Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Organizational Factors and Technological Features in the Development of Green Innovations: Evidence from Patent Analysis

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Organizational Factors and Technological Features in the Development of Green Innovations: Evidence from Patent Analysis

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The growing global attention towards environmental sustainability issues (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987; United Nations Environment Programme 2009) determined an increase in the interest towards green innovations as a key factor to achieve the targets of sustainable development (OECD 2009), as well as in the effort of scholars to investigate the main antecedents of green1 innovation development process (Fussler & James 1996; Jaffe et al. 2002; Chen et al. 2006). Specifically, existing studies focused on several dimensions favouring the development of green innovations, such as process and activities (e.g., Pujari 2006; Dangelico & Pujari 2010), organizational factors (e.g., Lenox & Ehrenfeld 1997; Foster & Green 2000), marketing issues (e.g., Reinhardt 1998; Ottman et al. 2006), eco-design tools and methods (e.g., Rennings 2000; Waage 2007), and public policy instruments (e.g., Parry 2003; Popp 2006; Rehfeld et al. 2007; Johnstone et al. 2010). Other studies paid attention to the outcomes of green innovations, contributing to the debate of being green and competitive (e.g., Shrivastava 1995; Klassen & Whybark 1999; Lefebvre et al. 2003; Chen et al. 2006). Despite such a growing interest towards the integration of environmental issues into the innovation process, little attention has been devoted in the literature, especially by means of quantitative studies, on how inter- and intra-organizational relationships influence the development of green innovations, on their main technological features, and on their success factors. The increasing attention towards sustainability is transforming the competitive landscape, so forcing companies to change the way they think about products, technologies, processes, and business models (Nidumolu et al. 2009). Thereby, it would be relevant to understand organizational and technological peculiarities of green innovations, as well as the drivers of their value.

In particular, in this paper we focus on a specific type of green innovations, namely environmental technologies. Following the definition provided by the Commission of the European Communities (2004, p. 2), these 'encompass technologies and processes to manage pollution (e.g., air pollution control, waste management), less polluting and less resource-intensive products and services and ways to manage resources more efficiently (e.g., water supply, energy-saving technologies)'. First, we investigate whether and to what extent green innovations significantly differ from non-green ones, in terms of (i) inter- and intra-organizational relationships sustaining and characterizing the creation of innovations and (ii) technological characteristics, as complexity and novelty. Then, we study the impact of these organizational factors and technological features on the value of green innovations. Following a well-established tradition in the literature, we use patents as a proxy for innovations (e.g., Ratanawaraha & Polenske 2007), and, specifically, green patents as a proxy for green innovations. To this aim, we considered a sample of companies included in the 2004 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and belonging to the following sectors: basic materials, industrials, technology, and utilities. We defined a set of keywords characterizing green patents, on the basis of which we identified 151 green patents developed by the sample companies and registered at the USPTO (United States Patent Trademark Office) from 1973 to 2003. Then, we identified a control sample of non-green patents developed by the same companies. Using patent-based data, we defined suitable proxies for the analyzed organizational and technological variables and collected relevant information for both green and non-green patents.

We found that developing green innovations requires establishing collaborations with external actors as well as among internal actors to a greater extent compared to the development of conventional innovations. …

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