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Divestment is intentionally removing investments from a particular company, industry, or sector. For example, a company can divest from the fossil fuel industry and extractivism in favour of moving towards a regenerative economy. In the university context, this means selling the university’s stocks, bonds, and other forms of invested funds in a particular industry, and foregoing future investments in that industry - Divest Canada Coalition [1] , adapted by Michelle Xie [2]

Divestment as a campaign strategy aims to "apply economic pressure on an industry or state that is profiting from injustice and destruction. The idea is that stock sell-offs, cancelled contracts, and the like will scare off potential investors and create enough economic pressure to compel the target to comply with your demands. A divestment campaign helps to politically isolate the target and limit its ability to act with impunity." -Beautiful Trouble [3]

Examples of divestment campaigns

Government pressure

  • Divestment became a popular strategy in the 1980s, when it was used to pressure the government of South Africa to abolish its racist policy and crime of apartheid. [4]

Banks divestment

  • Calls for major banks to divest their investment portfolios from fossil fuels. [5]
Pension divestment
  • Calls for pension plans, such as the The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, to divest their investment portfolios from fossil fuels. [6]
University divestment 
  • Calls for universities to divest their investment portfolios from fossil fuels. [7]
Palestine solidarity
  • Universities in the US voted to divest funds from companies supporting the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine. [8]

Do divestment campaigns work?

Canadian universities that have committed to full or partial divestment include Laval University, Concordia University,, University of British Columbia, University of Guelph and the University of Montreal. 1000 other institutions globally have divested $14 trillion from the fossil fuel industry.

If one company withdrawns funding, won't another take their place?

  • While the divestment movement alone may not solve the climate crisis, divestment is a part of the broader ecosystem of climate action. Divestment is considered a critical step in shifting how we run our society from principles of extraction to principles of generation.
  • Divestment takes aim at the social license to operate of the fossil fuel industry, that is, the level of ongoing approval a community gives to the industry. [9]
  • Financial support is a key pillar that gives power to the fossil fuel industry. Loss of a partnership impacts their pillars of support by stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry. This propels the transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy to one fuelled by sustainable renewable energy.

If you have any suggested revisions or additional resources to share related to the above content, please email them to kenzie@lehub.ca.

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