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The Lancet

Infectious Disease

Financial influence on global risks of zoonotic emerging and re-emerging diseases: an integrative analysis.

Last Revised:
PMID: 38056966
DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(23)00232-2
PII: S2542-5196(23)00232-2


The study explores the role of the financial sector in influencing Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) risks through their investments in industries associated with ecological changes. Using data from 1999 to 2021, the study identified regions where land-use changes linked to commodity production, such as palm oil, pulp and wood products, cocoa, soybeans, and beef, have increased EIDs risks. It also identified major financial entities with significant equity ownership in publicly listed companies operating in these areas. The study emphasizes that a small number of investors and countries exert disproportionate influence in sectors that increase EIDs risks and suggests leveraging this influence to develop policies to reduce ecological degradation and mitigate EIDs risks.

Key Takeaways

  • Financial sector's investments in industries associated with land-use changes can influence the risks of Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EIDs).
  • A small number of investors and countries have disproportionate influence in sectors that increase EIDs risks, and their influence could be leveraged to develop effective policies to mitigate these risks.
  • Understanding the pattern of cross-national ownership can provide insights into the regional financial influence on EIDs risks associated with commodity production.

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Victor Galaz, Juan Rocha, Paula Andrea Sánchez-García, Alice Dauriach, Tarik Roukny, Peter S Gaard J Rgensen

Full Abstract

  • BACKGROUND: Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), such as Ebola virus disease and highly pathogenic influenza, are serious threats to human health and wellbeing worldwide. The financial sector has an important, yet often ignored, influence as owners and investors in industries that are associated with anthropogenic land-use changes in ecosystems linked to increased EIDs risks. We aimed to analyse financial influence associated with EIDs risks that are affected by anthropogenic land-use changes. We also aimed to provide empirical assessments of such influence to help guide engagements by governments, private organisations, and non-governmental organisations with the financial sector to advance a planetary health agenda.
  • METHODS: For this integrative analysis, we identified regions in the world where there was evidence of a connection between EIDs and anthropogenic land-use changes between Nov 9, 1999, and Oct 25, 2021, through a targeted literature review of academic literature and grey literature to identify evidence of drivers of anthropogenic land-use change and their association with commodity production in these regions. We only included publications in English that showed a connection between deforestation and the production of one or more commodities. Publications merely describing spatial or temporal land-use change dynamics (eg, a reduction of forest or an increase of palm-oil plantations) were excluded. As we were assessing financial influence on corporate activities through ownership specifically, we focused our analysis on publicly listed companies. Equity data and data about ownership structure were extracted from Orbis, a company information database. We assessed financial influence by identifying financial entities with the largest equity ownership, descriptively mapping transboundary connections between investors and publicly listed companies.
  • FINDINGS: 227 public and private companies operating in five economic sectors (ie, production of palm oil, pulp and wood products, cocoa, soybeans, and beef) between Dec 15, 2020, and March 8, 2021, were identified. Of these 227, 99 (44%) were publicly listed companies, with 2310 unique shareholders. These publicly listed companies operated in six geographical regions, resulting in nine case-study regions. 54 (55%) companies with complete geographical information were included in the countries network. Four financial entities (ie, Dimensional, Vanguard, BlackRock, and Norway's sovereign wealth fund) each had ownership in 39 companies or more in three of the case-study regions (ie, north America, east Asia, and Europe). Four large US-based asset managers (ie, Vanguard, BlackRock, T Rowe Price, and State Street) were the largest owners of publicly listed companies in terms of total equity size, with ownership amounts for these four entities ranging from US$8 billion to $21 billion. The specific patterns of cross-national ownership depended on the region of interest; for example, financial influence on EIDs risks that was associated with commodity production in southeast and east Asia came from not only global asset managers but also Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean financial entities. India, Brazil, the USA, Mexico, and Argentina were the countries towards which investments were most directed.
  • INTERPRETATION: Although commodity supply chains and financial markets are highly globalised, a small number of investors and countries could be viewed as disproportionally influential in sectors that increase EIDs risks. Such financial influence could be used to develop and implement effective policies to reduce ecological degradation and mitigate EIDs risks and their effects on population health.
  • FUNDING: Formas and Networks of Financial Rupture-how cascading changes in the climate and ecosystems could impact on the financial sector.


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