Skip to main content

Good for Business, Good for the World

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative force offering unprecedented opportunities for innovation and growth. Many executives are aware of the immense value AI holds as a key to future business success. In fact, nearly 50% of executives believe failure to implement AI will adversely affect their bottom line in the years to come.

But there is more to it than simply activating the AI market. It is equally important to realize the value of synergizing AI with sustainability for effective business solutions. Beyond its technical strengths, AI’s true benefits arise in the potential to create business opportunities while also addressing societal challenges. We refer to this synergy between tech and sustainability as AI for Good.

More specifically, AI for Good creates positive impact on both business and the world. When applied with this dual purpose, AI unlocks new business models and market opportunities. AI for Good is Good Business. Let’s take a closer look at how this synergistic alliance is evolving.


AI for Good as a Sustainable Business Opportunity

Recent studies show that AI for Good applications across agriculture, energy, transport, and water could conservatively contribute up to $5.2 trillion to the global economy in 2030, a 4.4% increase relative to business as usual. At the same time, these estimates indicate reduced global greenhouse gas emissions by 4%, an amount equivalent to 2.4 Gt CO2e. This, for reference, is equal to the projected 2030 annual emissions of Australia, Canada, and Japan combined!

From agriculture and energy to transport and water, AI holds the promise of creating significant positive economic and environmental impact. Even in a social context such as education, AI-powered personalized learning platforms help by catering to individual student needs. This both improves educational outcomes and addresses disparities in access to quality instruction. The well-known online learning platform Coursera, for example, has AI-produced granular information for effective learning. Owing to the big data analysis system Coursera offers, the graduation rates of low-income and first-generation college students have risen by 30% and warning signs have been identified before dropout to allow targeted interventions.

In the realm of security and safety, AI-enabled surveillance systems enhance public safety measures which reduce crime rates and elevate community well-being. Companies are successfully using AI-enabled cameras to watch for crime. Hikvision, a Chinese security camera producer, creates cameras able to run deep neural networks. Achieving 99% accuracy with their advanced visual analytics applications, Hikvision’s camera has advanced capabilities to better scan for license plates on cars, run facial recognition to search databases for potential criminals, and automatically detect suspicious anomalies like unattended bags in crowded venues. Not only does this AI tech company keep cities safer, but it also notches high market growth.

Similarly, in food and agriculture, AI-driven innovations optimize farming practices, increase crop yields, and ensure food security, which cumulatively addresses global challenges such as hunger and malnutrition. As a major influencer in this important endeavor, Microsoft recognizes that farmers will need to increase food production by about 70% to feed the growing population. The tech giant has partnered with the nonprofit International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics to enable farmers to increase yields by 30% using AI. This sowing seed application they developed draws on climate data and weather information while using sophisticated forecasting models powered by Azure AI to determine the optimal time to plant, the ideal sowing depth, and how much manure to apply to the soil. Information is then easily shared with rural farmers through text messaging technologies on a basic feature phone.


AI in the Business Toolkit

AI has the potential to create new business cases and optimize existing ones by driving innovation and efficiency. For instance, AI-powered predictive maintenance systems can help reduce energy and water usage, which leads to cost savings and environmental benefits. An interesting case to consider is disseminating power capabilities in Nigeria, where Renewable Africa 365 and Omdena have developed grid coverage analyses and machine learning heat maps to identify sites that are most suitable for solar panel installation. This is an exciting endeavor in a collaborative business toolkit, as AI’s contribution in this pursuit could bring renewable energy to 100 million peopleliving in communities lacking access to the national grid.

In the retail sector, AI-driven recommendation engines enhance customer experiences while augmenting sales and revenue growth. Imagine AI’s reach in this regard – it enables businesses to develop personalized marketing strategies, target specific consumer segments, and pinpoint pricing strategies, thereby maximizing profitability while minimizing waste and resource consumption. Major tech players like IBM are heavily investing in AI as part of their supply chain management toolkit to help automate the transformation of natural resources and raw materials. IBM is optimizing production through turning over inventory management and supply chain decisions to AI-based apps. This tech solution sees a $50 billion market that will allow companies to free up workforce talent to engage in other tasks, thus enabling global businesses to digitally transform their supply chains.

AI is not a standalone technology, but rather a critical component of a broader technological 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) toolkit that is driving innovation. By combining AI with other emerging 4IR technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and cloud computing, businesses can unlock new market opportunities and develop innovative solutions. For instance, in the healthcare sector, AI-powered diagnostic tools integrated with IoT sensors enable remote monitoring and personalized healthcare delivery. This works to improve patient outcomes while at the same time reduce overall healthcare costs. Healthcare solutions encompass AI-enabled 4IR wearable devices for detecting potential rudimentary signs of diabetes through heart rate sensor data with 85% accuracy. If made sufficiently affordable, the scope of putting AI in this business toolkit goes beyond mere sustainability goals and helps more than 400 million people afflicted by the disease worldwide.

Taking AI for Good a step further for the business toolkit, generative AI is now capable of producing content on a par with humans by learning to identify patterns, structures, and features in the vast amount of data it has been trained on. Large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s ChatGPT are one of the primary generative AI examples. But with the emergence of regenerative AI, the potential applications of AI in business go far beyond text generation. Regenerative AI is focused on developing intelligent systems that can adapt and evolve, much like living organisms. It holds immense potential to transform business processes across various industries. With the capacity to be utilized in numerous ways to drive efficiency, innovation, and growth, regenerative AI introduces the game-changing aspect of predictive analytics that will enhance business toolkits to the nth degree. Although this technology is in the nascent stages, and the era is just beginning, imagine generating accurate forecasts by analyzing vast amounts of data that enable companies to make informed decisions and optimize their operations. For context, generative and regenerative AI’s impact on productivity could add trillions of dollars in value to the global economy.

Applying AI for Good represents a win-win scenario for businesses and society at large. By leveraging AI to enhance business models, tap into new market opportunities, and create innovative solutions, companies can drive profitability while contributing to the greater good. As businesses navigate the 4IR, embracing AI for Good will be essential in shaping a more sustainable and prosperous future for all. With AI firmly embedded in their toolkits, businesses will create value for themselves, their stakeholders, and society as a whole.


AI for Good is Good Business

In the realm of business, the convergence of AI and social responsibility presents a remarkable opportunity for companies to drive both profitability and sustainability. As we explore AI’s potential, it becomes evident that focusing solely on technicalities is insufficient. Rather, businesses must transcend technical discussions and actively seek methods to apply AI in ways that synergize with sustainability objectives. While highlighting the imperative of bridging technological advancements together with societal welfare, let’s embrace AI for Good as representing a significant business opportunity.

In today’s interconnected world, businesses face increasing pressure to combine financial returns with their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. This paradigm shift underscores the importance of integrating AI into business operations in ways that align with sustainability goals. By leveraging AI to develop innovative solutions that address pressing social and environmental issues, companies can create value that extends beyond traditional profit metrics. Whether it’s using AI-powered predictive analytics to optimize supply chains and reduce waste or deploying AI-driven healthcare technologies to improve patient outcomes, the possibilities are vast.

The growing consumer demand for ethically sourced products and environmentally sustainable practices presents a compelling business case for embracing AI for Good. Companies that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility are increasingly viewed favorably by consumers, as enhanced brand reputation leads to 88% more loyalty to a company that supports social or environmental issues. By integrating AI into their operations in ways that promote sustainability and social welfare, businesses will not only attract a broader customer base but also differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

AI for Good offers businesses a means to future-proof their operations and remain competitive in an ever-evolving landscape. Furthermore, AI for Good represents a compelling business opportunity that transcends traditional notions of profit and growth. As technological advancements continue to reshape industries, companies that fail to adapt risk being left behind. By embracing AI and leveraging its capabilities to drive positive societal impact, businesses will stay ahead of the curve and set themselves up for long-term success.

AI for Good is Good Business.


This article is based on Marga Hoek’s new book, Tech for Good: Imagine Solving the World’s Greatest Challenges, published by Routledge November 2023. The trailblazing business book was recently awarded the gold medal by Axiom Business Book Awards March 2024.