Divestment is, put simply, the removal of an investment or investments. In the context of social activism, divestment is often performed on ethical or political grounds. It is a model of direct action that allows everyday people to bypass decision-making institutions and have a direct influence on societal issues. The principle of divestment is similar to that of boycotting; in divestment, an individual or institution boycotts the stocks of a company to which it holds moral, ethical, or other objections.
The sale of, or refusal to purchase, stocks of a company can effectively financially hinder said company; however, financial loss is often not the main goal of divestment. Indeed, divestment movements tend to be aimed at politically bankrupting targeted institutions. In a capitalist society, large corporations and industries tend to hold a disproportional amount of sway over political processes. Divestment combats that large influence through stigmatization of the targeted institutions as socially irresponsible. Support of a stigmatized corporation or industry comes with a high political and social cost to elected officials; thus support declines and the divested party is left politically bankrupt.