Welcome to the latest edition of Gilmartin Group’s ESG newsletter. With a special focus on the healthcare sector, this newsletter sheds light on the latest trends in the rapidly evolving ESG space, covering developments with companies, investors, regulators, and policymakers.
In The Spotlight
Earlier this month, 23andMe revealed that hackers were able to access the personal data of nearly 7 million users. These findings are the result of an investigation the company launched in October, after an anonymous hacker posted genetic profiles of users for sale online.
By exploiting a loophole in 23andMe’s “DNA Relatives” feature, which connects users with potential relatives that share similar DNA, the hacker was able to compromise the data of millions of users even though they only directly accessed 0.1% of 23andMe’s customer accounts.
The data breach highlights the sensitivity of genetic information, as well as the increased importance of cybersecurity incident disclosures following the new rules the SEC adopted in July.
The Healthcare View
Last month, GSK announced that a low-carbon version of its metered-dose inhaler (MDI) Ventolin was advancing to Phase III clinical trials, which the company claims is a key milestone in its pathway to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
The carbon emissions from MDIs are disproportionately high compared to other medical products – GSK reports that the traditional Ventolin inhaler accounts for 49% of the company’s current carbon footprint. While traditional MDIs use a carbon-intensive propellant to administer medicine into patients’ lungs, GSK states that it has successfully developed a new propellant technology that can potentially reduce the emissions from Ventolin inhalers by approximately 90%.
GSK’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact and emissions associated with its products follow similar efforts from AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and other large biopharmaceutical companies.
A Note on ESG Regulation
In defending the commission’s hotly-debated climate disclosure rule, SEC Chair Gary Gensler continues to argue that in the absence of a final rule, certain U.S. companies would be forced to comply with reporting standards in other jurisdictions, such as the E.U.
In a recent discussion with the Council on Foreign Relations, Gensler said that a final SEC rule would allow the commission to discuss substituted compliance with the E.U., potentially providing cover to U.S. companies from more burdensome reporting requirements. Gensler’s remarks echo similar comments he made during a fireside chat with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this Fall.
One Big Thing: COP28
Over the last two weeks, world leaders from over 200 countries met in Dubai to discuss global carbon emission reduction goals at COP28. After two weeks of contentious negotiations over the language of the final deal, representatives agreed on Wednesday to “transition away” from fossil fuels in energy systems. Although the agreement is non-binding and over 100 countries fought for more ambitious language to “phase out” fossil fuels entirely, the agreement is still viewed as a significant milestone for global climate diplomacy.
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Authored by: Patrick Smith, ESG, Gilmartin Group & Tamsin Stringer, ESG, Gilmartin Group