17 Dec 2023
A relatively small number of powerful financial institutions, such as investment companies, pension funds, and banks could help accelerate actions that mitigate the risks of new pandemics
Many emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, especially zoonotic diseases such as ebola or new coronaviruses, emerge as the result of intensified human activities such as deforestation, expansion of agricultural land, and increased hunting and trading of wildlife.
Now, researchers have mapped the financial sector’s influence on the emergence of infectious diseases. The team was lead by former GEDB researcher Victor Galaz (Stockholm Resilience Centre) and includes GEDB team leader Peter Søgaard Jørgensen and former GEDB researcher Alice Dauriach.
The new study, published in the scientific journal Lancet Planetary Health, identified public and private companies operating in economic sectors associated with increased risks of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Where data was available, the researchers analyzed the financial entities with equity ownership in 99 identified public companies. They found that a handful of largely US-based financial entities, including Vanguard, State Street, BlackRock, and T Rowe Price, have substantial investments in these companies. But even public investors such as the state of California, Norway through its Sovereign Wealth Fund, and Sweden through its pension funds, hold shares in companies that operate in known regional hotspots for emerging infectious diseases.
“Financial actors have an important, but often ignored, role in helping prevent the emergence of infectious diseases. Their investments enable economic activities in known zoonotic disease hotspots globally. Large investors hold potential influence over companies operating in these hotspots, and this influence could be leveraged to mitigate risks of new pandemics,” says Victor Galaz, lead author of the study and senior researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.
In the article, the researchers list a number of policies and practices which investors could push for, including ecological restoration measures, the creation of pathogen surveillance systems, and improvements in the health and economic security of communities living in geographical hotspots of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.