Corporate capture of policy-making processes and hyper-partisanship means that traditional advocacy strategies are no longer sufficient to meet today’s escalating and intersectional crises. Movement leaders across issues increasingly recognize that targeting companies and their financial flows can be a powerful lever to advance economic, climate, racial and gender justice. Activists are now driving creative campaigns that push institutional investors such as pension funds, banks, and endowment managers to use their shareholder power to secure changes in corporate practices.
Shareholder strategies have been deployed by human rights groups and coalitions of religious organizations for decades. In the 1980s South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement built an international divestment campaign that was instrumental in transforming that society. Building on the lessons from that powerful human rights campaign, 21st century climate activists have built a far-reaching global movement that uses finance strategies to address the climate crisis, notably the fossil-fuel Divest-Invest movement, which by 2021 had secured commitments reaching $40T.
In recent years, we have seen a rapid expansion of this approach. Today, movement organizations, racial, gender and economic justice groups, labor unions and others are using finance-focused strategies with increasing sophistication. They are fighting to protect rights and democracy by building shareholder and investor power to demand meaningful changes in corporate practices and impacts across issues. Wallace Global Fund grantees such as Ultraviolet, Color of Change, and Majority Action organize to win racial and gender justice audits across industries. Open MIC pushes for accountability from the powerful technology sector. Public Citizen coordinates a far-reaching coalition that deploys multiple strategies to protect democracy by championing corporate disclosure of campaign contributions and lobbying.
Wallace Global Fund grantees across program areas are vital players in this still-growing field. In addition to supporting movement-led strategies and campaigns, the Fund resources a valuable cohort of experts in the finance sector such as As You Sow, Interfaith Center for Corporate Accountability, Racial Justice Investing, Adasina Social Capital, and the American Sustainable Business Network.
Movement leaders and advocates are also working with grassroots allies to fight ALEC-backed state legislation banning shareholder campaigns, divestment, and ESG investing. They are championing shareholder-focused policies and regulatory actions at the federal level. Across the board, they are fiercely defending investor rights to advance shareholder resolutions and invest according to ESG standards.
Wallace Global Fund is honored to support and partner with this dynamic movement for strategic change across the most critical issues of our time.