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Investing in the SDGs to tackle snake bites

Investing in the SDGs to tackle snake bites

11-03-2019 | Stunning statistics

How many people do you think die from snake bites? A few hundred? Incredibly it is 11,000 a month, or about 138,000 a year.

  • Guido Moret
    Guido
    Moret
    Head of Sustainability Integration Fixed Income

Speed read

  • Deaths caused by animals are a big problem in emerging markets
  • Global shortage of antidotes and medicines add to the problem
  • Investing in the Sustainable Development Goals can alleviate it 

What has happened

Toxic bites by wild animals are still a major public health problem for emerging markets led by India, which suffers about half of all snake bite deaths each year.1 A further half a million people worldwide are severely injured, often leading to amputation of infected limbs.

And snakes are far from being the biggest killer. The world’s most deadly creature is not humans causing wars or famine, as many people think, but the mosquito. Malaria caused by mosquito bites killed 720,000 people in 2016, ranking far above terrorism (34,000) or conflicts (116,000).2  

The scale of death rates from animals in emerging markets is surprising to people in the west, for whom snakes only reside in zoos and a few pet cages. However, it also offers an opportunity for investors to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some of which strive to eradicate these problems.

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Why is it important

Treatments for injuries such as snake bites, malaria and other animal-borne diseases such as rabies are not widely available, and are often not affordable. There is a global shortage of snake venom antidotes, and drugs to prevent malaria from mosquito bites are usually a luxury that only western tourists can afford.

Subsequently, the SDGs aim to channel investment into projects that can lead to enhancement. SDG 3, for example, has a goal of promoting good health and well-being, including the availability of medicines in emerging markets. Some investors are now launching funds to invest in those companies that can directly contribute to the SDGs.

What does it mean for investors?

“The SDGs function as a taxonomy for investors to categorize the impact that companies have on society,” says Guido Moret, Robeco’s Head of Sustainability Integration Credits. “At Robeco and RobecoSAM, we have developed a methodology to assess this impact, based on what companies produce, how their business is run, and if any controversies are known. Next to the positive impact, we also look at the potential negative contribution of a company on the SDGs. If a company does have a negative impact, it is no longer eligible for our SDG credit funds.” 

“To illustrate this, let’s look at the pharmaceutical industry. As a baseline, pharmaceutical companies have a positive impact on SDG 3 – good health and well-being. However, in our analysis, we also look for instance at the percentage of business in emerging markets, and the pricing strategy of pharmaceutical firms. After this assessment, only the pharmaceutical companies that pass the bar of positive contribution remain eligible for investment.”

1https://www.bbc.com/news/world-45332002
2https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/annual-number-of-deaths-by-cause

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