Stuart Brown
Kreston Global ESG Committee member, Head of Technical and Compliance at Duncan & Toplis

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Duncan & Toplis

Stuart is an FCA-qualified chartered accountant with more than ten years of practical accounting and audit experience.

He leads the technical developments for Duncan & Toplis. This covers audit, financial reporting and maintaining the quality of work.

He has recently been appointed to Duncan & Toplis’ operations board and has become a member of the ICAEW’s influential Ethics Advisory Committee. Stuart also sits on the Kreston Global ESG Committee.

Artificial Intelligence and its Role in ESG

May 19, 2023

Sector: ESG, Technology, Media & Telecom

As Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues continue to gain importance in the business world, many companies are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to help them address these complex and multifaceted challenges.

AI can play a critical role in ESG initiatives by helping companies analyse vast amounts of data, identify patterns and trends, and make more informed decisions about reducing their environmental impact, improving social outcomes, and enhancing corporate governance. Here are a few examples of how AI is being used in ESG initiatives:

Environmental: AI can be used to analyse satellite imagery and other data sources to track deforestation, identify pollution sources and monitor climate change’s impact on ecosystems. This information can help companies better understand their environmental impact and develop strategies for reducing their carbon footprint and other environmental harm. AI can also support gathering internal energy and carbon usage data to assist with reporting within financial statements and other publications.

Social: AI can analyse social media and other online data sources to monitor public sentiment and identify emerging social issues that may be relevant to a company’s business. This information can help companies to be more proactive in addressing social issues and improving their social outcomes. AI can also provide efficiencies in the day-to-day operation of businesses freeing up employees’ time to focus on other initiatives.

Governance: AI can analyse financial data and other information to identify potential risks and conflicts of interest that may impact a company’s governance practices. This information can help companies to strengthen their internal controls, improve transparency, and enhance their overall governance structure.

However, it is important to note that AI is not a panacea for ESG issues. While AI can provide valuable insights and help to automate specific tasks, it is not a substitute for human judgment and decision-making. Instead, companies must still ensure that they have strong governance structures, including robust policies and procedures, to ensure that their ESG initiatives are effective and aligned with their overall business objectives.

Moreover, there are also ethical concerns associated with the use of AI in ESG initiatives. For example, AI algorithms may inadvertently perpetuate bias or discrimination if not designed and implemented responsibly and ethically. Therefore, it is important for companies to be transparent about their use of AI and to ensure that their AI initiatives are consistent with their ethical and social responsibilities.

In conclusion, AI has the potential to play a valuable role in ESG initiatives by helping companies to understand better and address complex environmental, social, and governance challenges. However, it is important for companies to approach AI cautiously and ensure that their use of AI is aligned with their ethical and social responsibilities. Ultimately, the success of ESG initiatives will depend on integrating human judgment and decision-making with the insights and efficiencies that AI can provide.