«Investors who ignore the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to asset valuations do so at their peril»
On Wednesday, 08.11.2023, I had the opportunity to meet Abigail Herron at Aviva Investors' headquarters in London. Abigail is one of the global financial industry's best-known specialists in the field of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). I was deeply impressed by the thought leadership displayed on this topic and its impact on the macro economy. I had no idea about it before the conversation. It opened my eyes! Thomas J. Caduff, CEO, Fundplat LLC
• Caduff: Mrs. Herron, when, and how, did Aviva Investors become concerned enough to make antimicrobial resistance (AMR) a focus?
Herron: I was sat in the office one day in 2015 when our head of equities dropped by my desk to tell me about a BBC Panorama documentary called Antibiotic Apocalypse and emphasised how huge he thought the macro-economic implications of it could be. Before watching this, I mistakenly assumed AMR was due to doctors handing them pills like sweets. This documentary opened my eyes to the scale, severity, and investment impact of the issue and kick-started Aviva Investors' work on AMR. Since then, we’ve convened the first-ever investor conference on AMR and launched the first-ever investor guide to antibiotic engagement, superbugs and super risks: the investment case for action. We’ve also identified the policy levers needed and presented them to the biggest forum focusing on this topic, the Global Leaders Group on AMR, chaired by Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley.
• Caduff: What has your work on AMR involved so far?
Herron: Whilst on maternity leave, I completed a Master’s Degree at the University of Cambridge which focused on the most effective actions investors can take to curb AMR. Last month our signature event «History meets Finance» toured Zurich, Geneva and Lugano and focused on the past, present and future of antibiotics for both society and finance. We have also been roadshowing our policy asks from our recent report «Confronting a Permacrisis» which shows the overlap between antimicrobial resistance, climate change, and biodiversity loss.
• Caduff: Why should businesses care about antibiotic resistance?
Herron: 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. AMR is a system wide risk that threatens the functioning of global capital markets, with potentially catastrophic human and environmental consequences. But it isn’t just health that’s at risk from the spread of drug-resistant «superbugs»: dangerously high levels of AMR risk wiping 100 trillion US Dollars off potential global output by 2050. Investors who ignore the threat of AMR to asset valuations do so at their peril.
Abigail Herron leads work on biodiversity, inclusion and public health issues at Aviva Investor’s sustainable finance centre for excellence. During her 17 years in responsible investment she has engaged on the A to Z of sustainable investment topics - from aviation emissions to zero hour contracts. She has a special interest in tackling antibiotic resistance (AMR) and is the co-founder of the Superbugs and Super Risks series of events and reports. Herron completed a Masters focusing on antibiotic resistance at the University of Cambridge which won the Forum pour l´Investissement Responsable (French Social Investment Forum) and Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI) award for best Masters thesis. She is an ambassador for the Global AMR Insights Network, an Antibiotic Action Champion and is working with the Investor Action on AMR project to raise the profile of AMR within the investment community. Abigail Herron often addresses high level policy forums on AMR, for instance, the Global Leaders Group on AMR.
Thomas J. Caduff is the CEO of Fundplat LLC. He has worked in the financial industry for over 40 years. His professional experience includes roles at the stock exchange commissariat of the Canton of Zurich, Bank Vontobel, Credit Suisse and UBS. Thomas J. Caduff also served for three decades in one division and multiple brigades of the Swiss Army as a communication/media officer.