8 Facts That Prove People Are Sick of Giving Money to the Fossil Fuel Industry

April 11, 2016


At Ben & Jerry’s, we’re big fans of a habitable planet. We think it’s great the way our major coastal cities aren’t underwater, for example, or how most of Greenland still isn’t actually green. Whether things stay this way or not is a big question. Climate change is real and we have to do all we can to keep global temperatures from warming more than 2˚ Celsius (beyond that and scientists argue we’re all in a lot of trouble).

Of course, the big oil and coal companies have spent a lot of cash over the years trying to deny the reality of climate change, all while extracting and burning more and more fossil fuels for profits. For the world to meet its COP21 commitments (and remain hospitable to civilization), most of those fuels have to stay in the ground, and we need to shift our reliance to sustainable power sources.

The fossil-fuel divestment movement is all about targeting the one thing that coal, natural-gas, and oil companies care about: money. It calls on institutions and organizations around the world to sell all their dirty fossil-fuel holdings.

Ben & Jerry’s—along with a lot of other organizations—is hopeful for a clean-energy future, and there are some signs showing it is within reach.

Here are 8 facts that prove people are sick of giving money to an antiquated industry that doesn’t care about the planet or the life it supports:


1. 515 institutions worldwide have divested from fossil fuels.

That’s a lot. These include cities (Boulder, CO; Seattle, WA; Munster, Germany), universities (Georgetown, Oxford, Stanford), banks (Adelained Bank, Australia; Nordea Bank, AB, Norway), churches (Church of England, Church of Sweden), investment funds, and so many others.

2. Those institutions are collectively worth $3.4 trillion.

These are big institutions with a lot of bucks to throw around. So when they take their money out of the fossil-fuel game, they can seriously impact bottom lines.

3. Fossil-fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history.

There have been other divestment movements, such as those against the tobacco and gambling industries, and the apartheid government in South Africa. But none that have gotten as much traction as quickly as this one.

4. It’s not just environmentalists anymore, it’s everybody.

Concern about the future of our planet is something that connects all of us. So it’s no surprise that the divestment campaign has a diverse range of supporters—everything from religious organizations and for-profit corporations to entire cities and statewide pension funds.

5. People pulling their money out of fossil fuels has caused stock prices to plummet.

Oil prices are declining and coal consumption is down all over the world. There are a variety of reasons for this, but few would argue any longer that fossil fuels are a blue chip investment. The future belongs to clean energy.

6. People who do keep throwing money at fossil fuels are losing it altogether.

In 2014, California’s pensions systems lost more than $5 billion on their fossil-fuel investments and the Massachusetts state pension fund lost $521 million in value from their fossil-fuel stocks. Most funds would have had a much better ROI (i.e. any ROI) had they divested. (California has since divested from coal.)

7. Some surprising people support divestment.

Hank Paulson, secretary of the treasury under George W. Bush and former CEO of Goldman Sachs (i.e. a professional moneymaker who potentially has a heart incapable of bleeding) has likened it to the financial crisis, saying, “We’ve seen and felt the costs of underestimating the financial bubble. Let’s not ignore the climate bubble.” And in a hugely symbolic move, the heirs of John D. Rockefeller (who founded Standard Oil, which later became ExxonMobil) have sold off two of their charities’ holdings in ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel companies. Yep, even the family that was made ridiculously rich by oil has seen the writing on the wall.

8. Green begets green: Investing in green energy is making people a heck of a lot of money.

Clean-energy investments, especially solar, are on the rise, and experts say investors would be smart to get in on them now.


Find out what you can do to join the divestment movement. The future of our planet depends on it!