Several prominent institutional investors concerned about climate change have announced their intention or have divested from fossil fuel shares, to limit their exposure to the industry. The act of fossil fuel divestment may directly depress share prices or stigmatize the industry’s reputation, resulting in lower share value. While there has been considerable research conducted on the performance of the fossil fuel industry, there is not yet any empirical evidence that divestment announcements influence share prices. Adopting an event study methodology, this study measures abnormal deviations in stock prices of the top 200 global oil, gas, and coal companies by proven reserves, on days of prominent divestment announcements. Events are analyzed independently and in aggregate. The results make several notable contributions. While many events experienced short-term negative abnormal returns around the event day, the effects of events were more pronounced over longer event windows following the New York Climate March, suggesting a shift in investor perception. The results also find that divestment announcements related to campaigns, pledges, and endorsements all have a significant effect over the short-term event window. Finally, the results control for the general underperformance of the industry over the estimation window, attesting that the price change is caused by divestment announcements. Several robustness tests using alternate expected returns models and statistical tests were conducted to ensure the accuracy of the result. Overall, this study finds that divestment announcements decrease the share price of the fossil fuel companies, and thus, we conclude that ‘divestors’ can influence the share price of their target companies. Theoretically, the result adds new knowledge regarding the efficacy of the efficient market hypothesis in relation to divestment.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.