Sustainability

Yes, I’m Feeling Bad About Climate Change. Let’s Discuss.

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How do we talk about the state of our planet when the news is so scary? And how do we have those discussions with the people we love, when our instincts are to protect them from nightmares? It helps to break the conversation into three distinct questions: What do we really know about climate change? Why am I worried and feel it’s so serious? And how do I — and all of us — cope with that knowledge and move forward?

What Does an AI Ethicist Do?

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Microsoft has been active in advocating for an ethical perspective on artificial intelligence, and in 2018 it appointed its first general manager for AI policy and ethics. Tim O’Brien, who had been with the company for 15 years, says his activities as “AI ethics advocate” include extending the community of people who are focused on the ethics topic, meeting with Microsoft customers, and leading a research effort to develop a global perspective on tech ethics.

AI Can Help Us Live More Deliberately

AI spares us from many mundane, time-consuming, nerve-wracking annoyances. The problem is, such annoyances play a key adaptive function by helping us learn to adjust our conduct in relation to the world around us. But AI designers can tackle that problem through system enhancements. By incorporating cognitive speed bumps, they can prompt users to engage in reflective thought rather than “outsourcing” cognitive, emotional, and ethical labor to software.

The World in 2030: Nine Megatrends to Watch

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Nine fast-moving megatrends are shaping where our world will be in 11 years. From demographics to urbanization to the big one — climate change — and more, the directions we’re heading and choices we make in the next decade will have enormous impacts on our careers, businesses, and lives.

Talking About Sustainability Can Drive Sales: Lessons From a Casino Giant

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Do consumers care enough about companies’ environmental and social practices to give them more business? Caesars Entertainment tested the question at one of its hotels, where one group of customers was told about its green efforts and the other group was told nothing. The casino company got encouraging results: The group who got the message spent 1.5% more. That group also recommended the hotel more enthusiastically.

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Digitizing Products for Sustainability’s Sake

Digitization opens opportunities for the world’s sustainability challenges, but it also transforms industries, holding out the possibility of dramatically improving their social and environmental performance. To capitalize on this development, an emerging area of opportunity is the digitization of physical products and production.

Every Leader’s Guide to the Ethics of AI

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As artificial intelligence-enabled products and services enter our everyday lives, there’s a big gap between how AI can be used and how it should be used. A 2018 Deloitte survey of AI-aware executives found that 32% ranked ethical issues as one of the top three risks of AI, but most companies don’t yet have specific approaches to grapple with the challenges. Here, we list the seven actions that leaders of AI-oriented companies — regardless of their industry — should consider taking.

Driving Sustainability-Oriented Innovation

Faced with mounting challenges and pressure from governments, nongovernmental organizations, investors, and employees to be more aware of the environmental and social impacts of business activities, many companies are attempting to tap into the creativity and entrepreneurial potential of their employees, encouraging them to develop new products, services, or business models that create value for both the company and society.

Amazon Raised Its Minimum Wage — Will Its Rivals Do the Same?

Each month, the MIT SMR Strategy Forum poses a single question to our panel of experts in the fields of business, economics, and management. This month’s question asks our panel whether Amazon, by raising the minimum wage for its U.S. workers to $15 per hour, will influence other companies to do the same.

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Critical Questions Live: Is It Up to Business to Save the Planet?

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In this video, Andrew Winston, sustainability expert and author, and MIT professor Yossi Sheffi, director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, debate the role of for-profit businesses in supporting — and investing in — sustainability goals. The session was moderated by Paul Michelman, editor in chief of MIT Sloan Management Review.

Finding Good News for Human Rights After Khashoggi

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The room to maneuver on business and human rights has significantly expanded with the exposure of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal death. Companies must take advantage of this moment to prioritize human rights. Now is the time for business leaders and company boards to get on the right side of history — or risk becoming complicit.

There’s Always a Time Lag (With a Price Tag)

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Technology changes faster than society can keep up, a pattern now playing out with artificial intelligence. Many CEOs are taking a wait-and-see approach to AI, while others are anxious to barrel forward. In both cases, there’s little conversation about AI’s human costs. Incremental adaption makes it more likely that AI algorithms shared across organizations and geography are spreading their shortcomings. Leaders must act to mitigate these challenges if AI is to benefit society.

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Explaining the Business Case for Sustainability Again … and Again … and Again

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The question “What’s the business case for sustainability?” has come roaring back over the last couple of years. It’s led, in part, by more intense investor focus on the issue: Financial execs are having to become more fluent in sustainability as investors grill them about how their companies are handling climate risks around supply chains and shifting regulatory landscapes and markets.

The High Cost of the Actions We Don’t Take

We can choose not to engage in improving the world. We can seize on every advantage available to us and our companies without thought to the consequences. We can act as if the planet and the global economy are not among our most critical stakeholders. We can join the crush of others who are just hoping to play out the string: keep our heads down, meet our numbers, collect our bonuses, and abdicate long-term responsibility to the next generation. But when we make those choices, we do violence against the future.

Building an Ethically Strong Organization

Unethical behavior and misconduct has been a persistent problem in the business world. A company’s ethical norms are a cumulative outcome of how daily ethical dilemmas are addressed in the workplace. Over time, these micro-level issues can evolve into a corporate ethics scandal — unless organizations work to help employees make ethical choices day to day.

Business, Technology, and Ethics: The Need for Better Conversations

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The fusion of business, technology, and ethics is unfolding at a rate that appears to outstrip our ability as citizens to have meaningful and careful conversations about the effects of our actions on others. At the same time, the civic processes that should encourage innovative solutions to new problems appear to be broken. What we need is a commitment to honestly talk about the challenges technology now poses.

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