Research and innovation in environmental, social, and governance in the pharmaceutical sector has declined in the last year.

The most recent figures show that the number of ESG patent applications in the industry stood at 291 in the three months ending November – down from 590 over the same period last year.

Figures for patent grants related to ESG followed a similar pattern to filings – shrinking from 489 in the three months ending November last year to 291 this year.

The figures are compiled by GlobalData, who track patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Using textual analysis, as well as official patent classifications, these patents are grouped into key thematic areas, and linked to key companies across various industries.

ESG is one of the key areas tracked by GlobalData. It has been identified as being a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years, and is one of the areas that companies investing resources in now are expected to reap rewards from.

The figures also provide an insight into the largest innovators in the sector.

Johnson & Johnson was the top environmental, social, and governance innovator in the pharmaceutical sector in the last quarter. The company, which has its headquarters in the United States, filed 78 ESG related patents in the three months ending November. That was down from 201 over the same period last year.

It was followed by the United States based Merck & Co Inc with 50 ESG patent applications, Switzerland based Novartis AG (44 applications), and France based Sanofi (36 applications).

Eli Lilly and Co has recently ramped up R&D in environmental, social, and governance. It saw growth of 50% in related patent applications in the three months ending November compared to the same period last year - the highest percentage growth out of all companies tracked with more than 10 quarterly patents in the pharmaceutical sector.