Green Intellectual Property

The damage to the environment has over the last decade or so been a topic of paramount importance. Changes to the same can now be felt closer to home rather than in some remote corner of the globe. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in 2021 stating that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying”. We are at the precipice of an important stage in the history of our planet. Never before has technology reached the levels that we have now. It is time to optimally harness technology to protect the environment to sustain future generations. With the literature currently in the media, there is definitely awareness of the damage being caused.

Green technology and innovation thereof will be of paramount importance, and Intellectual Property (IP) rights play a major role. The term ‘Green Intellectual Property’ refers to the protection of innovations in the field of green technology. The UN Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of 1992 stated that Green Technology means “environmentally sound technologies that protect the environment, are less polluting, use all resources in a more sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle residual wastes in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they were substitutes“.

WIPO is playing a huge role in the acceleration of Green IP through WIPO Green (https://www3.wipo.int/wipogreen/en/). “WIPO GREEN is an online platform for technology exchange. It supports global efforts to address climate change by connecting providers and seekers of environmentally friendly technologies.”

India, with a huge focus on agriculture, could see smart agriculture come to the forefront. We could also see the rise of water and soil conservation mechanisms, soil re-carbonization and carbon sequestration, etc. In fact, since 2016, over half of the patents granted in India were related to green technologies. In sheer numbers, 61.186 patents were granted in this field, and over 90% of these technologies addressed waste management and alternative energy production methods.[1]

Green IP is likely to lead to the rise of a huge amount of innovation. With innovation comes patent protection. Secrecy may be maintained to maximise market position for innovative technologies that will result in the rise of trade secrets. The aesthetic appearance of new innovations will come under the ambit of protection of design rights. Design rights may also be a valuable right as the use of 3D printing grows as a potentially more sustainable manufacturing technique. The rise of Green IP will also result in the rise of certified trademarks. Software and data evaluation will also play a decisive role in improving existing technologies in an environmentally friendly way. We will also see the rise of technology transfer licensing agreements as companies look to leverage technology developed by others to their advantage. Thus, the importance of Green IP will percolate to an increase in IP protection as well.

For those who are trailblazers in the field, having an IP checklist and an IP strategy will be of importance. Apart from this, the Indian government may also need to look at more subsidies and rebates for the development of Green IP. In a recently published report, Green Future Index 2022, India was ranked among a contingent labelled as “climate laggards”. The country’s COVID-19 recovery plan favours traditional industries, which is hampering the move to greener policies.

Nevertheless, subsidies in official fees for start-ups and MSME’s have pushed these industries to protect their intellectual property. Such a change can also be effected with rebates for the filings for Green IP. With the problems brought about by damage to the environment being closer to home, it is time for India to be at the forefront of the development of Green IP.

References:

[1] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/every-2nd-patent-granted-since-2016-relates-to-green-tech-most-linked-to-waste-alternative-energy/articleshow/89420047.cms

Image Credits: Photo by JudaM from Pixabay 

For those who are trailblazers in the field, having an IP checklist and an IP strategy will be of importance. Apart from this, the Indian government may also need to look at more subsidies and rebates for the development of Green IP.

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Why Businesses Should Focus on ESG?

The world has changed in many fundamental ways especially in the last 25 years. I am not referring to technology-led transformation or geopolitical shifts, this piece is about Environmental, Social and Governance criteria – collectively referred to as “ESG”.

Environmental Criteria

 

Environmental costs, which were for long viewed by economists as “externalities”, are now an important consideration in decision-making by governments and business leaders. Given the devastating effects of widespread environmental degradation and climate change, countries around the world are taking concrete actions to limit further damage; many are setting “net zero” emission targets for individual sectors over the next couple of decades. As a result, new legislations are being enacted that require businesses to act in certain ways and desist from other kinds of actions. Arguably, this is the biggest facet of change globally.

Social Criteria

 

The second area of change is that various forms of social injustice are no longer being tolerated. While there were always rules against such inequities, there is now a greater cost imposed on organizations that violate these rules- not just by governments and regulators, but also by consumers, who choose to shift loyalties towards brands that exhibit greater sensitivity to social causes. By definition, social injustice covers a broad range of issues that includes exploitation of children, women or certain races (e.g., the Uighurs); not providing employees good working conditions (physical environment, denying employees time for bio-breaks and rest, harassment at the workplace etc.); discrimination against people with disabilities, gender, age or marital status; even selling goods that are not safe or bad for health arguably fall under this category.

Governance Criteria

 

The thrust on “governance” is the third major driver of change. It is not as if rules and regulations did not previously exist to prevent breakdowns in governance. Yet, there are a number of examples from around the world that showcase bad governance: from companies in South Korea, Japan, the USA and Europe to the ongoing matters at the NSE and BharatPe in India.

 

Why ESG Adoption is Crucial?

 

In recent years, various members of business ecosystems worldwide, including enterprises, investors, regulators and the general public have become far more aware of the importance of compliance with “ESG” norms and standards. They are much less willing to tolerate breaches in an organization’s “ESG” conduct.

At one level, companies that do not do well on “ESG” parameters are more likely to face explicit financial penalties (e.g., carbon taxes). But just as important are the hidden costs that will increasingly need to be borne by ESG laggards. Perhaps the most important is the reduced access to capital because both banks and PE/VC firms are incorporating ESG criteria into their funding/ portfolio strategies.

On the demand side, many consumers (especially from the younger generations) are more conscious of brands that fare better in terms of their commitment to ESG and this, in turn, shapes their purchase decisions. Brands can quickly lose market share if they do not raise their ESG game.

As shown in the chart below, data over the past decade reveals that companies that have successfully implemented ESG strategies have consistently performed better than other global companies that have not paid as much attention to ESG.

 

Source: Stoxx.com quoted in https://sphera.com/spark/the-importance-of-esg-strategy/

This out-performance can be attributed to a combination of factors, including faster top-line growth, sustained cost reductions, higher employee productivity and reduced employee attrition and of course, fewer instances of fines/penalties for non-compliance. Investment decisions and technology choices that are guided by ESG considerations will drive a more efficient allocation of capital; in turn, this will boost ROCE (Return on Capital Employed).

While it is convenient to look at the three strands of ESG separately, in reality, they are closely intertwined. The sooner business leaders acknowledge that ESG is not a fad or a feel-good factor, but in fact, makes sound business sense, the better it is for the world as a whole.

 

Start Your ESG Journey Right Away

 
Someone quipped that the best time to plant more trees was years ago, but the second-best time is now! It’s not too late for you to begin your ESG transformation. But make sure you do it as a well-structured program, and not merely a hotch-potch of initiatives that have no clear owners, goals or measures and therefore cannot be sustained.

 

To report ESG performance, you can take the help of commonly used frameworks such as the following:

  • UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
  • Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
  • Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB)
  • Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)

Image Credits: Photo by Photo Boards on Unsplash

While it is convenient to look at the three strands of ESG separately, in reality, they are closely intertwined. The sooner business leaders acknowledge that ESG is not a fad or a feel-good factor, but in fact, makes sound business sense, the better it is for the world as a whole.

POST A COMMENT