Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.
When you invest your money, you might buy stocks, bonds, or other investments that generate income for you. Universities (and colleges in the US), religious organizations, retirement funds, and other institutions put billions in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help them run. Fossil fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet, so we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.
There have been a handful of successful divestment campaigns in recent history, including those targeting violence in Darfur, tobacco advertising, and others, but the largest and most impactful one came to a head around the issue of South African Apartheid. By the mid-1980s, 155 campuses – including some of the most famous in the country – had divested from companies doing business in South Africa. 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities, including some of the nation’s biggest, took their money from multinationals that did business in the country. The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of the Apartheid government and usher in an era of democracy and equality.
Fossil fuel divestment takes the fossil fuel industry to task for its culpability in the climate crisis. By naming this industry’s singularly destructive influence — and by highlighting the moral dimensions of climate change — we hope that the fossil fuel divestment movement can help break the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our governments.
What is fossil free?
If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, governments, and other organizations that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels.
We are an international network of campaigns and campaigners working toward fossil fuel divestment in our communities. While each campaign is independently run and may bring different emphases and asks depending on their local context, the majority of campaigns are asking institutions to:
- Immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies;
- Divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years
Most campaigns use this list of the top 200 fossil fuel companies by reserves.
Fossil Free is a project of 350.org.
You can read more about what divestment is and how it has historically been used as a tactic for social change here.