Does Mapping Patents to the UN SDGs Help Reveal the Most Sustainable Companies?

Does Mapping Patents to the U.N. SDGs Help Reveal the Most Sustainable Companies?

July 11, 2023

Sustainability has fast become the world’s most critical initiative. Across the globe, companies are searching for strategies to identify, measure and prove sustainable contributions. In 2015, all United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  At the heart of the Agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), defined as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” All of humanity’s endeavors have been achieved through innovation. We believe sustainability is no different. So in 2021, we introduced a unique feature to our innovation analytics solution, LexisNexis® PatentSight®, that mapped our comprehensive global patent database to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to improve clarity around sustainable innovation with objective, reliable analysis based on scientifically-development measurement. Because patents require the disclosure of detailed technologies and are only made available to the public after intensive examination, they provide a truly objective measure that reveals both current investment and future potential.  

Now we have published a first-of-its-kind IP report, titled “Exploring the Global Sustainable Innovation Landscape: The Top 100 Companies and Beyond”, which focuses entirely on the state of sustainable innovation, assessing the global patent landscape from an SDG perspective and revealing the top 100 most sustainable technology leaders in the world—ranked based on the quality of sustainability-related inventions they own. Using the objective lens of patents, we present a comprehensive view of the current sustainable innovation landscape and celebrate the top global companies developing the most substantial innovation in sustainable technologies.  

Measuring sustainability using patents as the scale 

The most innovative companies are increasingly aligning their strategies with sustainable development. Our research has found that about 75% of the top 100 corporate patent portfolio owners globally stated in their annual and/or sustainability reports that the SDGs were relevant to their business strategy and objectives. But most sustainability reports are often unclear about the methodology used and include rankings that are subjective or based on vague “expert” assessments. The absence of a global, standardized measure of contributions to the SDGs makes it difficult for companies and agencies to track progress, benchmark against their peers, and assess and communicate the value of their investments in sustainable technologies.​ To learn more about the broader topic of sustainability measurement, see SDGs vs ESGs: What is the Better Measure of Sustainability

To meet the rising demand for an objective measure of sustainability and to identify the most sustainable technology leaders, our team of patent search experts objectively mapped technology areas with active patenting activity to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, their targets and their 231 unique indicators. The LexisNexis® PatentSight® innovation analytics platform makes sustainability-focused innovation identifiable, searchable, trackable and measurable by mapping the global patent system to the U.N. SDGs. 

In a nutshell, mapping patents to SDG targets provides:  

Measurability: We are the first provider to distinctly map patents in analysis against targets and indicators of the U.N.’s SDGs​ and to measure an organization’s contribution to SDG-related research. 

Accuracy and transparency: Expertly curated SDG mapping to a high-quality patent data set (with accurate ownership and legal status​) helps to shed more light on the effort the most sustainable companies put into becoming SDG compliant and avoids “greenwashing.”​ 

Objective valuation: SDG to patent mapping in combination with industry-proven and validated Patent Asset Index reveals real champions and allows stakeholders and shareholders a better decision-making and reporting process.​ ​ 

Accessibility: Patent-based SDG assessment is easy to access and run even without being a patent expert. Boardroom-ready visualizations make findings easy to digest and share. ​​ 

Who’s developing the strongest portfolio of sustainable innovation? 

For the first time, we are leveraging our patent-to-SDG mapping feature to present a comprehensive view of the world’s most sustainable companies, as measured by their contributions to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The report contains a list of the Top 100 companies, ranked based on the quality of their sustainable innovation. Using the Patent Asset Index, we identified companies whose innovations have exceptional SDG-related patent portfolio strength, giving them the potential to make substantial contributions to sustainable development.   

Apart from a Top 100 ranking, with an extended Top 300 ranking available on our website, the report also includes the following: 

  • Deep dive and analyses of the Automotive sector
  • Deep dive and analyses of the Chemicals and Materials sector
  • Geographic analysis – sustainability focus around the world
  • Technologies with the most sustainable innovation 

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals with the strongest innovation  

In our analysis, we discover that innovation is not distributed equally among all the SDG goals. SDG 3, SDG 7 and SDG 9 were found to have the strongest patents among the 13* SDGs that had patents protecting related technologies. Here’s an overview of some of the leaders filing patents in these technologies: 

  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, is the leading focus among the Top 100 companies, led by companies headquartered in Asia, including Samsung (1), Toyota Motor (3) and LG Chem (5).  
  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being, follows, with Johnson & Johnson (2), Roche (9), and Samsung (1) leading the pack.  
  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, the strongest Top 100 company patents cover electric and hybrid vehicles, energy efficiency, blockchain, and the Internet of Things, with top contributions from Toyota Motor (3), State Grid (8), and General Electric (7). 

Why read this report? 

There’s no doubt that sustainability is gaining momentum as the new value indicator. By uncovering the close correlation between the strength of innovation, as reflected in patent data, and our ability to solve some of today’s most pressing global challenges, this report offers a new, objective way of comparing the contributions of the global corporate sector towards saving the planet. The resulting insights are essential reading not only for patent experts but for all key decision makers at companies; strategic leaders, R&D managers, competitive insights functions, and M&A deciders. Investors and business consultants can gain insights into the SDG-related business potential of 300 top companies. Policymakers and managers at NGOs will also find the report insightful as the data enables them to zoom out and look at SDG-contribution from an industry or country level. This report is for you if you work at a global company who wants to contribute to a healthy, prosperous, and more sustainable world.  You should read the report to avoid missing out on benefits like: 

  • Unique insights about the most sustainable companies and their contributions to sustainable technologies.
  • Benchmark the overall success of your investments in sustainable technologies with your peer groups.
  • Objective assessment of your company’s strengths in sustainable technologies to showcase your achievements to stakeholders. 

Take the next step in your sustainability reporting 

Are you a forward-thinking technology company committed to making a positive impact on our planet? Do you want to ensure that your sustainability efforts align with the United Nations’  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? With the Patent-to-SDG mapping, gain actionable insights into how sustainable you and your competitors are through the objective and forward-looking measurement of patents. Use the mapping of SDGs to patents as a guide to identify future business opportunities:  

Understand involvement and identify gaps in sustainable technology development 

  • Discover the share and the value of sustainable technologies in your patent portfolio. 
  • Identify growth areas in sustainability for your business. 

Develop a strategy for sustainable technology investment 

  • Get an overview of the competitive landscape in sustainable technology fields. 
  • Identify trends, gaps and whitespaces in the sustainable technology landscape. 
  • Find partners and licensing opportunities to support and accelerate your sustainability efforts. 

Objectively measure and evaluate progress toward SDGs 

  • Measure the performance of investments in sustainable technologies and compare them to non-SDG-related patents.  
  • Track the progress of investments in sustainable R&D and technology over time. 
  • Learn which sustainable technologies make an impact and which are less relevant. 
  • Use compelling and easy-to-grasp visualizations to report your progress to internal and external stakeholders. 

Understand which UN SDGs companies invest in 

  • Identify interrelations between research and development strategies. 
  • Explore areas of potential research and development besides the core technology of companies in focus. 
  • Analyze whether competitors have research activities in similar technology fields. 

The SDG assessment charts in PatentSight are readily useable and actionable, even for nonpatent experts. Boardroom-ready visualizations make the results easy to digest and share within your organization. Now is your chance to showcase your company’s investment in sustainable innovation or refine your investment strategy in sustainable technologies by partnering with LexisNexis.

*There are four SDGs not directly connected to technology and thus cannot be associated with patents.   

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Who Are the Global Leaders in Sustainable Innovation?

In a first-of-its-kind report, learn which companies are the world’s leading patent owners with the potential to drive transformative innovation toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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