged to divest, after students and staff alike joined forces to protest.

Norway has the world’s largest state owned investment fund. Last year they agreed to sell all $900bn that was invested in coal. Earlier this year Ireland voted to divest their fund from all fossil fuels.

What can you do?

There’s still loads more to do. Hundreds of institutions are still invested in fossil fuels.

May 5th - 13th is Global Divestment Mobilisation week, where people around the world will be coming together to highlight how the fossil fuel investments our institutions make are damaging the planet. And to demand they do the right thing and divest.

You can get involved with divestment at any time, but the mobilisation week will be a good time to find campaigns near you We’re all connected to institutions who shouldn’t be funding the fossil fuel industry - whether it’s your university or your local council, your faith group, a museum you love or your pension.

There may already be a campaign or event in your area. Have a look online and then join in! If there isn’t something already, get a few people together and organise something yourself.


Photo: Alex J White, creative commons

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