$2 tn investor group targets fast food firms over antibiotics

Coalition challenges fast food giants to tackle overuse of antibiotics in livestock

Rising antibiotic resistance has been described by the World Health Organization as ‘one of the biggest threats to global health today’. And a $2 tn investor coalition that includes Aegon Asset Management, Aviva Investors, Coller Capital and Natixis Asset Management is trying to change the ‘routine overuse of medically important antibiotics’ in livestock, according to a press statement.

The coalition, which has grown to more than 70 institutions since its inception, began engaging a $170 bn group of 10 restaurant giants including McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza and Yum! Brands in March last year. It has now released a new investor report, The restaurant sector and antibiotic risk, looking at what progress has been made and the potential financial impacts of incoming regulation in the US and Europe. 

While none of the firms surveyed have developed ‘fully comprehensive, publicly available antibiotics policies to cover their entire livestock supply chain’, improvements have been made in their use in poultry, and 80 percent of companies report that they are now actively engaging with suppliers to monitor antibiotic use. Only Yum! Brands – owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – ‘ignored a request for further information,’ according to the press release. 

Noting the progress that has been made in reducing antibiotic use in poultry – with 70 percent of firms adopting ‘either a comprehensive or partial policy’ to prohibit use in poultry, up from only 50 percent a year ago – Jeremy Coller, founder of the Farm Animal Investment Rick & Return (FAIRR) Initiative and CIO of Coller Capital, says fast food businesses need to take action across their entire food chains. 

‘It’s hard to put a monetary cost on antibiotics becoming useless, but some estimate it could shear $100 tn from global economic output, creating an enormous global financial and public health crisis,’ he says in the press statement. ‘New regulation, shifting consumer preferences and trade restrictions are already driving a reduction in antibiotic use in livestock. The clear message to these companies is that their shareholders want to see meaningful action on antibiotics.’

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