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Using Intellectual Property to promote Environmental, Social and Governance

by Mohammad Ghazal

As the World becomes more aware of the growing problem of climate change, companies have started to develop (Environmental, Social and Governance) initiative to better display their compliance with sustainable practices on numerous fronts. This allows them to improve their corporate image, attracts investors as well as embeds green practices into their operations; which become increasingly important as clients, stakeholders and investors have started to measure companies using these three axes together as a barometer of organisational sustainability, demanding greater transparency and responsibility from them towards people, processes, products and services, as well as the environment.

As the Chairman of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanisation in New York, I see that matters related to Environmental, Social and Governance compliance are imperative for companies that want to display their compliance with good sustainable practices. Environmental, Social and Governance factors are increasingly becoming pillars that underpin business investment and are often used by institutions to measure the performance of companies. This has an effect on the evaluation of firms in relation to their brands, assets and governance as well as having positive impact on their long-term value.

Examples of Environmental, Social and Governance initiatives include:

  • Environmental – climate change programmes, waste management initiatives, water management solutions, recycling programmes.
  • Social – customer relations, human rights, employee relations, safe workplace practices, occupational health and safety.
  • Governance – regulatory compliance, anti-corruption policies, anti-bribery policies, disclosure of information, data security.

Adopting Environmental, Social and Governance practices also allows organisations to streamline operations, adopt environmental practices, attract investors, mitigate risks as well as comply with regulation. This is particularly important during the difficult times we are passing through where supply chains are being severely disrupted and alternate strategies need to be adopted to ensure business continuity in a sustainable manner.

Being the Chairman of Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP), an international leader in the world of IP, I see a strong correlation between intellectual property and achieving Environmental, Social and Governance goals, particularly for firms in the MENA region that are looking to bolster their international competitiveness.

A natural outcome of adopting Environmental, Social and Governance goals is the development of unique strategies, services and products which enhance your brand, leading to growth. Such services, strategies and products can and should be protected with many trademark registers providing for the protection of Environmental, Social and Governance related goods and services. As well as protecting your own rights, it is important to ensure that you are not infringing others. Working with a well-established IP firm such as AGIP is important when starting an Environmental, Social and Governance goals journey.

Operationally, maintaining a strong audit of the IP portfolio used in a firm operations is important to ensure that authentic, original items are being used in the production of goods and services. Companies should start as they mean to go on and maintain a regular audit of all the goods and services from an IP standpoint. It is essential to have a clean bill of IP health, especially when serving an international client base to show that you are legal, transparent and sustainable.

In a business climate where time is of the essence, companies that are innovating new products and services need to be on top of their IP game by legally protecting their ideas, which can also attract funding and investors as it provides confidence in the innovation. Venture capitalists are reluctant to invest in innovations or processes that are not protected by IP law and subject to being easily replicated. A product or service well controlled with IP boundaries is a strong value proposition. This provides for brand protection and reputation building which are vital aspects of international commerce and the Environmental, Social and Governance world.

Having clear IP in place also allows for greater collaboration between firms to take place as each know their rights, ideas and innovation are protected, Firms can pool resources together to faster commercialise services and products that promote sustainability and green practices. In the MENA region, we have many smaller, specialist firms which can work together to streamline their operations, improve their time to market and develop a shared IP portfolio. This is essential as innovations take significant resources to develop. Expertise may not be available in a single company and require cross company collaboration, sharing data, manufacturing processes, industry secrets, etc. Ensuring IP rights is the first step on this ladder.

Environmental, Social and Governance goals have become a top priority for many, which coupled together with a strong IP partner allows organisations to address the numerous challenges facing our society and environment in a positive, head on manner that promotes sustainability and good business practice in a climate sensitive world.

By HE Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, founder and chairman of TAG.Global

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