Infographic: Divestment 101

Meghan French Dunbar May 5, 2016

Divestment is the opposite of investment; it means selling or reducing assets in a given entity in order to exert negative pressure on that entity, thus using the marketplace to promote certain behavior or improve certain policies. It’s most often done for ethical, political, social, or environmental reasons. Divestment has been effective as a tool because it stigmatizes the targeted industry, shifts capital away from the industry in question, and activates broad-based constituencies to take action on certain issues.

Anti-Apartheid campaigns in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s notably used divestment, pressuring universities and other large entities to cease investing in companies that traded with or had operations in South Africa. Over the last decade, divestment has been gathering momentum as a tool to fight climate change, with thousands of individuals, companies, universities, and foundations banding together to divest assets from fossil fuel companies.


Divest-Invest, a divestment movement that began in 2011 with a handful of US-based students and non-governmental organizations demanding that university endowments divest from fossil fuel companies, now has global reach. Oxford University named it the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history, representing more than $3.4 trillion in assets under management among more than 50,000 individuals and institutions committed to divesting from fossil fuel companies and instead investing in clean energy, agriculture, or sustainable and local businesses.

DIVEST-INVEST BY THE NUMBERS - $3.4 TRILLION: The amount of assets under management that has been committed to divest from fossil fuel companies as of December 2015. 5: Fossil-free portfolios have outperformed standard portfolios every year for the last five years. 50,000: The number of individuals and institutions that have committed to divestment. 120: The number of philanthropies that have committed to divestment, totaling over $12 billion in assets as of December 2015.

WHAT KIND OF INSTITUTIONS ARE DIVESTING? Faith-Based Groups: 27%, Foundations: 25%, Governmental Organizations: 13%, Pension Funds: 13%, Colleges, Universities and Schools: 12%, NGOs: 6%, For-Profit Corporations: 3%, Health: 1%
DIVEST-INVEST TIMELINE - 2011: Divest-Invest launches with students on college campuses demanding that college endowments divest from energy sources that drive climate change. JANUARY 2014: Divest-Invest Philanthropy launches with 17 foundations and $1.8 billion in assets under management. SEPTEMBER 2014: The Rockefeller Family Fund joins hundreds of others collectively representing more than $50 billion in assets under management at UN Climate Week in New York City to announce its plan to divest. JUNE 2015: Norway’s parliament announces its plans to divest coal investments from its $900 billion sovereign wealth fund. OCTOBER 2015: California Governor Jerry Brown announces that the two largest public pension funds in the US, CalPERS and CalSTRS, will divest from coal companies. DECEMBER 2015: At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, it is announced that more than $3.4 trillion in assets under management has been committed to the divestment movement.
Impact Investing / Stakeholder Capitalism
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