Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Jan Lee headshot

Calls For Divestment From the Dakota Access Pipeline Reach a Roar

By Jan Lee

It's not a popular time for banks that have agreed to back the Dakota Access Pipeline. Cities and other public entities are ending business with banks like Wells Fargo, which loaned more than $400 million to the pipeline's developers. And the divestment movement is growing.

Last week Seattle and the California city of Davis announced they would stop doing business with Wells Fargo.

This week the city of Alameda, California is mulling divestment. So is the California Public Employee Retirement System, which initially resisted calls for divestment by protesters. The Swedish investment fund Nordea said it will no longer invest in the pipeline on behalf of clients. And New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he admires Seattle's unilateral move to divest and would consider doing the same.

It is probably no surprise that a number of Native American tribes are also taking steps to divest. The Standing Rock Sioux took steps to divest from financial institutions doing business with the pipeline developers back in August. Since then, a growing number of tribes across the country have either ended business with the 35 banks funding the projects' developers or expressed interest in doing so, Frances Madeson reports in Yes Magazine.

“American Indians have to be able to stand up for what they believe about the environment, the economics of their time, and the social impact of situations like this,” said Lynn Rapp, an investment adviser in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota.

That concern cuts across all economic strata when it comes to native communities, wrote Madeson, who points out that even poor communities see long-term sense in taking a stand against banks that fund DAPL. Duane Yazzie, president of the Shiprock chapter of the Navajo Nation, encouraged his constituents to take a serious financial stand against the pipeline -- one that comes with some sacrifice for the Navajo Nation, where more than 40 percent of people are below the poverty line.

Wells Fargo has found itself at the center of the firestorm against DAPL investments. In response to the growing outcry, the company said the $447 million it advanced toward the pipeline's construction and its developers also have ties to Native American communities in 27 states.

Wells Fargo insists it helped fund scholarships, paid for projects on tribal lands and provided banking services to hundreds of Native American communities. And certainly the prospect of divesting from one of the country's largest banks isn't a light decision for Standing Rock, Shiprock and other native communities.

Back in California, the financial epicenter of much of the divestment movement, a startup devised a way to make the process of divestment faster and easier. Open Invest now offers an app to help people divest from companies funding DAPL and a reminder that change is a social investment.

"There are plenty of ways to support Standing Rock, but we have to remember that almost all of us are individually implicated," the company says. "We are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline."

So far, investors, institutions and individuals have pulled more than $66 million from companies funding either the pipeline or its developers, according to DefundDAPLL.org.

Image credit: Flickr/John Duffy

Jan Lee headshot

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

Read more stories by Jan Lee