Whether we’re targeting banks, credit unions, higher education, local government, or personal investments, our goal is to:
- Challenge the legitimacy of—indeed, stigmatize—the fossil fuel industry by highlighting its singularly destructive impact and the moral dimensions of the climate crisis;
- Undercut the political power of the fossil fuel lobby, making it easier for politicians to take action; and
- Warn investors that fossil fuels are a risky investment, likely to become stranded assets if the world’s nations fulfill their pledge to keep global warming below 2° Celsius by sharply cutting carbon emissions.
Here’s an overview of some of our work to date.
In earlier work, we persuaded the University of Wisconsin Credit Union (UWCU) in 2017 to state publicly that:
- It does not provide financing for the extraction or holding of fossil fuel assets;
- Its investment portfolio does not include the securities of fossil fuel companies; and
- It provides members with socially responsible investment options.
The campaign continues to push UWCU to go further. Specifically, we’re asking the credit union to help members use their personal investments to support clean energy companies and invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation in their homes and businesses.
We have also targeted the banks that underwrite pipeline construction and expansion. In December 2016, more than 100 supporters joined us in a #NoDAPL solidarity action targeting the banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Meeting at Madison’s Army Corps of Engineers office, we first demanded that the Army Corps immediately rescind the eviction notice that was endangering thousands of water protectors at Standing Rock. We then walked to nearby US Bank and Wells Fargo branches to present our demand that they cease financing the pipeline.
The primary purpose of UW–Madison, according to its mission statement, is to:
provide a learning environment in which faculty, staff and students can discover, examine critically, preserve and transmit the knowledge, wisdom and values that will help ensure the survival of this and future generations and improve the quality of life for all.
We find an intolerable contradiction between the university’s mission and its investment, through the UW Foundation, in companies that threaten the future of not only today’s students, but also life on this planet.
Our team has been pushing UW–Madison to divest since 350 Madison’s founding in 2012 (see a summary of past campaign actions below). We will continue working toward this goal with UW student activists in 2019 and beyond.
Fossil fuel divestment is going mainstream. As of April 2019, institutions collectively worth $8.7 trillion have committed to divest, including New York State and New York City, and divestment is increasingly recognized as a sound financial decision as well as a moral one. To date,
[T]he Foundation strongly believes that it should be very cautious in taking any steps that are intended to turn the Foundation’s endowment into a force that positions the University as a political actor rather than an academic and research institution.
Yet UW was one of the first universities to divest from apartheid South Africa when it sold off all of its holdings in companies doing business there in February 1978.
Just under 160 educational institutions have already divested from fossil fuels in full or in part—among them Yale, Johns Hopkins, Boston University, and the University of California in the U.S. and Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh University in the U.K. UW–Madison can no longer afford to hide behind the claim that divestment is out of bounds because it’s “political.”
The time to act is now. Join us!
Past Campaign Actions
Here are some of the strategies 350 Madison’s Divest & Defund Campaign and our allies have pursued to push UW–Madison to divest:
- On December 3, 2012, 350 Madison and Climate Action 350 UW delivered more than 1,200 petition signatures, along with this letter, to UW Foundation President Michael M. Knetter.
- In March 2013, the UW–Madison Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) called on UW–Madison to divest from fossil fuel interests and pursue alternatives.
- In February 2014, the UW–Madison Ad Hoc Committee on Fossil Fuel Use and Climate Change issued a report recommending that the university undertake a number of “bold initiatives leading to near term real world impacts”—specifically, prioritizing education initiatives around climate change; promoting research on climate change; committing the campus to significant emission reduction targets; and promoting non–fossil fuel investment opportunities. At that time, only a minority of the committee urged the UW Foundation to divest from fossil fuels.
- In February 2015, our team added UW–Madison to the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, a donor-advised divestment fund created to put additional pressure on colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuels. Donations to the fund pegged to a particular school were held and invested until the school divested or the December 2018 was reached. Because UW–Madison failed to divest by the deadline, all donations made in its name went to the one school that did (Salem State University).
- In 2016, representatives from our team met with UW Foundation officers to heighten their awareness of the concepts of a “carbon bubble” and stranded assets and let them know what other universities were doing to divest.
In April 2013, Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin joined nine other mayors around the country in “urging their cities to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies because of the industry’s responsibility for the climate crisis.” See their press release here and a news story here. Kudos to Mayor Soglin for placing the City of Madison out front as a leader on divestment! The Madison City Council voted in support of institutional divestment on July 2, 2013. See the 350 Madison press release here and the text of the resolution here.
In July 2014, the City of Monona passed a resolution supporting practices that would reduce the city’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The 350 Madison Divest & Defund Campaign has also urged the trustees of the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) to divest from all direct ownership in the 100 companies with the largest known reserves of coal and the 100 companies with the largest known reserves of oil and natural gas. The SWIB is the 30th largest institutional investor in the world with more than $80 billion in assets.
Sign the petition to divest Wisconsin public employee retirement funds, whose target is the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), the 30th largest institutional investor in the world with more than $80 billion in assets.
- Fossil Free Funds: Are your savings invested in fossil fuels? (enables you to search to determine if your money is being used to extract and consume fossil fuels and to identify US fossil-free, socially responsible funds)
- Green Century Funds (see “Make a Clean Break, Your Guide to Fossil Free Investing”)
- Fossil Free: Your Roadmap to Divestment
- 350 Madison: Reinvestment Alternatives for Individuals
- Mazaska Talks: Divest Yourself
- DivestInvest for Individuals