Can Patents Bring Awareness to Sustainable Business and Technology?

How Patents Can Bring Transparency to Sustainability

November 16, 2021

Sustainability has fast become the world’s most critical initiative. Across the globe, companies are searching for strategies on how to identify, measure and prove sustainable business 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.” 

How can companies objectively measure and prove that they are a sustainable business without being accused of greenwashing? Enter patents. Patents are a logical indicator for global innovation and add objectivity to the evaluation of sustainability. 

In this article, we dive into how patents aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can serve as an objective and transparent measurement tool for advancing sustainability.

The drive for sustainability

Facing a global pandemic and increasingly consequential natural disasters, there is growing pressure on organizations to take sustainability into account in strategic decisions and their everyday business dealings.

In the Harvard Business Review article The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability the authors conclude that “The preponderance of evidence shows that sustainability is going mainstream. Executives can no longer afford to approach sustainability as a “nice to have” or as solid function separated from the “real” business. Those companies that proactively make sustainability core to business strategy will drive innovation and engender enthusiasm and loyalty from employees, customers, suppliers, communities and investors.”

Global challenges—ranging from climate, water, and food crises, to poverty, conflict, and inequality—need solutions that the private sector can deliver, representing a large and growing market for business innovation. In a rush to transform business models and systems for the future, integrity and values will have a huge role to play. Adapting and integrating inclusive sustainable business models will help businesses take a major leap towards sustainable development.

In the publication Make it Your Business: Engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals PricewaterhouseCoopers provides the following statistics:  

How Patents Can Bring Transparency to Sustainability

The time to drive toward sustainability is now.

Patents: a logical indicator of sustainable business practices

As organizations face growing pressure to consider sustainable business aspects across strategic, financial and operational decision-making, it is emerging as a significant value indicator. Companies worldwide face the challenge of objectively measuring their sustainable business achievements and reporting these successes. ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) ratings are often the method of choice, but there are dozens of them, often based on subjective criteria.

Patents are a logical indicator of global innovation and add objectivity to evaluating sustainable business practices. But current approaches to mapping patents to sustainable technologies—like the European Patent Office CPC Y02-classification or the WIPOs Green Inventory—are limited to certain areas of sustainable technologies and not aligned to an action-guiding goals framework. 

Patents are an ideal measure because:

  • Every patent application results from research and development activity expectedly leading to an invention having the above characteristics. 
  • Every granted patent promises to potentially impact the society in which the invention is legally protected, thus bringing positive change. 
  • The authorities with policies and patent law more conducive to sustainable inventions will have more sustainable inventions legally protected. 
  • Patents provide confirmatory information about the entities possessing the know-how to bring the change leading to sustainability. 
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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)

Mapping patents to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 

With an unprecedented methodology, LexisNexis® Intellectual Property is bringing clarity to sustainable business innovation by mapping patents to the UNs SDGs. The protocol to establish the link between the UN SDGs and the patent data (inventions) is based on the framework provided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UN framework is built around the definition of sustainability that is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition of sustainability, at its core, is in sync with the basics of the patenting procedure, as patents are a tradeoff on a monopoly for a limited period against the complete disclosure of the invention.

Using the LexisNexis® PatentSight® innovation analytics platform LexisNexis IP has directly and explicitly mapped all technological topics that encompass patentable inventions to the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, targets and indicators*. The scope and boundary of each technology topic (aka “search topic”) is provided by the rationale that is present in the metadata. 

As an example, the chart below shows the strength of SDG-related patent portfolios by the top 5 global authorities per United Nations Sustainability Goal. 

Patent Asset Index

The time to act on sustainability is now. Leveraging the insights with PatentSight empowers you to:    

  • Understand sustainable business progress—yours and your competitor’s   
  • Identify gaps in sustainable technology development  
  • Inform a strategy for sustainable technology investment  
  • Communicate sustainable progress and road map to reach 2030 goals  

Watch the On-Demand Webinar Calling for Action: How to Track and Measure Sustainable Innovation and Investments to learn how you can gain an unparalleled view into the global innovation landscape and empower decision-making for opportunities in sustainable technology. 

Read Objectively Measure Organizational and Corporate Sustainability to learn more.  

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

Want insights into how sustainably focused you and your competitors are?

Conduct objective patent analyses against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) using LexisNexis® PatentSight®.

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