The potential benefits of AI come with risks that have not yet been fully explored, let alone understood. The technology is increasingly shaping our lives, from simple predictive text to more advanced applications such as self-driving cars and weather pattern analysis. Yet its potential adverse impacts in areas such as surveillance or racial profiling are often overlooked.
As a three-year engagement program on the ‘Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence’ closes, Daniëlle Essink reflects on how AI use is being adopted by the ten companies that were under engagement, with an update on the latest regulatory trends and best practices.
Gaming is another area that can give great pleasure and concern in equal measure. The use of consoles grew rapidly as a means of having fun during the lockdowns. But it also brought increases in online abuse, addiction and working practice problems within the industry itself.
In an update on our ongoing ‘Social Impact of Gaming’ engagements, Alexandra Mortimer takes a critical look at the gaming industry both on and behind the screen. The engagement program has already provided interesting results, from growing transparency on labor practices and active encouragements of responsible gaming behavior to stringent complaint mechanisms.
A diverse approach to biodiversity
Protecting biodiversity is now being treated with the same seriousness as tackling climate change; indeed, they are essentially two sides of the same coin. As decision makers from across the world came together in Montreal in December for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference, Claire Ahlborn reflects on Robeco’s multi-layered approach to the issue.
This includes using shareholder rights to protect biodiversity; engaging with companies and governments; collaborations with data providers to improve biodiversity data, and on the investment side, the launch of the RobecoSAM Biodiversity Equities strategy. We also report on the soft launch of the Nature Action 100 engagement collaboration, in which we take an active role.
Governance and trends
Another long-term project concerns Robeco’s efforts to improve corporate governance in Asia. Ronnie Lim shares key updates on his engagement with Japanese policy makers and companies to reduce capital inefficiencies, increase board diversity and improve corporate disclosures.
Finally, Diana Trif and Manuel Sobral reflect on some of 2022’s key trends in active ownership, from the growing shareholder activism in Australia, to the critical topic of anti-ESG shareholder proposals seen in the US, the motivations behind them, and how to spot these misleading agenda items.
Tackling the risks
“The opportunities present in AI are often described as ‘endless’, though technology’s growing and often unregulated presence in our lives brings along numerous social risks, ranging from systematic discrimination to surveillance and privacy concerns,” says Carola van Lamoen, Head of Sustainable Investing at Robeco.
“For three years, we have supported technology companies in creating holistically responsible AI frameworks to govern their technological development, deployment and end use. We successfully closed 40% of the engagements, with many of the companies having formalized responsible AI principles.”
“Staying on the topic of technology, looking both on and behind the screen, we reflect on the progress observed so far in our ‘Social Impact of Gaming’ engagement. Over the last two years, gaming companies have taken significant steps to address in-game harassment of players, ranging from AI-driven text filtering to extensive feedback loops.”
Urgent multi-lateral action
“Meanwhile, stakeholders from across the world came together at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference to find ways to halt biodiversity loss and to address the associated environmental, social and economic harms. Eliminating biodiversity loss requires urgent multilateral action, from governments, companies and investors.”
“In our update, we share the various ways in which Robeco addresses biodiversity loss and deforestation, through our engagement with the Brazilian and Indonesian governments that aim to strengthen no-deforestation laws, to our newly launched proxy voting policy targeting agricultural companies that are not living up to their environmental responsibilities.”
Playing our part
“Finally, we shift our focus to Asia, where we continue to engage policy makers and companies on key gaps in their corporate governance, including the low rate of female board representation and the systematic challenges around companies’ annual disclosures.”
“As we move into a new year, we reflect on the promises made by companies and governments towards safeguarding our planet, and are ready to play our part in moving towards a more sustainable future.”