New Delhi, Dec 8 (PTI) Financial entities investing in companies operating in hotspots for emerging infectious diseases should leverage their influence to mitigate risks of new pandemics, researchers have said in a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
The researchers from Sweden, Belgium and Germany, have identified companies operating in economic sectors associated with increased risks of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
These companies are known to operate in regional hotspots for these zoonotic diseases, they said in their study.
The researchers then analysed the financial entities with ownership and investments in these companies.
They found that a handful of largely US-based private financial entities, including Vanguard, State Street, BlackRock, and T Rowe Price, have substantial investments in these companies.
Further, even public investors such as the state of California, Norway through its Sovereign Wealth Fund, and Sweden through its pension funds, hold shares in these companies operating in potential pandemic epicentres.
"Financial actors have an important, but often ignored, role to help prevent the emergence of infectious diseases. Their investments enable economic activities in known zoonotic disease hotspots globally," said Victor Galaz, lead author of the study and senior researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.
The researchers also pointed out countries such as France, the US, Protugal, Norway and Sweden either invest themselves or host headquarters of companies with investments in zoonotic diseases hotspots.
They said that these countries could work together to use financial influence to address the risks of animal-to-human outbreaks and pandemics.
The authors said that efforts to prevent such outbreaks need to "go beyond current environmental, social, and governance metrics which have proven to be insufficient to show real-world ecological effects."
In their study, they described some policies and practices which investors could push for, which included ecological restoration measures and the creation of pathogen surveillance systems.
Other measures they suggested included improvements in the health and economic security of communities living in geographical hotspots of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Corporate policies focussing only on deforestation and land-use change fail to consider the enhanced risks of spillover events through agricultural expansion and deforestation, according to co-author Paula A. Sánchez, researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
"There is a need for policies to reduce the edge effect, create pathogen surveillance systems and improve the health care systems of communities living in areas that are emerging infectious hotspots," said Sánchez.
The researchers further warned of climate change's impacts on the risk of spillover events.
"Climate change will increase the risks of new zoonotic outbreaks. Financial actors should make sure that their investments help to mitigate and adapt to those risks," said Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, another co-author associated with the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
"Large investors hold potential influence over companies operating in these hotspots, and this influence could be leveraged to mitigate risks of new pandemics," said Galaz.
The researchers acknowledged that data availability continued to be a limitation for identifying potential alliances among investors and corporate actors.
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