By Stéphane Amarsy,
Chairman of the board of Splio + D-AIM

In response to our current society of overconsumption, marketers can leverage artificial intelligence. However, it must also be used towards the wider goals of sustainable development.

Whether we call it sustainable, responsible or ethical, this approach is all about reconciling marketing and sustainable development. Marketing has played an important role in the development of consumer society. But it often gets negative press, accused of creating new needs just to sell more innovations. And because it fuels the rampant growth of consumption, it contributes to the depletion of resources. Except that, as a tool, marketing is inherently neutral. Like many other business tools, marketing must meet certain objectives and comply with constraints related to finances, consumer needs and impact, to name but a few. For marketing to be more sustainable, those goals must also be sustainable. That is why it’s up to us to change how we use and develop it going forward.


Why change? Because it is an existential threat to humanity and the economy. Consumer satisfaction must come from offering consumers only what they need. We must stop fabricating consumer desires because this has a real impact on the planet. And if we continue to consume, produce and work in this way, the consequences will be irreversible. By adapting to constraints and anticipating the potential risks, we can capitalize on the growth opportunities presented by changing rules and objectives. Many constraints related to sustainable development can be seen as potential risks for businesses. However, it is possible to make sustainability profitable. In this case, the rewards will be well worth the efforts we put in.


Is AI the solution?

The prospects for us humans are not “sustainable” if we project a society in line with today’s business practices, many of which aim to increase consumption. If we continue along this path, our future as a society will be anything but “sustainable.” However, it is also our responsibility to think about finding new ways of escaping this fate. Thanks to new technologies such as artificial intelligence, we now have the tools to optimize individual information and consumption. But have we fully assessed this revolutionary approach? AI has become increasingly powerful with so much available data—for training—and advances in algorithms. But can it be used in a way that incorporates some degree of “human sustainability”?


It is possible, of course, provided we see it as a decision-making system based on sustainable rules, constraints and objectives. And it must be both environmentally and economically sustainable so that changes and innovations take an ethical approach. In practical terms, this should mark the end of excessive customer contact, whereby campaigns target everyone at once in the hopes a few might be interested. Communications—and the offers themselves—must be relevant to each individual consumer. Companies must commit to sustainability as a criterion for measuring value in long-term customer relationships and redesign their offers and business strategies accordingly. Overconsumption, and therefore marketing along with it, must yield to sustainable and responsible consumption. While AI has no conscience, our sustainability depends on this human quality.


It is up to us to decide how AI is used so we can objectively communicate our intentions to individuals, specifically and businesses and governments, more generally. To fully recognize the issues at hand, we must continue to share and explain. This presents a unique opportunity for future generations, as long as we take care of it now.