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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Ed. note: This is part 1 of a series of articles on our experiences using AI platform chatGPT to write and answer questions about ESG and fraud topics.

With so much information about ESG available, so many reporting frameworks, definitions, ratings methodologies and stakeholders, someone will turn (or perhaps already has) to the new AI platform chatGPT to help with ESG challenges. The potential uses of AI and chatGTP are myriad. It could be a game changer, a Pandora’s box or even just an empty box. Inspired by the Deltas of Faber College, I took on the challenge of figuring out which it may be for ESG.

Guided by our in-house computer guru Chris Ortega, I tried several experiments with chatGPT that reflected potential real-world ESG uses, then threw in a couple curve balls. Today is the first installment about what we learned.

Writing a Blog

For our first test, we told chatGPT to “write a blog on ESG in the manner of Lawrence Heim.” Here is what was produced – completely unedited by us:

“ESG, or Environmental, Social, and Governance, is a growing area of focus for investors and companies alike. While the concept of considering these non-financial factors in investment decisions is not new, the increased attention on ESG in recent years has led to a significant shift in the way we think about investing.

One of the key drivers of this shift is the growing awareness of the impact of environmental and social issues on the long-term sustainability of companies and economies. Climate change, for example, poses a significant risk to many industries, and companies that are not taking steps to address this risk may see their valuations suffer in the long run. Similarly, companies that are not addressing issues related to social justice and equality may also face negative consequences, both financially and in terms of their reputation.

In response to these concerns, many investors are now incorporating ESG considerations into their investment strategies. This can include actively seeking out companies that have strong ESG profiles, or avoiding companies that have poor ESG performance. Additionally, some investors are using their influence as shareholders to push for improved ESG practices at the companies in which they invest.

Companies, too, are increasingly recognizing the importance of ESG considerations. Many are now publishing detailed ESG reports, outlining their performance in areas such as carbon emissions, labor practices, and governance. Additionally, many companies are now setting ESG-related goals and targets, such as reducing their carbon footprint or increasing the diversity of their workforce.

Overall, the growing focus on ESG is a positive development, as it encourages companies to take a more long-term, sustainable approach to their operations. Additionally, by incorporating ESG considerations into investment strategies, investors can help ensure that their money is being invested in companies that are working to make a positive impact on the world.

In addition to the benefits for companies and investors, the increased focus on ESG is also beneficial for society as a whole. By encouraging companies to take a more sustainable approach, we can help to mitigate the negative impact of climate change, promote greater social justice, and ensure that companies are operating in a manner that is consistent with the values of society.

However, it is important to note that the ESG movement is still in its early stages, and there are still many challenges to overcome. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of standardization in terms of how companies report on their ESG performance. Without clear, consistent metrics and reporting standards, it can be difficult for investors to accurately assess a company’s ESG performance.

Another challenge is the potential for ‘greenwashing,’ where companies make claims about their ESG performance that are not supported by the facts. To address this issue, it is important for investors to thoroughly research the companies in which they invest, and to be wary of companies that make overly broad or vague claims about their ESG performance.

Despite these challenges, the ESG movement is gaining momentum, and it is clear that the trend towards greater consideration of environmental, social, and governance factors in investment decisions is here to stay. As investors, we have the opportunity to play a key role in shaping the future of the companies in which we invest, and in creating a more sustainable and equitable world for future generations.”

Not bad – maybe even a little creepy in its similarity to my writing style. However, there is a noticeable amount of repetition in certain words. Also, the app repeats ideas/concepts when it produces longer pieces (I’ll demonstrate more of that in another installment). Most of you will notice this is a rather generic article. To be fair, that is my fault (to an extent) because I didn’t give the app any instruction on the level of detail to provide. Chris explained that adding the phrase “be specific” to my command results in more detailed output. I followed this advice for subsequent commands.

I’ve been told that the current version of the app doesn’t connect to Google and according to Insider: “The bot’s history only goes as far as 2021, so it doesn’t have access to real-time markets data or news of current affairs.” My next tests challenge that statement, however.

Copying a Blog, Part 1

I told chatGPT to write a blog in my style about “What Companies Can Learn from a Bartender’s Views on ESG,” the title of an article I wrote two weeks ago. My goal was to see how much it copied the original content and how it deals with information that was supposed to be too new for it to know about/process. I was also curious to see how the bot deals with the unique start of that article, which then pivots to the main idea of making ESG predictions for 2023.

The result was contrived, confusing and perhaps slightly amusing:

“As a bartender, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and interact with a wide variety of people and companies. Through these experiences, I’ve come to realize that there are several important lessons that companies can learn from a bartender’s views on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues.

First and foremost, companies should prioritize transparency and open communication when it comes to their ESG efforts. Just like a bartender must be transparent about ingredients and drink recipes, companies should be transparent about their environmental impact and social responsibility initiatives. This allows customers, investors, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions about their interactions with the company.

Additionally, companies should strive to be responsible and accountable for their actions. A bartender must take responsibility for ensuring that their customers have a safe and enjoyable experience, and similarly, companies should take responsibility for their impact on the environment and society. This includes not only reducing negative impacts, but also actively working to create positive change.

Another important lesson is the importance of adaptability and innovation. A good bartender is always experimenting with new ingredients and techniques to create unique and exciting drinks, and companies should similarly be open to experimenting with new technologies and business models that can help them reduce their environmental footprint and improve their social impact.

Finally, companies should strive to foster a sense of community and inclusion. Just as a bartender creates a welcoming environment for customers, companies should create a culture that values and supports diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and in their interactions with customers and other stakeholders.

Overall, by prioritizing transparency, responsibility, innovation, and community, companies can learn valuable lessons from a bartender’s views on ESG and improve their environmental and social impact.”

In this instance, the app didn’t seem to know about my original article and the output is less authentic in style than the bot’s first attempt. Feeling unsatisfied, I pushed onward.

Copying a Blog, Part 2

Next, I asked it to write a “blog in the style of Lawrence Heim about ESG predictions that didn’t come through so no more predictions will be made” – the actual theme of the same January 10, 2023 blog tested above. This time, the results were more interesting:

“ESG predictions have been all the rage in recent years, with many experts and analysts claiming to have a crystal ball that can predict the future of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) trends. However, as we have seen, many of these predictions have not come to fruition. In light of this, I have decided to retire from making ESG predictions altogether.

One of the biggest ESG predictions that did not come to pass was that of the imminent demise of fossil fuels. Many experts predicted that renewable energy sources would quickly overtake fossil fuels as the dominant source of energy. However, while renewable energy has certainly made progress, fossil fuels continue to be a major player in the energy market.

Another prediction that did not materialize was that of a widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). While the number of EVs on the road has been increasing, it has not yet reached the levels that many experts predicted. The infrastructure, including charging stations and battery production, is still lagging behind the growth of EVs

Similarly, predictions of a rapid transition to sustainable agriculture and food production have also been slow to come to fruition. Despite increased awareness of the environmental and social impacts of industrial agriculture, many farmers and food producers continue to rely on traditional methods.

In light of these failed predictions, I have decided to stop making ESG predictions altogether. The future is inherently uncertain, and trying to predict it can be a futile endeavor. Instead, I will focus on providing insights and analysis on the current state of ESG trends, and highlighting ways in which individuals and organizations can take action to address these issues.

As the world continues to change, it is important for us to stay informed and adapt to new circumstances. But let’s leave the crystal ball gazing to the fortune tellers.”

There is repetition in the writing as I mentioned earlier. What really stands out to me is the striking similarity between the penultimate paragraph here and my original. That raises plagiarism questions (as many others already have) and implies that chatGTP accessed and processed information that is new.

Here is a related interesting twist: I asked chatGPT about what it knows about me and it drew a complete blank. Oddly, it produces reasonable facsimiles of my writing style – to the point of almost copying certain text from one of my articles – but it can’t produce any information about me.

The question of reliable, valid and credible information sources have been added to my list of potential concerns.

The next in this series continues with more article writing in the style of others, and we throw it a technical topic.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile