May 15, 2014 | NONPROFIT QUARTERLY-- While convincing foundations and universities to divest their tax-exempt assets from investments in fossil fuel companies is the big divestment campaign news of the moment, and there is still a campaign calling for divestment from companies that do business in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, divestment as a political tool is alive and well addressing other controversial issues in our economy. Two have made the headlines recently:
- The City of Portland, Oregon just last week began a process of divesting itself from Wal-Mart company stocks and bonds. As part of the city’s socially responsible investment strategy, the city dropped 25 percent of its Wal-Mart investments immediately and plans to be fully divested from Wal-Mart by 2016. Swedish and Dutch investment funds have also recently divested from Wal-Mart due to the company’s anti-union position and other labor practices.
- There is an active campaign involving organizations typically connected to organizing low-wage workersaimed at getting foundations and others to divest from private prison operators. Among the targets are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and private prison operators such as the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group. The Gates Foundation responded to a protest led by the Latino advocacy group Presente.org in support of prisoners engaged in a hunger strike at the GEO-operated Northwest Detention Center by saying that the positive value of its grantmaking far outweighs its investments in operators of private prisons. The foundation also contends that it somehow doesn’t actually control its own investments, which are directed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Asset Trust, which operates separately from the foundation.
The prison divestment efforts may be as interesting as any, in part because there is a significant connection of the campaign to a broader policy issue. The campaign appears to have been started a few years ago by a group called Enlace, which argues in part that anti-immigrant laws such as Arizona’s SB1070 and Georgia’s HB87 are connected to the financial interests of private prison operators that READ FULL ARTICLE