Step 6:

Win and Get The Word Out

What to do if your institution commits to divest

You’re on your way towards partial or full divestment. Congratulations! You and your team should feel incredibly proud. Thank God and celebrate!

An important element in the effectiveness of divestment for the common good is the step of making the decision public, so the word of all wins must be spread. Even if it’s only a stepping stone to the larger win, or if exposure is small, there is a socially significant testimony in divesting from fossil fuels and re-investing in low-carbon technologies.

You may know in advance when a decision and potential win is going to happen, so make sure you’ve got as much material as possible lined up beforehand. Some steps to think about:

  • Let the team (or relevant others) and networks know about key decisions coming up (even if the outcome is uncertain), so people can be on standby to share.
  • Have a press release ready to go with quotes from local spokespeople and decision makers. If you can arrange for a photo that’s great (like this one Divest London organised for the London Assembly vote), and working with the institution’s press office on the announcement can ensure the best results. If you’re waiting on a decision, having multiple press releases prepared for different outcomes can be useful for a quick response! To see some examples, check out the Fossil Free media page.
  • A blog post and social media memes ready to put out!
  • Share the news and give thanks. Regardless of the nature of the decision (i.e. partial or full divestment)  it’s important to seek permission to tell the story of what happened, why it happened the way it did, and what to expect next. Put the case to the decision-makers why it is important for others outside the organisation to know.
  • Letting the world know about the decision does not need to wait until it is on the way to being implemented. It can happen as early as when the resolution is passed, as has often happened outside the Catholic Church. While the ethical integrity being shown by these decisions has intrinsic value, much of the beneficial impact is in the prophetic message such decisions send to the broader society.
  • Making such decisions public progresses them from the sphere of private morality to the prophetic. The fossil fuel lobby which has put many millions of dollars annually into winning the hearts and minds of both politicians and the broader public. By making decisions public, organisations add to the important momentum being created to remove the industry’s social license, and they put on the public record that creation must be safeguarded from continued exploitation of fossil fuel reserves. Our common home needs to be protected.
  • If you do get permission to share the news, spread the word widely! Check out Go Fossil Free’s media guide for help. Be sure to reach out to all who participated along the way and thank them for their commitment and support. And notify GreenFaith so we can add your action to the global list of faith divestment efforts.
  • Your organisation may need encouragement, help and resources in implementing the decision that has been made. The first step is to identify existing fossil fuel investments and create a plan for divesting those assets. Two tools can help. The Decarbonizer identifies various types of fossil fuel investments in a portfolio and suggests alternative investments. The As You Sow Fossil Free Fund Tracker helps identify fossil fuels in your mutual funds and look for alternative mutual funds.
  • It may help those implementing the decision to know that this is a process which can take up to five years.
  • The answer is ‘No’ or ‘Not Yet’. This is still good news! You’ve started an important conversation in your organisation or community. Fossil fuel divestment represents a significant shift away from historic beliefs on investing, and it can take time for these beliefs to change.

Here are some next steps to consider:

  • Evaluate what went well, what  didn’t work, and why.
  • Look for other ways to build creation care awareness in your organisation. GreenFaith has numerous resources, from training programs to curriculum to advocacy opportunities and more.
  • Shift the focus to smaller entities within your organisation, eg, a diocese rather than a national Bishops’ Conference,  a regional congregation within a religious Order rather than the whole Order.
  • Consider re-launching your advocacy in a new season. You have learned so much from all you have done, and your community has learned from you as well. They might just need a bit more time to get used to the idea of divestment.