When evidence that German auto manufacturer Volkswagen has been using software specifically designed to defeat diesel emissions testing and regulations emerged last week, many expressed shock at the sheer scale of the smokescreen that allowed some 11 million cars worldwide to deceive emissions tests. Of that number, some 482,000 are in the United States where diesel engines are less popular.
According to CNN, the device was installed in various VW diesel models since at least 2009 and masked the fact that outside of test conditions, the cars dumped up to 40 times more emissions on the road, including nitrogen oxides, a family of gases known by the EPA to contribute to smog and respiratory problems.
The company has been ordered to recall the vehicles and the sale of some models has been brought to a screeching halt.
In addition, Volkswagen's stock plummeted 38 percent, hemorrhaging savvy investors attempting to avoid the inevitable fallout as the company was forced to set aside over $7 billion dollars for the costs of recalls and other damage control, and leaving its profit speculation up in smoke.
According to Time, the company faces up to $18 billion dollars in fines and lawsuits in the United States alone, to say nothing of the damage done to the company's reputation among consumers. Additionally, if criminal activity is detected, the scandal may provide the first test of the Obama administration's recently implemented policy of pursuing and prosecuting corporate criminals.
In the wake of this and similar scandals, some investors are choosing to divest from companies that exploit or rely on fossil fuels and put their money elsewhere.
According to Upworthy, among those investors is Leonardo DiCaprio, who, along with 2000 other individuals and over 400 companies, has pledged to divest nearly 2.6 trillion dollars in fossil fuels as part of the DivestInvest initiative.
In a press announcement released on September 22, the actor discussed his position:
"After looking into the growing movement to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions, I was convinced to make the pledge on behalf of myself and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Now is the time to divest and invest to let our world leaders know that we, as individuals and institutions, are taking action to address climate change, and we expect them to do their part this December in Paris at the U.N. climate talks."
Rather than pour money into companies that reap profits at the expense of public health and environmental safety, Divest Invest affiliates seek to "build an equitable and clean future."
The group's strategy is at once morally and financially sound.
On their website, they state that "by moving their money, people and institutions help revoke fossil fuel companies' social license to operate, shining a light on their unsustainable business models," while adding that "fossil fuel-free portfolios are regularly matching or outperforming standard benchmarks. People and institutions grounded in market data and trends are getting out of fossil fuels before the carbon bubble bursts and assets are stranded."