Twist Bioscience is doing better than most biotechs on ESG, but overall employment of women lags industry

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Twist Bioscience is two steps ahead of the competition and one step behind, according to its recent environmental social governance report.

The San Francisco-based synthetic DNA manufacturer issued its first ESG report since the company started in 2013. The report focused primarily on Twist’s diversity and sustainability and includes data on the racial and gender makeup of the company along with efforts to reduce waste.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds of the total workforce and 40% of senior staff or executives at Twist are people of color, although this only accounted for U.S. employees. The company also stated that over a quarter of all employees are women of color, although it didn’t specify the distribution of those employees across management levels.

These numbers are high for biotech, where, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, employees of color make up only 32% of the workforce and roughly a fifth of executive teams.

RELATED: Diversity initiatives pick up across biotech industry, but women, people of color still lack representation

Numbers for female employees were similarly high. Twist stated that 42% of its executive team are women, as is nearly a third of the board of directors, an improvement over the 31% of executives reported for biotech by BIO. In terms of female employees overall, however, Twist’s numbers are actually lower than average, with 39% of the workforce compared to 47%.

“[The report] reflects the ongoing work since our founding that demonstrates our commitment to ethical practices, recruiting and developing a diverse global workforce, and fostering a corporate culture where employees feel valued, respected and have a sense of belonging,” said Angela Bitting, senior vice president of corporate affairs and the chief ESG officer.

As an industry, biotech’s focus on healthcare makes it a natural fit for the S in ESG, and, according to a report from RBC Capital Markets, there’s a trend for companies with high ESG scores to perform better over time.

Notably, Twist did not include any data about LGBTQ+ representation at the company. This is a prime example of the recent trend away from recording and reporting LGBTQ+ in biotech, according to BIO. A recent investigation by Fierce Biotech found that the industry is lagging behind tech in LGBTQ+ representation, and there was actually a drop in biotechs with LGBTQ+ resource groups from 2019 to 2020.

RELATED: 'We're getting there': LGBTQ+ progress in biotech lingers in the 'diagnose' stage

As for sustainability, the company touted the increased efficiency of its production, meaning it needs fewer materials to achieve the same results. Twist has developed a new way to manufacture synthetic DNA by "writing" it on a silicon chip. This process, which has the same carbon footprint as traditional processes, uses fewer resources while creating 1,000 times more genes with the same components, meaning they use 99.8% less of the reagent needed for gene synthesis.

The other sustainability effort in the report centered around plastic waste. Twist is partnered with The RightCycle by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a program centered on recycling PPE into consumer goods. According to the report, Twist recycles its nitrile gloves, which has kept 11,000 pounds of plastic waste out of landfills since its implementation in 2019.