Pushed by students, universities lead on fossil fuel divestment. Who will push foundations?

In late October, the University of Toronto announced that it will divest its $4 billion endowment from fossil fuels.

Why It Matters

Climate change is an existential threat and it’s powered by the burning of fossil fuels. Experts say that a wave of fossil fuel divestment proclamations amongst Canadian foundations could send a powerful signal to other investors, government and media, that fossil fuels are on the way out — and could also better align foundation’s investment dollars with their social missions.

This story is part of the Future of Good editorial fellowship covering the social impact world’s rapidly changing funding models, supported by Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada.

On April 4, 2019 Julia DaSilva and a group of about 20 other students gathered on the steps of Victoria College at the University of Toronto, preparing to storm a board of regents meeting taking place inside. They wielded colourful signs — “Keep oil in the soil,” “Divestment timeline now,” — and a five-foot banner that loudly proclaimed: “It’s not an investment if it wrecks the planet.”

After the rally, students marched into the lobby of the imposing building. The boardroom door was unlocked so they chanted their way inside, presenting board members with


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