Green is a fashionable colour. Do you want to sell a product? Make it green. Are you supplying a service? Make it green. New eco-conscious generations make ‘green’ and ‘sustainability’ two must-haves in any company’s marketing and communications department, from global warming and ocean water levels to the thinning ozone layer.
Sustainability is a management imperative in all sectors of the economy. Even bakers no longer prioritise checking their (financial) balance sheet – they first need to know how green and sustainable a business is before further pursuing any financing contract.
But some Global Value Chains (GVC) are greener than others. Since turning green and sustainable is so important to get a place in the market, a good number of businesses tend to interpret their sustainability as a sort of maquillage, aka greenwashing. They focus on look-alike sustainability matters but never really take action on them.
However, there are GVC industries that are per se green, though they’re only sometimes 100 per cent sustainable: floriculture and agriculture.
If we want to understand the GVC, we must recognise an ecosystem’s (admittedly rough) definition of an ecosystem as a bubble of life, including various biotic factors inevitably working in parallel. The GVC is also circular: all stakeholders, from the breeder to the consumer, including nurseries, marketers, and distribution networks, are linked, and the decision made by one is bound to affect the others.
Although the financial world is constantly raising awareness of unavoidable interconnections, the legal environment in which the players of the GVC build their business model largely depends on local legislation.
In fact, despite all the international conventions and treaties regulating the filing and granting process of a PBR and any other intellectual property right related to the GVC, the primary business development tool — the contract — is governed mainly by domestic legislation. A given for anyone running a multijurisdictional business like lawyers do.
But for companies accustomed to dealing with biodiversity law — diversity is seen as a challenge that opens new gates rather than a threat. In a nutshell:
What: The first step for a GVC business is building the proper intangible asset portfolio. The GVC is high-tech and patent driven, but it shares with the traditional economy tools and processes such as supply and demand.
Hence, assets such as trademarks, company names and designs are essential for any green business success. To make a long story short, even breeders need IP Rights different from PBRs: horticulture and agriculture are two industries bound to manage a relatively complex market. Hence, they could not avoid complying with the marketing and communication rules and needs. Therefore, please invest in your 360° IP portfolio and not underestimate the economic relevance of your business names and know-how.
Where: Once the intangible assets portfolio is defined, the territorial scope of the business development is defined. And along with the territorial scope comes the legal framework: specifically, the contract law to be applied. To the extent of our knowledge, horticulture and agriculture need land to be carried on; hence, when choosing the place to establish your business, remember to deeply analyse the domestic rules concerning land ownership and the related contracts.
When: PBRs determine the timeframe. No PBRs, no business. Instead, no IP Rights and no business. Therefore, building, developing, enforcing, and defending a company IP Portfolio is one of the chosen few pillars to start a business. They are those who make the difference between failure and success.
Who: Breeders, nurseries, marketers, and retailers, from street markets to department stores, including corner stores and supermarkets. These are the stakeholders of the GVC in horticulture and agriculture. They are intertwined: if one link in the chain fails to comply, all the others are (badly) affected by the failure of one. Because, often, being green and sustainable means being circular. As a matter of fact, isn’t the ecosystem interconnected? Isn’t the ecosystem interconnected? Isn’t the meaning of an ecosystem the systemic interconnection of all beings and species on Earth?
Why: History teaches us that when the stakeholders of the GVC stop collaborating, the whole GVC is seriously damaged. Hopefully, we are still able to stop what seems like an unstoppable journey to the ultimate destruction of the planet we know.
As everybody has been saying through decades, nations and institutions, the citizens must join forces to raise awareness and keep greening the GVC in the spotlight, where it belongs. Because green matters. But no fake green, please.
Author: Emanuela Truffo is a Partner at Studio Legale Jacobacci E Associati.
This article was first published in the July-August 2023 edition of FloraCulture International.