Revealing Plato’s ‘Shadow Kingdom’: rendering pandemic risk explicit in extinction engagement

Jill Atkins*, Federica Doni, Abeer Hassan, Warren Maroun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Institutional investors have bemoaned a lack of corporate disclosure on environmental issues. Consequently investor engagement and dialogue on environmental issues has evolved with evidence that these private reporting channels are driving corporate accounting and accountability and investment decisions (Solomon and Solomon, 2006; Solomon et al., 2011). To date there has been no research into the views of the institutional investment community on investor engagement and corporate reporting on biodiversity and species extinction, despite research showing that companies are increasingly reporting on these issues, although extinction accounting and engagement frameworks have been developed in the literature which incorporate biodiversity and species protection (Atkins and Maroun, 2018; Maroun and Atkins, 2018; Atkins and Atkins, 2019). Given growing evidence of links between biodiversity loss, species extinction and Covid-19, we anticipated that investors and companies will have a heightened focus on biodiversity and extinction in the wake of Covid-19. This paper reports the findings of interviews with 27 members of the international institutional investment community and governance experts on their perceptions of the impact of Covid-19 on investor engagement and corporate reporting on biodiversity and extinction, and whether these accountability mechanisms could assist in reducing the risk of future pandemics, or at least lessen their impact. The participants perceived that as a result of Covid-19: investor engagement on biodiversity and extinction will grow; investor demand for corporate reporting on biodiversity will increase, and; there will be a corresponding increased focus on biodiversity in corporate reporting. The findings are interpreted through a Becksian theoretical framework drawing from Plato's ‘Allegory of the Cave’ to show that Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst, heightening awareness and consciousness in society, and among investors and companies, around the importance of enhancing biodiversity and habitats and reducing species extinctions. From combining our interview findings with interdisciplinary research, we then incorporate potential mechanisms for managing and preventing pandemic risk into the existing extinction accounting and engagement frameworks
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExtinction Governance, Finance and Accounting
Subtitle of host publicationImplementing a Species Protection Action Plan for the Financial Markets
EditorsJill Atkins, Martina Macpherson
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
ISBN (Electronic)9781003045557
ISBN (Print)9780367492984, 9780367492977
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2022


  • reporting
  • Covid-19
  • extinction accounting
  • extinction engagement
  • institutional investors
  • pandemic


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