The global risk of antimicrobial resistance is increasing, and investors are harnessing their power to turn the tide on AMR.
The COVID pandemic has seen antimicrobial resistance (AMR) become a key item on the G7’s agenda, with health and finance ministers committed to ‘curb the silent pandemic’. The finance sector must play its part in this challenge. Failure to tackle AMR could take USD 100 trillion of value out of the economy by 2050, worse than the damage of the 2008 financial crisis.
Use of antibiotics in agriculture
While much of the public focus on AMR has been on human pharmaceutical use, investors increasingly recognise that the animal agriculture sector in particularly exposed to risks as it is the leading user of everyday antibiotics. An estimated 70% of global antibiotic use occurs in animal farming, with intensive-animal agriculture using antimicrobials to enhance growth and for routine prophylactic use due to the crowding of animals in tight spaces.1
That is why investors, working through the FAIRR Initiative (Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return), have successfully engaged with 20 of the largest restaurant chains, including McDonalds and Burger King, to urge them to adopt policies to reduce antibiotic use in their food supply chains.
Like freshwater or forests, antibiotics are a global resource we need to preserve and use appropriately.
Animal pharma is a risky business
Investors have also turned their attention to the USD 47.1 billion animal health sector which provides therapeutic products and veterinary medicine for animals. FAIRR’s latest report on animal health, Feeding resistance- Antimicrobial stewardship in the animal health industry, finds none of the largest 10 publicly listed animal health companies have a comprehensive strategy to reduce the impact of AMR.
Investors are urging the sector to limit exposure to AMR through better waste management, improved hygiene and looking at alternative treatment methods, such as diagnostic tools and vaccines.
Adopting an AMR lens
We’ve recently launched the ‘Investor Action on AMR’, a coalition between FAIRR, Access to Medicine Foundation, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the UK Government Department of Health and Social Care and 16 global institutional investors. Investors have publicly committed to adopt an ‘AMR lens’ when making investment decisions and engaging with investee companies and policy makers. This means investments must mitigate, and not exacerbate, the impact of AMR.
As part of this initiative, investors are actively engaging with portfolio companies. Examples include BMO Global Asset Management and Nordea Asset Management who are engaging with animal health companies on AMR risk topics including R&D, waste management and stewardship.
Like freshwater or forests, antibiotics are a global resource we need to preserve and use appropriately. The finance sector needs to encourage responsible antimicrobial use in order to protect the long-term efficacy of these drugs in humans and animals. Current food supply chains are not sustainable, nor is the current trajectory of AMR usage in intensive agriculture.
 Van Boeckel, Thomas P., et al. “Global trends in antimicrobial use in food animals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.18 (2015): 5649-5654.