Pandemic Risk and Viral Spillover

It's time to tackle the sustainability-related drivers of pandemic risk within your company...

We’re seeing governments and businesses respond to COVID-19 by focusing on the need to tackle climate change.

Sure thing, climate change is one of the most critical issues facing mankind – however, it’s a relatively peripheral driver of pandemic risk, whereas the main causes of pandemic emergence are ecological disruption and habitat pressures.

More than five new diseases are spilling over to people every year on average, right now – any one of which poses the risk of a wider pandemic event.

“Pandemics are becoming more frequent, driven by a continued rise in the underlying emerging disease events that spark them. Without preventative strategies, pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people, and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before.” – Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Around 70% of emerging diseases, and nearly all known pandemics, are cause by animal microbes that spill over into humans due to contact between wildlife, livestock and people.

It’s been estimated that there are around 1.7 million undiscovered viruses existing in wildlife, of which around 540-850,000 may have the ability to infect humans.

So if we fail to act now to counter the root causes of pandemic emergence, outbreaks will spark more and more often, posing a mounting threat.

The most important reservoirs of pathogens with pandemic potential are mammals (in particular bats, rodents and primates) and some birds, as well as livestock (e.g. pigs, camels and poultry). Among threatened wildlife species, those suffering population reductions owing to exploitation – and a loss of habitat – shared more viruses with humans.

“Why aren’t we seeing more of a governmental focus on tackling the drivers of pandemic risk? Perhaps one reason lies in the vested interest groups who dominate the narrative, deflecting politicians and other groups from meaningful action – we’ve seen that dynamic in motion regarding so-called ‘sustainable’ palm oil.” – Luke Rowlands, EcoCognito

Against the backdrop of institutional and governmental failure, there’s a real opportunity for companies to lead the way and take action – as mentioned, ecological disruption by humans, often caused by unsustainable consumption and development, drives pandemic risk…

…so EcoCognito will work with your company to identify operational, supply chain and investment decisions that increase pandemic risk, both directly and indirectly. Our focus tends to be on deforestation, agricultural commodities such as palm and soy, industrial agriculture, mining in megadiverse regions, the trade in bushmeat and wild animals (for medicines and pets), travel and tourism into specific regions, and broader issues and aspects that drive human encroachment into megadiverse habitats.

Then we can mitigate the ways in which your company contributes to pandemic risk, building this aspect of improved sustainability performance into your overall targets and reporting.

Get in touch with our experts today to find out more… if we are to escape this new era of ever-increasing pandemic risk, we need to see transformative change in the way businesses operate, and your company can be part of that change.