Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials

Investing in humanity: The BMJ’s divestment campaign

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m167 (Published 23 January 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m167
  1. Kamran Abbasi, executive editor,
  2. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
  1. The BMJ, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Kamran Abbasi (kabbasi{at}bmj.com)

Health professionals and medical organisations must act now

How do we restore hope for humanity? Many of us feel despair at a disintegrating political consensus to save our planet from fire, flood, disease, and conflict. We feel trapped in our high carbon lives and disempowered by commercial influence of companies whose products damage the planet and people’s wellbeing.

Evidence for the effects of the politico-commercial complex is clear and alarming.1 On our current trajectory we will miss carbon emission targets and sustainable development goals, both agreed by international consensus.2 Populist politicians rubbish science confirming the harmful effects of climate change. Big business obfuscates, distorts, and denies evidence for the adverse effects of its products. When future historians, if such a future exists, look back on our stewardship of Planet Earth, what will be their judgment? That we allowed politics and profits to harm our home planet and ourselves?

Health professionals and medical organisations should not accept the world as it is. This is not a matter of playing party politics or anticorporate posturing. Taking action is a duty to the people we serve and to future generations. And we can act: by divesting from health harming industries. Divestment offers health professionals and medical organisations, for the duty is both individual and collective, an opportunity to influence politicians and industry towards behaviours that are better for the planet and people’s health (box 1).

Box 1

What do we mean by divestment for health?

Divestment is the opposite of investment. It is the reduction or, as in this case, the complete removal of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical because of the harm to health.

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The case for divestment from the tobacco industry is established. Tobacco products are harmful, and the industry’s history of manipulating science on the effects of tobacco …

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