Divestment is the opposite of an investment. It means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil fuel investments are a risk for investors and the planet – that’s why we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.

In recent history, there have been a number of successful divestment campaigns. The largest and most impactful one targeted South African Apartheid, which helped break the back of the Apartheid government.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has also been hugely successful – the fastest growing divestment movement of all time! Globally, over $3.4 trillion of assets across over 500 institutions has already been divested!

From Apartheid South Africa to Tobacco, divestment has been an important lever for change.


Divestment from South Africa was first advocated in the 1960s, in protest of South Africa’s system of apartheid, it was implemented on a significant scale by the mid-1980s.

The disinvestment campaign was realised in federal legislation enacted in 1986 by the United States and is credited by some as pressuring the South African Government to embark on negotiations ultimately leading to the dismantling of the Apartheid system.

The documentary ‘The Bottom Line’ explores the impacts and mechanisms of the South African divestment movement as part of the anti-apartheid movement.

This article from the Guardian examines the historic impact of divestment fights.


The campaign for divestment from tobacco was led by health organisations across the world.

The Oxford University Stranded Assets Report (2014) concluded that, while tobacco divestment has no financial effects, it did contribute towards stigmatisations of the tobacco industry with their stocks being labelled as ‘sin stocks’

This graph from the report shows the value of tobacco divestment commitments:

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To read more about the fight against tobacco and a comparison to fossil fuel divestment, see this article.

According to a study by Oxford University, the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign in history and presents a real threat to the fossil fuel industry by removing its social acceptance. It’s the political power rather than the financial power that’s important.

The outcome of the stigmatisation process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain.

Significant commitments:

‘…then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’ – Mahatma Gandhi

Aside from the increase in public awareness around divestment and growing acceptance of the ‘80% of fossil fuels to stay in the ground’ narrative, one of the biggest indicators of the campaign’s success is the push back from the fossil fuel industry.

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