1.1. A Brief History of Divestment
1.2. Politics of Divestment
2. Methods and Framework
2.1. Literature and Interviews
2.2. Developing a Framework
2.2.1. Divestment as a Social Movement
2.2.2. Impacts of Social Movements
3. Direct Impacts of the Divestment Movement
3.1. Effects on Participants—Cultural and Mobilisation Impacts
The whole point is that a lot of people’s ability—or perception of their ability—to do anything about climate change is completely constrained by the perception that the problem is too big. It’s too abstract, it’s too global, it’s too long term. ... After talking about climate change for years and years and years, it’s nice to have something that you feel that you can actually [do]… A goal that you can attain in a reasonable timeframe.
I’ve seen people, after a year or a year and a half of organising for divestment, leave with a much deeper, more coherent radical politics ... than when they arrived and go on to continue organising with that in mind.
3.2. Direct Financial and Political Impacts
4. Indirect Impacts of the Divestment Movement
4.1. Changing the Discourse
4.1.1. Public Discourse Shift
4.1.2. Investors Raise Questions
We regularly host events where we bring together fund managers, asset owners and consultants to discuss the issues. In many cases, they would probably not be there were it not for the efforts of students and others to raise this up the agenda.
4.1.3. Finance Responds
have shown little willingness to engage with policy decision-makers with the publicity and assertiveness required. This calls into question whether these divestment critics are really looking for the best system change strategy or whether they are simply looking for reasons to justify their inaction.
4.2. Legitimacy and Reputation
the initial aim is to move the money but also, it’s so much more about the social licence, legitimacy and power of those fossil fuel investment funds.(A1, student campaigner)
[to] reframe what we think of as an ethical investment and to include fossil fuels on the list of things that we can no longer invest in from an ethical standpoint and putting them on the same list as things like armaments and tobacco.(A2, former student activist)
4.3. Radical Flank Effect
4.4. Fiduciary Duty
It’s relatively straightforward for an investor to exclude fossil fuels. When it comes to solutions, it’s harder to identify what good looks like.(A3)
It’s not down to us, as people who are not expert in financial markets, to identify an alternative for them.(A6)
[S]ome UK universities have made reinvestment commitments as a result of divestment.(A7)
A number of major investors, including pension funds and insurance companies, are already starting to shift their investments. For example, over 400 investors with US$25 trillion in assets have joined the Investor Platform for Climate Actions, committed to increasing low-carbon and climate-resilient investments, including by working with policy-makers to ensure financing at scale.(, p. 16)
5. Discussion and Conclusions
5.1. Direct and Indirect Impacts
5.2. Cultural, Mobilisation, Political and Financial Impacts
5.3. Impacts on Participants and Impacts of Action
Conflicts of Interest
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|Interviewee||Background or Profession|
|A2||Former divestment student activist|
|A3||Project and research officer at a charitable trust|
|A4||Former divestment student activist|
|A5||Chair of a research and advocacy group|
|A6||University academic involved in divestment|
|A7||Campaigner at People & Planet|
|A8||University finance director|
|B1||Investment bank research analyst|
|B2||Independent investment consultant|
|B3||Senior economist in a fossil fuel corporation|
|B4||Chief investment officer of a large pension scheme|
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