October 5, 2022
Deploying Proprietary Research Techniques to Better Understand ESG in the Biotech Sector
Corporate social responsibility has factored into investment decisions for years, with the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) a big part of corporate decision-making for nearly two decades. But the focus on ESG reached a fever pitch in 2021. Indeed, there might not have been a more common three-letter combination in the world’s boardrooms.
That’s why international law firm Fenwick sought to unearth insights about how ESG and a growing cultural emphasis on diversity was affecting biotech companies. Specifically, the firm wanted to conduct first-of-its kind research and provide an analysis of marketplace reporting practices across the sector to create a resource for companies in biotech and beyond about key governance best practices at a critical moment.
Fenwick enlisted the services of Greentarget, specifically its Research & Market Intelligence and Content & Editorial teams, on a multi-faceted research approach. The first step was a unique review of the publicly available information of the top 50 biotech companies in the United States based on market capitalization. This review, which required nearly 100 hours of research-intensive time, included SEC filings and information on company websites, which was compiled and then summarized for key industry trends and other points of interest.
This in-depth review informed the development of quantitative survey questions designed to elicit insight from key decision-makers, including individuals who held C-suite positions, were heads of ESG or held sustainability and legal roles, as well as investors from hedge funds, investment banks and venture capital firms. A focus of the survey was to gauge sentiment around expectations and challenges regarding ESG, as well as expectations about SEC intervention and a medium-term forecast.
The results were then shared with Fenwick lawyers who represent technology and biotech companies on a variety of corporate governance and transactional matters, including ESG, to gather their analysis of the specific findings. Channelling these insights, Greentarget developed a report around the findings with an emphasis on providing actionable guidance about how companies can prepare and what they should consider when implementing and reporting on ESG.
The final report, “Biotech’s ESG Crossroads,” was released in February 2022, combining what Greentarget found in its initial public review, the survey findings and the expertise of Fenwick’s lawyers. The report detailed how sector executives and investors compare when it comes to ESG’s growing prominence. And it discovered a lack of standard practices around ESG disclosures, that ESG would continue to surge in prominence and that biotech companies were just getting started when it comes to addressing ESG. The report, the first of its kind on this topic for Fenwick, is expected to become an annual offering.
The email campaign developed for the report launch yielded an open rate of 39.2%, with a click-to-open ratio of 5.9%. The report itself garnered 520 unique page views, with readers spending on average of four minutes and 46 seconds on the report page.
Media also took an interest in the data, with notable industry publications like STAT, FierceBiotech, BioCentury and Corporate Secretary covering the findings. Others, like Harvard Law School’s Corporate Governance Blog, republished the report in full.
Since the report’s launch, Fenwick lawyers have presented the data directly to biotech clients, speaking with their nominating and governance committees. One Fenwick partner who helped lead the data analysis told Law.com that companies in the biotech industry had been clamouring for this type of data on governance issues for a while, and being able to provide data that supports her legal counsel has been invaluable to her clients.
The report generated such strong attention that another law firm mentioned it during their own webinar about ESG issues.