Impacts of the fossil fuel divestment movement: effects on finance, policy and public discourse

Bergman, Noam (2018) Impacts of the fossil fuel divestment movement: effects on finance, policy and public discourse. Sustainability, 10 (7). 25291 1-18. ISSN 2071-1050

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Abstract

The fossil fuel divestment movement campaigns for removing investments from fossil fuel companies as a strategy to combat climate change. It is a bottom-up movement, largely based in university student groups, although it has rapidly spread to other institutions. Divestment has been criticised for its naiveté and hard-line stance and dismissed as having little impact on fossil fuel finance. I analyse the impact of divestment through reviewing academic and grey literature, complemented by interviews with activists and financial actors, using a theoretical framework that draws on social movement theory. While the direct impacts of divestment are small, the indirect impacts, in terms of public discourse shift, are significant. Divestment has put questions of finance and climate change on the agenda and played a part in changing discourse around the legitimacy, reputation and viability of the fossil fuel industry. This cultural impact contributed to changes in the finance industry through new demands by shareholders and investors and to changes in political discourse, such as rethinking the notion of ‘fiduciary duty.’ Finally, divestment had significant impact on its participants in terms of empowerment and played a part in the revitalisation of the environmental movement in the UK and elsewhere.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Part of the CIED project Reorienting investments and divesting from fossil fuel assets, see http://www.cied.ac.uk/project/reorienting-investments-and-divesting-from-fossil-fuel-assets/
Keywords: divestment; fossil fuels; impact; social movements; environmental movements; stranded assets; activism; climate action
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HG Finance > HG4501 Investment, capital formation, speculation
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
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Depositing User: Noam Bergman
Date Deposited: 07 Aug 2018 11:04
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2018 11:05
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/77553

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Project NameSussex Project NumberFunderFunder Ref
Research Centre on Innovation and Energy DemandG1020RCUK-RESEARCH COUNCILS UKEP/K011790/1