Story | 05/09/2019 06:40:53

Artificial intelligence measures business impact

At the request of UPM, The Upright Project analysed the net impact of the company's operations on the society. In addition to environmental factors, the analysis considered the impact on health, society and the creation and sharing of knowledge. The assessment shows the sum of the positive and negative effects of the company.

The business impact analysis developed by The Upright Project is based on machine learning using data from scientific articles. The analysis is used by investors and companies that want to be more aware of how they affect the world around them.

The assessment shows the sum of the positive and negative effects of the company. “We studied both the impact of UPM's whole operation and of its individual businesses, looking especially at the importance of its products in the everyday life of consumers and the company's significant role in creating jobs,” notes Annu Nieminen, founder and CEO of Upright.

The beginning of the value chain is often well known in companies but Upright also evaluates the effects of a product’s end use.

“For example, labels on food and medicine packaging provide information on the content and use of the product. This later correlates with the positive health effects of the products. Through our analysis, we strive to understand what the positive and negative effects of the value chain are based on,” she says.

For UPM, Upright offers a fresh perspective on impact.

“We have made several impact analyses and tried different approaches, both independently and in collaboration with other experts. This evaluation has expanded our own view of the impact of our products and related services. Of particular interest to us is the emphasis on the importance of end product use and Upright’s use of artificial intelligence,” UPM’s Sami Lundgren, Vice President, Responsibility, explains.

Artificial intelligence as a tool for investors and companies

Upright’s analyses are used by investors, consumers and corporate employees.

“Institutional investors look at the net impact of companies from a purely business-related risk management perspective. They want to know how, for example, legislation on greenhouse gas emissions affects companies. This predicts the company's ability to make a profit in the future,” says Nieminen.

The environmental impact of large-scale companies is significant, but it is also important to take into account what resources are being used.

“It is clear that the environmental impact of industrial large-scale production is higher than in the IT sector, for example. However, a big environmental impact does not equal a negative net impact,” says Nieminen.

Upright’s analyses have only been available for a few years, but the operating model is constantly being improved.

“With the help of artificial intelligence, we have taught our computer to understand causal relationships. Due to constraints on machine computing capacity, this has only been possible these last few years. We want our approach to integrate science into the debate about the impact of businesses. Development is based on interactivity. We try to refine machine learning and improve the model with the feedback we received, so the results of the analysis are constantly refined,” says Nieminen.


Text: Vesa Puoskari