About Greenpeace's campaign for climate-friendly finance

Background - 1 July, 2016
Our future wellbeing and security pivot on stopping investment in dirty and dangerous fossil fuel and nuclear projects. Greenpeace's exciting and ambitious campaign on finance "follows the money". We bear witness, document harm, and work with affected communities to uncover the true damage of coal, oil and gas projects. We share this information with the finance community, regulators and stakeholders. We strive to ensure investors avoid or withdraw from risky, polluting coal mining and oil drilling projects, and push investments toward clean, safe renewable energy.

Greenpeace wants good investment for people and the planet

Money is still flowing to fossil fuel companies. This happens either because people who invest in these projects are simply not fully informed about their harmful effects; or because companies’ directors and officers are rewarded for doing the wrong thing.

Depending on the problem and whom we need to reach, Greenpeace aims to fill knowledge gaps and drive this investment toward solutions that are good for people and the planet. We do this by:

  1. Making sure financial audiences and regulators know the environmental and social impacts of investing in dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear power, which often translate to material financial risk as well.

  2. Working to prevent more future pollution and environmental harm, by challenging the flow of new money into fossil fuel companies.

  3. Pushing investors to take their money out of coal and oil projects. The more money they divest from dirty and dangerous fuels, the more is free to invest in clean, safe renewables!

1. We connect the dots to communicate risk

When companies seek money, they often present only the "up-side" of investing in their ventures. No one is there to offer the other side of the story. So banks, investors and regulators often lack access to reliable information about harmful social and environmental effects of fossil fuel investments.

That’s where Greenpeace comes in. Around the world, we connect with local people on the ground. By land, air and sea, we bear witness and document the human and environmental toll of fossil fuel companies' activity.  We've shown how coal mines polluted South Kalimantan's water, and how destructive logging and palm oil plantations have fuelled a carbon bomb of massive underground peat fires.

When the time is right, we take these first-hand accounts and other corporate intelligence to financial audiences and regulators. Some examples:

  • Our reports for investors about the material risk of coal investments (for example, in the US and Indonesia) give the most up-to-date information and global coal industry outlook.  

  • Together with Platform and ShareAction, we challenged the oil industry’s business model with a tool we developed to analyse high-risk projects (like offshore Arctic drilling) and reveal their economy-wide risks and technical, legal and regulatory challenges.

2. We challenge finance for new fossil fuel projects

Extremely low coal prices are pushing more and more coal companies to attempt to raise money from the public. They do this by selling new shares or raising new loans.

This is where Greenpeace steps in. When these companies put their hand out for more money, they often "downplay" the problems the industry faces. We take all our information about their project risks and global market outlooks, and pass this on to regulators, so that there is greater transparency in the financial market about the real impacts. In this way, we make regulators aware of the full scope of a project's risks.  Here are some successes:

  • Greenpeace USA told US regulators that the US coal company CONSOL Energy may have failed to completely disclose the risks of investing in the fast-declining US coal market. Following our complaint, we noticed that the company greatly reduced the amount of shares they sold and was only able to raise half their targeted amount of cash.

  • Greenpeace UK and East Asia channeled public pressure to get big banks to walk away from financing destructive projects; this pressure led to Standard Chartered's withdrawal from one of the world's biggest new coal mining projects in Australia's fragile Great Barrier Reef.

3. We drive divestment

Last but not least, we also push investors to withdraw, or divest, their money from fossil fuels.

Money talks — especially when money walks away from bad investments. Greenpeace wants investors to know that money sunk into fossil fuels is good money gone bad. Like the negative stigma surrounding finance for big tobacco and cluster bombs, we believe when investors are given the opportunity to be fully aware just how bad fossil fuel investments are, they are likely to pull their money out, or avoid investing in the first place.

These bad fossil fuel investments must get the negative stigma they deserve.

That's why, when Norway's US $900 billion sovereign wealth fund took its money out of 50 coal-related companies, Greenpeace Norway spread the word far and wide to congratulate the fund for its bold move and to encourage other bodies to do the same. As the movement gains momentum, and as more and more institutions divest, the greater the negative stigma against harmful fossil fuels grows.

Divestment from fossil fuels is important because money is a powerful incentive for future development. Instead of funding destructive coal mining or oil drilling, this money could create an incentive for industry to further research and develop the clean, safe 100 percent renewable energy system we all want. The more shareholders' money we shift away from coal and oil, the more investment opportunity it creates for these new, innovative industries of the future.

We've already started a groundbreaking conversation about what it means to be a good investor for people and the planet, now and in future. One of our biggest victories:

What can you do?

Find out about positive investment choices you can make, and how to make your concerns heard by the finance community.

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