Recently, artificial intelligence (AI) has been widely discussed being a focal point for debates about hope and scepticism related to the world’s future development. AI is an innovation which will profoundly change our economy, politics and society – it is, therefore, time to ask if and how AI will change corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, and which opportunities this will bear for companies.
A recent report published by the World Economic Forum (WEC) showcases the significant opportunities in employing AI for the Earth. However, not all the possible sustainability-related use cases for AI offer direct benefits for a company’s CSR approach. The following overview provides guidance on where potential opportunities lie:
- ESG (environment, social, governance) risk quantification: Four of the top five global risks in terms of impact are related to environment or society, according to WEC’s Global Risk Report 2018. AI can help companies in evaluating and quantifying these risks: For instance, it could contribute to sound analysis and prediction of risk related to human rights issues among suppliers of a certain country or region.
- Materiality assessment: Materiality is a key concept of CSR. With the help of AI, companies could use large amounts of public and internal data to get solid prioritisation of relevant topics, saving both time and resources.
- Energetic optimisation: AI could help in analysing large amounts of data and optimise energy efficiency during production. For example, Google achieved energy savings of 30% for its data centres by using AI3.
- Carbon Footprint Calculation: A company’s carbon footprint is an important KPI related to environmental sustainability. Instead of extensive bottom-up analysis, AI could be used to estimate the carbon footprint top-down, making use of mostly public data and avoiding the effort of extensive data collection.
Developments related to artificial intelligence have the possibility to impact and change corporate sustainability practices. The increasing amount of available sustainability-related data is an opportunity for a company’s CSR practices, and some viable use cases exist already now. Besides having reliable data, it is also important to thoroughly define the purpose and target of an AI project and to start on a small scale with incremental improvements.
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The CSR Journal Team