Carbon divestment a legitimate strategy for positive change

Earlier this week it was ANU in the news for divesting itself of stocks in companies with a high carbon exposure. Today the Lego is making news following pressure from the environmental group Greenpeace. Evidently, the Danish toy-brick maker Lego has ended its co-branding relationship with multinational oil and petrochemical company Royal Dutch Shell. Below is what I told the Australian Science Media Centre (http://www.smc.org.au/) when asked for comment:

“The campaign to encourage financial divestment in the fossil fuels industry is both a legitimate and unsurprising strategy for change.

Community stakeholders frustrated at the relative inaction of government and business in mitigating climate change and other unsustainable forms of economic development see a far greater degree of responsiveness when
the prospect of de-capitalisation of projects and products is invoked by the mobilisation of the massive capacity of pension funds and other institutional investors seeking to achieve better ‘triple bottom line’ outcomes.

For the past twenty years the major oil, gas and coal companies have defended their social licence to operate in a mix of messages ranging from jobs in developing countries and in parts of regional Australia to providing affordable energy to the world’s poor. At other times, their message has amounted to outlandish “green-wash” of the extent of their environment impact which conspicuously omits climate change as an environmental threat.

Corporate sustainability initiatives like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) generally have reflected significant incremental levels of innovation in the eco-efficiency of industry, but at the end of the day none of these measures can hide the reality of carbon emissions in the atmosphere or the escalating depletion of non-renewable resources.

To that end, the rise of the divestment movement among a growing number of global pension and investment funds reflects a fuller more transparent accounting of the risks involved in unsustainable business and economic strategies than has hitherto been the case. In time, it should prompt or accelerate new thinking by affected industries and their dependent economies about the benefits of diversification and investment in sustainable alternatives.”

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