Will a warmer and less biodiverse world give pathogens new opportunities, and do we have the tools to confront disease? This report discusses the complex intersection of three planetary crises and calls for urgent action to slow resistance to antimicrobial drugs – an obvious public health emergency.

Antibiotics and other antimicrobials have been a global success story, underpinning industrial agriculture and modern medicine, to the point where many pathogens are not considered particularly alarming.

However, overuse of these important compounds has led to an increase in the emergence of drug-resistant microbes, with the strongest surviving and multiplying. If these ‘superbugs’ continue to spread, we will again be at risk from simple infections and routine surgeries.

At the same time, research suggests over half of known human pathogenic diseases can be aggravated by climate change.1 Ultimately, a warmer world with more extreme climate events and reduced biodiversity is likely to leave populations exposed to different pathogens. Our reliance on antimicrobials as a quick fix could mean we lack effective treatments.

At present there is no international scientific body overseeing the management of antimicrobials, and attention to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is lacking in crucial multilateral agreements. Omitting AMR is a major failure of national and corporate governance. Like the climate and biodiversity crises, it needs better global governance mechanisms to confront it.

Addressing AMR needs a whole-of-society approach, including focused attention from investors. We have an important role to ensure the companies in which we invest consider antimicrobials and AMR. 

Investors need to be made aware they face material risks in companies that do not appreciate how fast AMR is growing, its impacts, and that risk is accruing for those ill-prepared for tighter restrictions on antimicrobial use. The COVID-19 pandemic shows how a global public health crisis is a systemic risk from which portfolio diversification offers little or no protection. As such, diversified portfolios are at risk from AMR proliferation, even when individual company contributors in those portfolios are not themselves at material financial risk.

Key policy asks

To address AMR in a warming world with reduced biodiversity, we are calling for:

  1. An international panel of scientists to address AMR, modelled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  2. A ban on the use of antimicrobials in agricultural supply chains for prophylactic treatment and growth stimulation, modelled on the Montreal Protocol.
  3. Global leadership from the G7, G20 and G77. Under the UK G7 Presidency, finance ministers committed to strengthen antimicrobial development through ‘pull’ incentive mechanisms for the developers of novel antimicrobials; we seek further progress to ensure rewards are tilted towards societal value rather than product volume.
  4. Coherent national responses, where governments embed antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) in health, economic, trade and financial decision-making processes and within regulatory and legislative architecture.
  5. Tighter standard setting and enforcement of water quality related to wastewater from antibiotic use and the production of antibiotics in watercourses and public bathing areas.

Download ‘Confronting a permacrisis?’ to understand:

  • Why existing antimicrobials are becoming less effective
  • The complex ways in which the climate and biodiversity crises are impacting the spread of pathogens, and why we need to ensure effective disease response
  • Why failing to address the permacrises will come at a high cost, in terms of lives lost and value destruction

Related views

Want more content like this?

Sign up to receive our AIQ thought leadership content.

Thank you for subscribing to receive our upcoming AIQ thought leadership. You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

To view our current live content, please visit our Views hub.

Please enable javascript in your browser in order to see this content.

I acknowledge that I qualify as a professional client or institutional/qualified investor. By submitting these details, I confirm that I would like to receive thought leadership email updates from Aviva Investors, in addition to any other email subscription I may have with Aviva Investors. You can unsubscribe or tailor your email preferences at any time.

For more information, please visit our privacy notice.

Important information

THIS IS A MARKETING COMMUNICATION

Except where stated as otherwise, the source of all information is Aviva Investors Global Services Limited (AIGSL). Unless stated otherwise any views and opinions are those of Aviva Investors. They should not be viewed as indicating any guarantee of return from an investment managed by Aviva Investors nor as advice of any nature. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified by Aviva Investors and is not guaranteed to be accurate. Past performance is not a guide to the future. The value of an investment and any income from it may go down as well as up and the investor may not get back the original amount invested. Nothing in this material, including any references to specific securities, assets classes and financial markets is intended to or should be construed as advice or recommendations of any nature. Some data shown are hypothetical or projected and may not come to pass as stated due to changes in market conditions and are not guarantees of future outcomes. This material is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment.

In Europe this document is issued by Aviva Investors Luxembourg S.A. Registered Office: 2 rue du Fort Bourbon, 1st Floor, 1249 Luxembourg. Supervised by Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier. An Aviva company. In the UK Issued by Aviva Investors Global Services Limited. Registered in England No. 1151805. Registered Office: St Helens, 1 Undershaft, London EC3P 3DQ. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference No. 119178. In Switzerland, this document is issued by Aviva Investors Schweiz GmbH.

In Singapore, this material is being circulated by way of an arrangement with Aviva Investors Asia Pte. Limited (AIAPL) for distribution to institutional investors only. Please note that AIAPL does not provide any independent research or analysis in the substance or preparation of this material. Recipients of this material are to contact AIAPL in respect of any matters arising from, or in connection with, this material. AIAPL, a company incorporated under the laws of Singapore with registration number 200813519W, holds a valid Capital Markets Services Licence to carry out fund management activities issued under the Securities and Futures Act (Singapore Statute Cap. 289) and Asian Exempt Financial Adviser for the purposes of the Financial Advisers Act (Singapore Statute Cap.110). Registered Office: 1 Raffles Quay, #27-13 South Tower, Singapore 048583. In Australia, this material is being circulated by way of an arrangement with Aviva Investors Pacific Pty Ltd (AIPPL) for distribution to wholesale investors only. Please note that AIPPL does not provide any independent research or analysis in the substance or preparation of this material. Recipients of this material are to contact AIPPL in respect of any matters arising from, or in connection with, this material. AIPPL, a company incorporated under the laws of Australia with Australian Business No. 87 153 200 278 and Australian Company No. 153 200 278, holds an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL 411458) issued by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Business Address: Level 27, 101 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia.

The name “Aviva Investors” as used in this material refers to the global organization of affiliated asset management businesses operating under the Aviva Investors name. Each Aviva investors’ affiliate is a subsidiary of Aviva plc, a publicly- traded multi-national financial services company headquartered in the United Kingdom. Aviva Investors Canada, Inc. (“AIC”) is located in Toronto and is registered with the Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC”) as a Portfolio Manager, an Exempt Market Dealer, and a Commodity Trading Manager. Aviva Investors Americas LLC is a federally registered investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Aviva Investors Americas LLC ("AIA") is a federally registered investment advisor with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. AIA is also a commodity trading advisor (“CTA”) registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and is a member of the National Futures Association (“NFA”). AIA’s Form ADV Part 2A, which provides background information about the firm and its business practices, is available upon written request to: Compliance Department, 225 West Wacker Drive, Suite 2250, Chicago, IL 60606.