Investors issue urgent call for “fair and equitable” global response to COVID-19
Today, almost 150 institutional investors have issued a joint call for a fair and equitable global response to the pandemic, including through fully financing the ACT Accelerator partnership dedicated to developing, producing and ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 tools. The signatories, which together manage or advise on assets worth more than US$ 14 trillion, have also committed to engage with healthcare companies to promote bolder industry actions and therefore contribute to ending the pandemic.
Of the 128 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered so far, more than three quarters have been administered in just 10 countries that account for 60% of global GDP. A further 130 countries, home to 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose. If COVID-19 tools are not distributed fairly and the virus continues to spread in low- and middle-income countries, the additional impacts could be considerable: nearly twice as many deaths and US$ 9.2 trillion in global economic losses.
Financing equitable access to COVID-19 tools globally offers significant value for money. One study puts the economic benefit of global access to COVID-19 vaccines at US$ 466 billion by 2025 for 10 major economies alone. This is more than 12 times the estimated total cost of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT Accelerator), the multi-stakeholder partnership tasked with accelerating the development and production of COVID-19 tools – such as vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, medical oxygen, and personal protective equipment (PPE) – and ensuring they reach people in all countries in the world.
In the joint statement issued today, institutional investors pledge the strongest support for the ACT Accelerator from the global financial community to date. The signatories also commit to playing their own part through working with the Access to Medicine Foundation to engage with healthcare companies, and recommend that governments and international organisations explore the feasibility of innovative finance mechanisms for national and global COVID-19 responses.
“We have coordinated this initiative because institutional investors can contribute unique capabilities to the global efforts aimed at ending the current pandemic," says Damiano de Felice, Director of Strategy of the Access to Medicine Foundation. "On the equity side, they can speak directly to the senior management of their investee healthcare companies and ensure that essential COVID-19 tools are developed as rapidly and distributed as widely as possible. On the credit side, they can deploy billions of dollars to support the global economic recovery through innovative finance mechanisms that fund public and private programmes dedicated to pandemic response and preparedness."
The statement has been co-signed by 148 asset managers and asset owners across the world, with over US$ 14 trillion in assets under management or advice. The ten largest signatories are AllianceBernstein, Aviva Investors, AXA Investment Managers, Columbia Threadneedle, EOS at Federated Hermes, Fidelity International, Insight Investment, Nomura Asset Management, Schroders and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management.
What are the investors calling for?
In the statement, the signatories set out three actions to mitigate risks posed by new virus strains and by the funding shortfalls and production gaps that prevent billions of people from receiving COVID-19 tools:
- Finance the ACT Accelerator in full: The signatories encourage world leaders in the G7, G20 and ACT Accelerator Facilitation Council to finance the ACT Accelerator in full and deploy adequate funding to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 tools globally;
- Stimulate investee companies to do more: The signatories also pledge to work with the Access to Medicine Foundation and engage with investee healthcare companies to support the ACT Accelerator, for example through cross-industry partnerships to accelerate R&D and expand production, equitable pricing strategies, and voluntary licensing agreements; and
- Explore innovative finance mechanisms: The third action is for governments and international organisations. They are called on to explore the feasibility of innovative finance mechanisms for national and global COVID-19 responses, similar to new vaccine bonds or social bonds being issued for COVID-19 programmes.
How we work with investors
As of January 2020, 100+ investors – together managing assets of more than USD 14 trillion – have signed the Access to Medicine Index Investor Statement and committed to using the research of the Access to Medicine Foundation in their investment analysis and engagements with companies.
Collective influence of investors
The initiative builds on the outcomes of the first virtual meeting of G7 leaders last week, where G7 members announced over US$ 4.3 billion of new investments into the ACT Accelerator, and paves the way for a series of G7 and G20 meetings in the coming months, following the creation of the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
“For long-term investors with a globally diversified portfolio and credible responsible investment policies, a fair and equitable global response to the current pandemic is a no-brainer,” adds Damiano de Felice. “It saves lives, it offers a huge return on investment and it mitigates the systemic risks associated with new virus variants.”
The initiative has been coordinated by the Access to Medicine Foundation, as part of its ongoing engagement work with investors. Following the launch of this year’s Access to Medicine Index, the Access to Medicine Foundation is also bringing together global health leaders, investors and companies for three events (co-hosted with Goldman Sachs) taking place virtually in New York, London and Tokyo time zones on 24 February, 4 March and 10 March respectively. The virtual events will provide institutional investors with the opportunity to dive into the findings of the 2021 Access to Medicine Index and participate in 1-1 meetings with pharmaceutical companies to discuss past performance and future plans, including their responses to COVID-19.
About the Access to Medicine Foundation
The Access to Medicine Foundation is an independent, non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands. It aims to advance access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries by stimulating and guiding the pharmaceutical industry to play a greater role in improving access to medicine. It publishes the Access to Medicine Index and the Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark. The Foundation is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, and AXA Investment Managers.
“'We're in this together' cannot just be empty words. We need a robust equitable global response to the COVID-19 pandemic that meets urgent humanitarian needs and prevents catastrophic economic damage to low income country economies. It's past time to act."
Chief Financial Officer, The United Church of Canada
“At Castlefield, we believe that it is imperative that lower-income nations are not left behind in the race to roll out a vaccine and it is crucial that the acutely unequal power dynamics at play within vaccine manufacture and global health are recognised and addressed. We have therefore joined other investors calling for a clear strategy to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations globally.”
Senior Executive, Investment Management, Co‑owner, Castlefield Investment Partners LLP
“This pandemic has shown us how interconnected we all are. Equitable, global access to covid-19 vaccines and treatment is paramount for a sustained global recovery.”
Director of ESG Services, NEI Investments
“The longer Covid-19 is able to spread throughout populations, the more likely it is to develop new mutations that prolong the pandemic and harm the global economic recovery. Besides being the right thing to do, investing in the ACT-Accelerator is expected to prevent US$9.2 trillion in economic losses. The current budget shortfall of US$22.9 billion is miniscule compared to the economic benefits, making the business case for investing in the ACT-Accelerator crystal clear. VCIM supports this call to action and will continue to encourage pharmaceutical companies to promote access strategies and support the work of ACT-Accelerator.”
Senior ESG Analyst, Vancity Investment Management
“As Dutch medical liability insurer we feel strongly about this issue because health doesn’t morally or economically abide by any physical or human drawn boundaries. The world should form a strong united front against COVID-19, that is the only viable way out for us all.”
Ebbo van Gelderen