Role of AI for Sustainability: A corporate viewpoint

Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology and its incorporation in the business through its commercial applications is paving ways for the corporates to capitalize by leveraging the upcoming AI technologies. As the corporates are now spearheading their corporate sustainability initiatives and their integration in the core of the businesses, AI and its applications can be leveraged in the form of Management Information Systems (MIS) by the corporates. Sustainability can be presented as a business case to the corporates as most of them are already utilizing technologies for their business operations, hence incorporating AI for corporate sustainability initiatives would not require an additional investment. 

AI technologies’ applications in business and decision making can be understood with the help of some common applications of AI. These applications include Neural Networks, Fuzzy Logic Systems, Genetic Algorithms, VR Applications, and Intelligent Agents.

  • Neural Networks: Computing systems are modelled after the brain’s mesh-like network of interconnected processing elements called neurons. The interaction enables the network to learn from the data it processes. Neural networks can be trained to learn and predict information like the human brain through interlinkages of information. 
  • Fuzzy Logic Systems: It refers to the ability of machines to make inferences based on incomplete or ambiguous data fed into it. Companies are using this technology to predict approximate user outcomes (high/low, increase/decrease), etc., and not the absolute or binary results as the information is incomplete.  
  • Genetic Algorithms: Especially, the theory of natural selection of a set of genetic compositions is analyzed to predict the preferred and optimum selection mode. 
  • VR Applications: Numerous business applications including identifying customers’ response to the product or service in a virtual reality scenario to plan out how much to produce as per the market needs, avoiding wasteful production and expenditure. 
  • Intelligent Agents: To serve end-user application by studying routines. It is used by security agencies as well to capture criminals, by analyzing their change in patterns. Ethics in the businesses for its sustainability can be maintained through this. 

The common goal of these systems is to replicate and advance human intelligence using AI and Machine Learning, to leverage them for businesses. Corporate Sustainability can also be achieved through these system applications. For example, AI Systems and Ecosystems of the world can be amalgamated to create VR/Sensory simulations in order to test out the impact of ongoing climate change or other sustainability related issues and what would be the outcome of the corporate’s responses to resolve these issues. These simulation tests would facilitate better decision-making for the corporates, when it comes to choosing the best alternative to tackle sustainability issues, also avoiding wasteful efforts through trial-and-error.

Further, AI also has a wider application on sustainability and ESG reporting and investing. Natural Language Technologies (NLT) in AI refers to the computers’ ability to comprehend the intent behind the written information. AI is used to determine, predict, analyse, and provide indicators for global issues like climate change by linking them with company’s sustainability performances. NLTs can be useful in identifying the discrepancies, if any, between the corporate’s claim and actual performance of sustainability. This information is useful for ESG investors. AI also assists in Impact assessment, Systems thinking, Innovations to solve sustainability issues, and so on.

However, these applications of AI are also coupled with its added risk and cost. Not only would investing in AI initially levy a huge cost on the companies, but it would also come with numerous risks attached. The trade-off between offsetting carbon-emissions of the company through AI innovations, and the AI system itself pulling high-power for its functioning puts corporates in dilemma. The ethical and privacy concerns attached to AI also makes corporates think twice whether the costs of AI outweigh its benefits.

However, it is inevitable for the corporates to not evolve with changes in technologies as it is necessary for business continuity. It will then be a matter of moving forward with incorporation of AI in businesses sustainably and mindfully. As Stephen Hawking said, “AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity.”

About the Author

Muskan is pursuing her MBA in Sustainability Management from TERI School of Advanced Studies, Delhi. She is working with Ek Kadam Aur Foundation for Education and Health as a Global Manager, CSR, and Outreach. She is the recipient of Public Service Award 2021 at the Foundation.

Add a comment & Rating

View Comments