From Rome to Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets over the weekend calling for action to combat climate change.
Now imagine if all those demonstrators chose to use their money against the companies whose views and goals they oppose. Could they help save the planet?
Divestment is a protest tactic used to object to a country’s policies, a corporation’s practices or an entire industry through economic leverage. People, organizations and institutions sell shares in companies they don't morally agree with and encourage others to do the same.
The Rockefellers — one of the wealthiest families in history and whose wealth was built on oil — announced earlier this week it will be using its pocketbook to promote change by divesting from fossil fuels.
Valerie Rockefeller Wayne talked about her family's decision this week on Al Jazeera's “Real Money with Ali Velshi.”
“I’m proud to say that my family embraces this irony that our wealth was made through oil,” said Wayne. “We’ve been looking at this for a long time, and we really looked for the strongest partners, because we want to do this in a way that will encourage others to join us.”
The heirs’ $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is latest name to be added to a list of charities, cities, states, pension funds, universities and religious organizations that have decided to divest from fossil fuels.
According to the philanthropic strategy firm Arabella Advisors, 181 institutions — up from 74 at the beginning of this year — and 656 individuals have pledged more than $50 billion in assets to divest from fossil fuel businesses.
The divestment movement to combat climate change is relatively young, born on college campuses, but the tactic springs from a long history of pocketbook protests.
In the 1980s, there was a widespread push to divest from South Africa and the multinational companies doing business there as long as apartheid continued. In the 1990s, more and more people took their money out of tobacco stocks.
Today there’s the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel to protest its occupation of the Palestinian territories, and there is a campaign targeting poor working conditions in the garment industry.
People can explore portfolio socially responsible investment (SRI) options that allow you to put your money where your morals are. In 1995 there were only 55 mutual funds that offered SRI accounts. Today there are nearly 500.
Technology makes it relatively easy to join and support divestment campaigns focusing on issues from green energy to human rights. One question remains, however: Do they work? Or do they just make people feel better?
We asked a panel of experts for the Inside Story.