IP Firms Can Raise Environmental Awareness By Setting an Example

by Jeremy M. Ben-David, Managing Partner, JMB Davis Ben-David

 

The Advent of Covid-19

Early last year, soon after the Covid-19 outbreak in China, there was a dramatic climate-related event that should have changed the way we look at our ability to control pollution of our planet. This event was the countrywide shuttering of businesses in China, including manufacturing plants, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Following on the heels of the Chinese new year break, air pollution dropped dramatically. As seen by NASA satellite images published, inter alia, on 29 February 2020 by the BBC huge areas of China were clear of air pollution; this compared with those same areas being covered by extensive splotches of yellow and red – representing the poisoned air that we associate with many industrial manufacturing areas of the world.

This should have been a huge wake up call to the world, showing all of us what can be achieved by reducing our so-called carbon footprint and in so doing improve the air that we breather, the water that we drink and the produce that we eat! For we patent attorneys, who presumably believe in evidence-based science, the startling photographs from NASA showed that changing our behavior can directly influence the environment and therefore our health, as such should be enough to get each and every one of us taking the actions so as to clean up our environment and keep it clean. 

Green Patent Applications

Yes, I already hear you pointing out what a wonderful job our profession has been doing for years in advancing green technologies, by virtue of the preferential treatment given to so-called ‘Green applications’ in many patent offices. For example, the Israel Patent Office, the EPO and the JPO, as well as China, the UK and others, have programs which prioritize patent applications relating green or sustainable technologies. 

But is that it? Is our contribution to a cleaner environment through helping our clients advance their green technologies? Other than being middlemen, where do we, as professionals, as business owners, come into it? True, we don’t manufacture anything, but does that fact exempt us from practicing what we preach? Are we like doctors who smoke or dieticians who well, need to go on a diet? 

Preconceived Notions

I’ve been in the IP profession since 1985 and a business owner since 1995, and throughout these years I have maintained that we can and must teach by example. And some of the steps that we have taken now in our firm have undoubtedly reduced our carbon footprint, have increased our overall quality of life and, I believe, will also have the effect of providing better services – with a reduced carbon footprint – to our clients. 

We can always improve, and sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking out of a mindset. It can be difficult to do this, and we may need help from the outside; we just need to identify the need and be prepared to accept the help when it arrives. Such as when a pandemic strikes.

I’m a big believer in teamwork; in being able to consult with and help colleagues, in the most casual way possible, at the water cooler, by the coffee machine, or just by sticking my head around a door. I know, that does require physical presence in an office. And in our case, being a smallish firm, that required a single office, located in my beloved Jerusalem. And that was that. To work for JMB, you had to be prepared to come to the office every day of the week – there was no such thing as working from home except under exceptional circumstances.

And then Covid-19 hit and the world changed overnight, causing me to question some of my preconceived ideas about what is needed.

Force Majeure

Realizing that we may have to work from home (although I did not really believe that a lockdown would really happen), I made sure that everyone could work remotely, and we prepared for a completely remote, disparate, working experience, having regular office meetings by Zoom®. In an instant, my perception as to how I was prepared to run the business changed. It had to.

When we started to return to work, people who had to travel by public transport, simply avoided it for health reasons. And if that wasn’t enough, as the traffic returned worse than ever, those who had previously been commuting long distance started to work more from home, coming into the office only part time. 

 

Notions Changed

But the change in thinking wasn’t merely that it had become possible to work remotely. It was that travelling into the office in Jerusalem unnecessarily wasted hours on the road every day, and also caused unnecessary air pollution caused by the extra mileage(!) and all of this was in addition to the fact that with fewer people coming to the office, maybe we no longer needed such a large office space.

Within a short time, I realized that we should open an additional office which would enable half of our workforce to come to the office on an everyday basis due to a much shorter commute, while at the same time downsize i.e. open two relatively small offices whose total size was less than the size of our single office in Jerusalem. This would mean much less time wasted in the roads, and no less important, we would pollute less by driving less. We would also be helping some of our clients to do the same, by being in a location more convenient to them.

We also Walk the Walk

Now that we have opened our office in Modiin, and are on the verge of completing the move to our downsized office in Jerusalem, I am proud to say that the services we provide to our clients definitely have a reduced carbon footprint. I urge others to follow in the same direction because, like it or not, while being a Patent Attorney is important, we are first and foremost members of humanity and residents of this beautiful planet! 

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