Pesticides and long-tail risks

In 2020, the largest manufacturer of glyphosate announced a $9.6 billion agreement to settle filed and future claims in US courts that the pesticide had caused health problems. In 2021, the judge said the amount was too small. Now that should catch some attention.

Although we do not explicitly exclude pesticide companies from our ESG portfolios, the pros and cons of the risks to investors and to biodiversity are integral to our company analysis far beyond the chemicals industry. Indeed, we look for food companies and food retailers to be more proactive on pesticide use, as they carry great reputational risk. Regulation of pesticides is typically national or regional, while the market is global. Imported food may contain traces of chemicals whose use is banned in the country in which the food is sold.

It is hard to imagine how a reliable food supply could be produced without pesticides, whether biological or synthetic. A the same time, the misuse of pesticides may irreversibly damage our world. How can we managed the trade-offs?
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