Antibiotic resistance is one of the worlds most rapidly emerging public health threats and could result in $100trn (£74trn) of lost output between now and 2050.
A new report by the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) initiative warns the phenomenon is already responsible for around 700,000 deaths every year, costing Europe $1.5bn in healthcare and productivity expenses.
It argues that multi-drug resistant infections that require more expensive antibiotics will increase treatment costs, while insurance companies could face higher claims as infections become harder to treat.
In response, it urges investors to understand the value at risk to portfolios, arguing that the market cannot afford to see key sectors of the economy such as big pharma and farms infected by antibiotic risk.
"Combatting the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria is a global challenge and investors need to play their part," Calvert Research and Management CEO, John Streur, said.
"It's important that shareholders work with the food companies they own to ensure companies both understand the risks posed to our health and our wealth, and take action to reduce antibiotics usage."
The FAIRR report highlights how the livestock sector is a key area in need of intervention, with the majority of all antibiotics produced given to farmed animals rather than humans.
It shows that 70% of antibiotics go to the animal faming industry in the EU, while the figure rises to 75% in the US.
As a result, stricter regulation for livestock producers has been introduced in the EU and US, with more expected to come, leaving the business models of a wide range of companies across the food supply chain at risk.
However, 74 institutional investors with more than $2.4trn of assets under management have now backed calls by the FAIRR for collaborative engagement on the issue.
The report argues that investors increasingly acknowledge that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture has the potential to impact investment risks and returns, and that dialogue has been crucial to recognising this.
"If left unchecked, antibiotics resistance can significantly disrupt the world we live in today. It's a frightening scenario which can affect the lives of our clients, regardless of age location or economic status." Aegon engagement manager, Natalie Beinisch, said:
"Global institutional investors need to take a proactive approach to understanding this emerging global risk."
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