Divestment FAQs

What is divestment?

Divestment is the opposite of investment. It means removing investments in funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil fuel divestment, specifically, refers to an immediate freeze on any new investments in fossil fuel companies and to divest from direct ownership or any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds. Organizers can use collective action to increase social pressure on institutions to remove fossil fuel investments from their financial assets.

 

What is the UW Divestment Coalition?

Our mission is to unite student organizations throughout the University of Wisconsin System to demand a just divestment from fossil fuels to combat the climate crisis. Our coalition strives to represent student groups, faculty members, alumni, and community members from around the 13 University of Wisconsin campuses.

How is a fossil fuel company defined?

Fossil fuel companies are defined as any company whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels, including all forms of coal, oil, and natural gas.

 

What are the UWDC demands? 

  1. Transparency and disclosure of all UW investments 

  2. Ending all new investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies that hold the vast majority of oil, gas, and coal reserves

  3. Sell existing investments tied to oil, gas, and coal in the next 3-5 years

  4. Investing in clean energy solutions

 

Why is it important that the UW System divests in Fossil Fuels?

Educational institutions are supposed to make investments that benefit their students. Yet, the UW system invests its $7 billion endowment in corporations that further exacerbate the climate crisis, threatening our future. Essentially, the UW system is currently profiting from climate change by choosing to invest in fossil fuel related industries. Divestment from fossil fuels will ensure that the UW system endowments are aligned with the environmental and social values of the system.

 

What are common arguments against divestment?

  1. Divestment will increase cost for non fossil fuel divestments, causing a lower return on investments.

  2. Divestment will cause inefficiency, higher risk, and lower return

  3. Divestment can look partisan

  4. Investors are also aware of risk and will divest when necessary

  5. Investors can change company behavior

  6. Fossil fuels will be burned either way

 

What are the best arguments for divestment?

  1. Divestment would demonstrate that the UW System governs ethically

  2. Fossil fuel investments are risky because they are susceptible to market elasticity

  3. Fossil fuel market shocks might influence other institutions to divest as well, creating a domino effect

  4. Companies might change behavior based on divestments

  5. Studies have found that the economic risk of divesting from fossil fuels is statistically irrelevant (Aperio Group 2013)

  6. Schools should not be profiting off the climate crisis

 

How much of the $7 billion endowment is invested in fossil fuels?

The UW system does not publicly disclose how they invest their endowment and what industries they support.
 

Have other universities successfully divested?

Over 100 United States campuses have either fully or partially divested from fossil fuels including Seattle University, California State University, University of Dayton, and Stanford University. 

 

Is divestment a viable strategy?

Yes, a handful of successful campaigns in the past include divestment from darfur, tobacco, and the largest being the South American Apartied. By the mid-1980s, 155 campuses—including some of the most famous in the country—had divested from companies doing business in South Africa. 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities, including some of the nation’s biggest, took their money from multinationals that did business in the country. The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of the Apartheid government, and usher in an era of democracy and equality.

Visit the official Go Fossil Free website for more information