How can Samsung accelerate sustainable development?

This question is at the heart of ASAP and we’re excited to share what we’ve learned about Samsung, one of the world’s leading tech companies. There is a lot to say about Samsung's sustainability work and the content on this page is a selection made by the ASAP team. The aim is to provide some thoughts and insights into the tech industry, its challenges and opportunities, and to focus on Samsung as a change agent for a sustainable society. In other words, how Samsung can use its leadership in innovation and technology to accelerate sustainable development. Want to learn more? Check out Samsung's own links at the bottom of this page. Enjoy!!

Did you know?

  • Company superpowers: to Innovate and use tech solutions to solve societal challenges!
  • 320,671 employees in Samsung Electronics (500,000 in Samsung Group)
  • Operates worldwide, in 73 countries
  • Gender distribution globally (% women/men) is 44/56 out of total number of employees (2016)
  • CEO Samsung Electronics is Kim Ki Nam
  • Corporate Citizenship & Partnerships Manager Nordics is Elin Wallberg and Sustainability Manager Nordics & Europe is Annachiara Torciano
  • Global smartphone market share was around 20% in 2017
  • In the beginning of 2018 Samsung Electronics took the leading place as company with most U.S. patents: 75,596!

30 EXPONENTIAL STEPS - WHERE WILL WE END UP?

30 linear steps will take you probably some 30 meters away. 30 exponential steps (one, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two...) will take you a billion meters away - 26 times around the globe! The digitalization of our society is exponential and we’re standing on the brink of a 4th Industrial Revolution, fundamentally changing how we live, work and relate to each other. This also means that technology has the potential to accelerate and scale sustainable solutions - exponentially! This revolution is systemic and characterized by technologies that merge and blur the line between digital, physical and biological spheres. The fact that billions of people and things are to be digitally connected provides unprecedented opportunities for individuals and business, accelerated by technological breakthroughs and applications in areas like Artificial intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Virtual Reality (VR) - you name it! These are not just buzzwords, it’s happening right now through the phone in the palm of your hand, in cars, in banks, in society around you. These are exciting innovations in itself, but for Samsung Electronics, one of the stakeholders driving this influential acceleration in the 4th revolution, its more than that. For Samsung, it is all about how technology can inspire the world and create the future. Technology is an enabler for connectivity, speed, increased transparency and traceability, lower costs, resource efficiency, augmented user experiences, increased equality and access. Having access to technology and digital know-how can also mean power. How can current leaders fully leverage technological solutions and an exponential mindset to accelerate sustainability? How do we make sure all groups of society are included in the digital transformation? Can smart algorithms become a threat to human existence? These themes are vital to adress for Samsung Electronics as they work to innovate tech for good and provide access to technology to achieve digital inclusion, in other words, empowering people.

Digitalization and sustainable development has the potential to mutually reinforce each other and that’s why we love having Samsung on board, showing some of their core competence in innovation and application of cutting-edge technology to serve humanity. Take a look at these cool examples of how Samsung accelerates sustainable development!

SAMSUNG ENABLES ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY FOR QUALITY EDUCATION

Samsung’s approach is to provide access to technology to support quality education, and build skills for the digital era. With the Smart School program Samsung works to bridge the IT accessibility gap and provide educationally marginalized groups with new opportunities - world wide! Samsung not only wants to help kids and teachers be skilled users, but also creators. They provide people with tech skills to be used in a future connected and digital society. One example is the partnership with the non-profit organization Lær Kidsa Koding where kids and youth learn to code in 160 coding clubs all over Norway. Back to Sweden and another important fact: the government has set an ambitious goal to be the best in the world in leveraging on the potential of digitalization!

Question is: how is digitalisation going to best support education in complex setting like learning environments? As we continue to gain knowledge much is yet to be researched. Samsung wanted to get new insights and initiated a three year research project in 2015, The Possibilities with digital learning (Digitala lärandets möjligheter), in collaboration with ATEA Sweden (IT consulting and solutions) and Gleerups (teaching material) and a academic research team. And the results? Check out the upcoming blogpost!

SAMSUNG ENABLES SMARTER HEALTHCARE SOLUTIONS

Samsung is most known for its smartphones, smart watches and TVs but also makes solutions that are being used in healthcare. But have you ever thought about how wearable technology can support health and safety for elderly? Or that VR glasses has the revolutionary power to put yourself in someone else's shoes or in a potential future scenario, and can be used for treating spider phobia through exposure therapy, as the technology stimulates the human brain in a unique way and creates real memories and emotions. As we continue to grow older we need to rethink healthcare, not just to treat illness but to stay healthy longer. Fall accidents causes about 1,000 deaths, close to 70,000 hospitalizations and far more other care visits every year in Sweden. A smartwatch or IoT-solutions in a connected home, are two possible ways to enable people to age safely in their homes, by facilitating preventative care and safety through seamless health monitoring and automatic fall detection by the use sensors. A smartwatch may also reduce the stigmatic feeling of wearing a medical device. The Swedish innovation the ADHD-box is another example. The user step into a black box where digital hardware and software make the user experience the everyday life of a person living with ADHD, illustrating in a unique and moving way the challenges they face.

SAMSUNG ENABLES TECH INNOVATIONS

If digitalization and technological development in the world is exponential, how does a company in this industry secure it’s capacity for continuous innovation and leadership? In the case of Samsung, it’s all about dedicated work to foster a true culture of innovation. Internally, this means for example to hire people with the right skills and provide dedicated space for innovation to happen. Samsung employs about 70 000 people (!) within R&D today and in the beginning of 2018 Samsung Electronics took the leading place with most U.S. patents: 75,596! Samsung’s internal innovation and venture incubation program, C-lab (Creative Lab), is a great example of how companies, despite size, can build a true culture of “intrapreneurship”. C-lab brings together a diverse group of employees to nurture creative businesses, solving societal problems that will hopefully - spin of. Externally it’s all about building partnerships with actors across different sectors, that complement Samsung’s skills and resources. The Possibilities with digital learning and the ADHD-box are both products of powerful cross-sector partnerships, which is a key component to achieve sustainable solutions.

What about responsible business?

Samsung Electronics sells solutions and devices all over the world - their 320,000 employees and 2,500 suppliers are globally dispersed. There is no doubt that Samsung has an impact on society both locally and globally - and thus an obligation to operate responsibly and do things right. In this text we will not delve into Samsungs extensive work in the area of responsible business, such as renewable energy, production, circular economy and equality. This does not mean that it’s not important or that Samsung is perfect in every way, but for the purpose of this text we’ve chosen to leave it out. But hey, at the bottom of this page you can see our favorite tips for further reading!

WILL TECH SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS?

Given the exponential tech development, how do you picture life 100 years from now? You don’t have all the details, but technological progress is probably a prominent feature of your forecast. As one of the world’s leading tech companies Samsung has an important role in creating this future. This include the willingness and capacity to navigate new ethical challenges like discriminatory algorithms in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and promote healthy use of technologies.

Samsung’s approach is to work glocally and in partnerships to make sure that their technology is used in a way to serve humanity and the local community. AI is everywhere today - in research labs, on the news, in government spending and strategies, in venture capitalists’ portfolios. Machine learning is the fastest developing application of AI, based around the idea that we give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves to perform important tasks. In order to strengthen AI capabilities, Samsung will establish three new AI centers and expand its number of advanced AI researchers to a total of about 1,000 globally by 2020.

As a recent report from World Economic Forum points out, there is huge potential for the tech industry, including Samsung in “Earth Friendly AI” to transform traditional sectors and systems to address climate change. This could help create food and water security, build sustainable cities, protect biodiversity, increase health and well-being. In India, Samsung is doing this - collaborating with other actors to develop an AI tool which could help visually impaired navigate in their surroundings. But, A.I. software is only as smart as the data used to train it and A.I will always reflect the values of the creators - humans. Take the example of face recognition software, a widely used application of machine learning, where computers learn by being fed certain images and build a view of the world based on those. According to a new study, facial recognition software is right 99 percent of the time if you’re a white male. But with darker skin, there are more errors - up to 35% for darker skinned women. Thus, there is an increasing discussion in the industry and in society about ethics and equality connected to AI. Inclusivity and diversity matters - from the designer and engineer, to the company values and the board of directors, otherwise there is a risk to reproduce old biases and stereotypes as well as a missed opportunity to innovate products and solutions for everyone. What do you think Samsung’s focus should be?