Why fossil fuel divestment is so important for UCT and South Africa

Well, I’ve heard [this claim] that divestment is ineffective and I would like to suggest otherwise. Taking the South African case, where I wrote a 700-page book on it, it’s absolutely true it had no effect on the stock price and that’s totally irrelevant. At no point during the South African divestment or in the fossil fuel movement does anyone care about the stock price of these companies. If you look at it through finance, you see no effect and therefore you conclude that there’s been no impact. But if you look at it through the discipline of history, you see that it’s incontrovertible that step by step by step it was the South African divestment movement that changed the public discourse, that transformed the decisions of corporations to get out of South Africa and our government, led by a Republican Senate, to pass a comprehensive sanctions bill. Well, one of the things that’s fascinating about it is that climate change has been one of those problems where we’ve been hoping that someone else would do something about it. But divestment has the impact of saying, what are your direct responsibilities? If you own stock in Exxon, if you’re receiving dividends from Exxon whose business model is to destroy the planet, do you feel comfortable with that? Do you endorse what they’re doing? Normally, when you own a stock, you’re endorsing their business plan. And so instead of pushing this off to someone else, it transforms people and institutions exactly as a democracy should.

– Robert Massie, senior advisor from Boston Common Asset Management in the US, 2015

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