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ESG and Artificial Intelligence: Where are we and where do we go from here?

I had the pleasure of being on a (remote) panel at the Sustainable Tech Insight Talk hosted by HUB Brussels last month with Alycia de Mesa. Centered on the future of sustainability, the experience highlighted a few trends and issues driven at a larger societal level:

ESG reporting is getting more urgent

ESG and impact reporting is a new data set for our species. Yet the scale of the problem is exacerbated by climate change and wealth disparity (vaccines). We’re also seeing the importance of ESG in ensuring geopolitical stability – the war in Ukraine has highlighted the risk of relying on an increasingly repressive regime.

But measuring and reporting on ESG remains challenging

We are still fighting with very fundamental questions around ESG such as what to measure, how to measure, and how to communicate ESG and impact. So the challenge is how to truly operationalize more ESG strategies in a fundamentally siloed and chaotic space.

We need to lean far more heavily into technology to solve these issues

This is where AI can come in. Firstly, we can use Knowledge Representation, a substream of AI to create data in a format that machines can understand. And once we make ESG data understandable to machines, this now opens up a whole new world where the fractured nature of ESG data starts to be improved.

What are the future opportunities within impact and ESG reporting?

It’s both a risk and an opportunity, and right now there’s a confusion about the proportions and the content of either.

There are many CEOs and leaders out there who see ESG only as a way to get capital into the door, or to fend off issues around the social contract to operate. It’s absolutely true that these realities are there, but they are not the only reasons.

Ultimately, ESG is about how humans can continue to exist on this planet, with each other and our physical environment. With climate change, this is an existential issue, and this is what is ultimately driving the urgency around ESG.

That reality drives everything else, and so, of course, each company needs to make a strategic decision on how to engage with ESG either on the risk side or the opportunity side, or most likely, a bit of both, but that strategy needs to start from an understanding of the urgency and impatience driving these changes. ESG will remain dynamic and chaotic until we come to a steady, sustainable state for humanity and the planet as a whole because until that happens, the whole market is going to be in problem solving mode, trying different things and different ways to measure and report. Companies need to plan for this chaos and ensure their ESG and impact reporting is flexible to this changing environment.

Watch the shortened 8-min clip below:

Or watch the full video of the panel here.

Anshula Chowdhury (She/Her)

Anshula Chowdhury (She/Her)

As Founder & CEO of SAMETRICA, Anshula brings 10+ years of experience in non-profit, private, and public sectors. A recognized expert in impact metrics, she is passionate about using social impact to drive business profitability.

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