ESG is in our DNA

Biology affects all of us, and we believe cell programming will change the world. Our customers are developing products with far reaching implications in health and the environment. This potential for extraordinary impact, which reaches to the core of who we are and everything about our natural world, requires extraordinary care in how the tools of cell programming are built and used. Technologies reflect the values of the organizations that build them, so our commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) priorities and care must underscore everything we do.

We also must recognize that biotechnologies have not always reflected the values necessary for sustainable and equitable impact, and as a result remain controversial. Indeed, companies that produce genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for human consumption are restricted from ESG indices such as MSCI, placing genetic engineering as a major ESG risk alongside the production of weapons, tobacco products, and fossil fuels. We hope to chart a new course built on care so that the world can benefit from the power of biological engineering while avoiding potential risks.


We face an urgent environmental crisis that is forcing us to reconsider how we make everything from our homes to our food to our clothing. For centuries, we’ve treated nature as an infinite resource and infinite trash can, extracting raw materials, shaping them through industrial processes that spew out greenhouse gases, and then throwing them away. But these resources are not infinite and there is no “away.” The results have been disastrous—climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution have impacted every corner of our world and continue to threaten our way of life.

Cell programming and biological manufacturing are working to address some of the issues that are most contributing to climate change today, from fossil fuel dependency to agricultural emissions and land use to plastic pollution. Ultimately, biology offers a fundamental shift in how things are made and disposed of: a world where things grow and decay, creating circular, regenerative processes.

There is significant concern that genetic engineering itself creates a form of genetic “pollution” in the environment, with genes from one context introduced into another. This is a concern we take seriously and consider deeply throughout the lifecycle of our programs to ensure that genes introduced will not cause damage—for example, by spreading antibiotic resistance or toxins. We care because the environmental release of certain genetically engineered microbes can also offer tremendous environmental benefit. For example:

  • Crop-associated microbes programmed with the nitrogen fixing properties of common soil bacteria may be able to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, which today contribute 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and account for 4% of natural gas consumption. This is the work of Joyn Bio, our joint venture with Bayer Crop Science.
  • Microbes programmed to clean up wastewater or contaminated land is the work of Allonnia, a company we spun out in partnership with Battelle.
  • And we are just getting started... we believe biology is our best tool to reverse the damage we have caused to our planet and chart us on a path towards sustainability in the future.


Technology isn’t neutral. Our values and biases are embedded in the technologies we make, in the applications we consider, and in the ways we address problems. Inclusion of those who have historically been left out of the development of new technologies is essential to building equitable and positive outcomes. Just as biological ecosystems thrive with more diversity, the inclusion of many different voices is essential to growing our company and to ensuring that the viewpoints of traditionally marginalized people are included in the development of our platform. We have many active efforts in recruiting and retaining diverse talent, and will continue to invest in this work (see “Information About Ginkgo—Our People & Culture”).

Marginalized people who have been left out of the development of technologies are also the groups most likely to bear the greatest harm, whether from climate change, pollution, or health disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this inequality starkly clear—in the US, it has been communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and those that have had least access to testing, treatment, and vaccination.

When COVID-19 first locked down our communities in March of 2020, we committed to $25 million of pro bono work to help accelerate novel diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. Our early work included efforts to improve the manufacturing of vaccines, working to lower costs and increase accessibility of vaccines worldwide. Shortly thereafter, we launched Concentric by Ginkgo, a service to provide public health testing infrastructure for communities that need it most. Our pooled testing service was designed with accessibility and privacy as core design principles, to bring low-cost, easy-to-use testing to K-12 schools in the places that have been most affected by the pandemic. We partnered with school districts such as Baltimore City Schools to make sure that our service was designed to serve the community and to build trust with groups who have been excluded, exploited and mistreated by biomedical research in the past.

These values and initiatives are not just a top-down corporate policy, they are an intrinsic part of our culture. Grassroots fundraising challenges to support local and international aid organizations are a regular feature of our internal messaging channels. One of our software engineers even programmed a free tool, @vaccinetime on Twitter, that has helped thousands of Massachusetts residents find vaccine appointments.


Our culture is built on care, transparency, diversity, employee ownership and engagement, and a deep, humble respect for biology. Transparency is essential to how we operate, to enable sharing of the insights and tools that enable our platform to grow, as well as to build trust and accountability with all of our stakeholders. We have advocated for more transparency in our industry, including supporting GMO labeling, and seek to educate policymakers and the general public about the benefits and risks of synthetic biology through our advocacy efforts.

The individuals who work at Ginkgo build our platform and care deeply about how that platform is used and the impact our company will have in the world. We believe a workforce with strong equity ownership will make the wise decisions needed to build long-term value for our company, and a company whose long-term impacts make them proud. That is why we have implemented a multi-class stock structure that permits all employees (current and future), not just founders, to hold high-vote (ten votes per share) common stock. We believe that our multi-class stock structure will help maintain the long-term mentality we have benefited from as a founder-led company. For more information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Relating to our Organizational Structure and Governance— Following the consummation of the [Business Combination], only our employees will be entitled to hold shares of our Class B common stock (including shares of our Class B common stock granted or otherwise issued to our employees in the future), which shares will have ten votes per share. This will limit or preclude other stockholders’ ability to influence the outcome of matters submitted to stockholders for approval, including the election of directors, the approval of certain employee compensation plans, the adoption of amendments to our organizational documents and the approval of any merger, consolidation, sale of all or substantially all of our assets, or other major corporate transaction requiring stockholder approval.”

We have selected independent directors with decades of experience serving as leaders in the life sciences and technology industries. Our board of directors and management team will leverage that experience and consider the interests of stockholders, customers, employees, suppliers, academic researchers, governments, communities, and other stakeholders to pursue long-term value for our company and drive the sustained health of our global community. For more information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Relating to our Organizational Structure and Governance—Our focus on the long-term best interests of our company and our consideration of all of our stakeholders, including our stockholders, workforce, customers, suppliers, academic researchers, governments, communities and other stakeholders that we may identify from time to time, may conflict with short-term or medium-term financial interests and business performance, which may adversely impact the value of our common stock.”