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Shawnte Mitchell, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at Genomatica

Shawnte Mitchell, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel at Genomatica

December 11, 2023

How do you view the role of legal professionals in addressing climate change? Within our companies, legal professionals have great opportunities to exercise leadership in the areas of sustainability and climate change impact.  A few examples of areas we can move the needle are through internal policy development and contracting. It is often the legal team leading (or at the very least, contributing to) the development and role out of internal policies and procedures that impact the activities of the company and its employees. The legal team can be a driver for the addition of policies and procedures that move the company that mandate the environmental changes with the operations. We can influence our business leaders to use suppliers who are sustainability minded through the implementation of supplier codes of conduct and emphasis on the Scope 3 emission disclosure requirements. In the contracting area, when engaging vendors, we have place obligations on them with sustainability in mind. If we are in a manufacturing industry, I have found it helpful to make sure environmentally focused counsel on the team to ensure that provisions needed to address environmental construction needs are identified.

What motivated you to work in this sector, and how do you see the company's mission aligning with your personal goals? I am mission driven person. I want to be involved with companies that are making products or providing services that provide a benefit to the world. This is incredibly important to me and helps keep me motivated. My current company is just that type of company—Geno’s mission is to break the planet's reliance on fossil fuels by making the same molecules, ingredients and materials we rely on every day, but deriving them from more sustainable sources. Geno combines advanced bioengineering, powerful computer modeling and proven industrial engineering best practices to create more sustainable materials. I was motivated to join Geno because of this mission, its interesting and innovative approach to solving this problem and my recognition that sustainability is the next frontier that needs to be addressed and Geno is well placed to make an impact.

Could you share some examples of innovative legal strategies or approaches your company has taken to advance green technologies? With the Senate’s introduction of the bipartisan Biomanufacturing and Jobs Act to revitalize the USDA BioPreferred program, a key driver of market expansion for biobased products, Geno has taken an active role in working with Congress and various government agencies helping them understand the ways in which the government can accelerate technological advancement through funding technologies beyond solar and EV batteries and the implementation of other policy initiatives. We are also a founding member of the SynBio Coalition, a collective of leading biotechnology companies advocating for greater investment in sustainable manufacturing and ingredients in the United States.

Are there any emerging trends or innovative legal approaches you find particularly promising in the fight against climate change? Last Fall, we saw the passage of landmark legislation and an executive order providing funding to power U.S. based biomanufacturing and enable industrial decarbonization. As part of this effort, the Department of Energy (DOE) has started to roll out funding programs. Legal affairs teams can play critical roles in assisting and/or driving the utilization of these tools to move the climate change initiatives forward faster.

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