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Investing in Extinction Report

By 26th October 2023Blog

How the global financial sector profits from traditional medicine firms using threatened species

  • New report released by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) on the licensing of products in China claiming to contain leopard, pangolin, tiger and rhino, with a focus on the foreign investors in three of the big pharmaceutical groups in China.

EIA’s research, conducted over the past two years, reveals the continued online availability of at least 88 traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) products stated to contain leopard, pangolin and, in a few cases, tiger and rhino, manufactured by 72 Chinese companies which have been licensed by the National Medical Products Administration of China.

EIA found no publicly available or verifiable information on the source of the leopard, pangolin, tiger or rhino derivatives being used in the medicinal products identified in this report. In the case of leopards, given that they are not known to be bred in captivity at scale, the small population in China and the CITES ban on international commercial trade since 1975, it is unclear how procurement for these products can be met through legal supplies. The availability of legally licensed products containing tiger and rhino appears to contradict not just CITES recommendations, but China’s own stated position that it does not allow use of tiger bone and rhino horn in medicine.

Tiger head

Furthermore, EIA has discovered that 62 banks and financial institutions – many of which are Fortune 500 companies and household names – based in Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, Switzerland, the UK and the USA have invested in three major Chinese pharmaceutical groups which manufacture nine products stated to contain leopard and/or pangolin.

Many of the investors named in this report are signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment or are members of the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) which has publicly expressed concerns about biodiversity loss and species extinctions. Some are members of The Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce, founded in 2018 to stop trafficking of wildlife, and the senior representatives of some are members of the Taskforce on Nature-relatedFinancial Disclosures as well.

Despite much publicity around the financial sector’s support for biodiversity conservation, particularly at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, concrete commitments remain few and, even where they exist, do not seem to prevent investment in companies which use and market products containing threatened species.

To read the recommendations from the EIA you can access the full report here.

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