Op-Ed: Frustrated by the lack of action on climate change and gun violence? Divest

Californians frustrated by Congress’s failure to pass climate and gun control legislation have a potentially potent tool to produce the change they want: divestment.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the nation’s second- and third-largest retirement plans⁠, own investment portfolios that brim with shares in fossil fuel companies, ammunition manufacturers and gun retailers. So do almost all 401(k) accounts. Divestment campaigns can change that.

The primary goal of divestment advocacy usually isn’t to force the collapse of target companies by depriving them of capital — that outcome is often out of reach. According to a 1999 study in the Journal of Business, the anti-apartheid divestment campaign that targeted corporations and individuals who did business in South Africa in the 1980s — generally considered the most successful such efforts — didn’t deeply affect South Africa’s financial sector⁠. It achieved its goal by stigmatizing the practices of the South African government. As a 2012 Harvard Political Review article concluded, “It is almost certain that worldwide popular opposition … contributed to the decline of apartheid, and divestment was an important piece of this puzzle.” Read Full Article - Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2019