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Harnessing the Power of GenAI to Promote Sustainability

Climate change is perhaps the greatest global challenge that we currently face. But tackling the interrelated issues of global heating, dwindling resources, and environmental degradation is a hugely complex task. However, help may be at hand – in the form of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI).

Thanks to GenAI’s ability to rapidly analyze vast quantities of data, detect patterns, and use these to generate new content, the tech holds considerable promise when it comes to addressing climate change and related problems. Recent research by IBM found that 61% of executives now consider GenAI to be an important part of their sustainability strategy. And 69% of organizations say that they intend to increase their investment in GenAI to promote sustainability.

Key Drivers of Corporate Sustainability Initiatives

The most compelling reason to adopt sustainable business practices is the far-reaching consequences of climate change for us and the generations to come. But there are also other drivers behind companies’ sustainability endeavors.

Steadily growing regulatory pressure to operate more sustainably means that organizations must comply with current and future regulations or risk serious legal and reputational consequences. And this means that they must be able to adapt continuously if they’re to keep pace with constantly changing requirements.

Sustainably Delivering Value and Cutting Costs

But it’s not just rules and regulations that are motivating companies to embrace sustainability. Another powerful incentive is the economic potential of adopting such an approach. By tapping new business opportunities created by sustainability, organizations can ensure long-term value-creation.

Finally, adopting sustainable practices can significantly reduce companies’ costs. Greater sustainability goes hand in hand with operational efficiencies, resource optimization, and waste reduction – yielding major cost-savings over time.

GenAI: Cutting-Edge Support for Sustainability Initiatives

So, how can GenAI help organizations ensure regulatory compliance and reap the business benefits of greater sustainability? When it comes to complying with the latest regulations, GenAI can be programmed to continuously scan sources ranging from official legal texts to industry news and publications from relevant regulatory authorities. The tech can then rapidly alert companies to important updates and propose suitable action.

On the business side, GenAI can help companies more accurately gauge future demand and plan accordingly. For example, the tech can analyze historical sales data, market trends, and other relevant factors to deliver better predictions. This enables businesses to optimize production by aligning it with expected demand, reduce overstock, and cut waste to a minimum.

Energy efficiency is another area where GenAI can fuel sustainability. The tech helps identify areas with potential for energy savings by pinpointing overlooked opportunities and refining energy assessments. In this way, it helps achieve sustainability objectives by optimizing energy use.

But GenAI Also Generates Emissions, Right?

While GenAI offers a wealth of opportunities, it also has one potentially serious drawback: The tech can consume vast amounts of energy, generating high carbon emissions. Training the model and performing inference – in other words, deriving results from new input – are particularly energy-intensive tasks.

Compact GenAI models are one way of reining in energy consumption. Improved architectures have given rise to models that need far less compute power, reducing emissions and costs. Another solution involves adapting pretrained models. Here, instead of training a new generative model from scratch, you take an existing one and use your own data to tailor it to your needs.

Adding High Tech and Renewables to the Mix

Leveraging cutting-edge quantum computing can enable AI systems to perform some complex calculations faster using just a fraction of the energy needed by traditional computational techniques.

Additionally, you should consider where your cloud provider or data center get their power from. Deploying GenAI models in regions with environmentally-friendly energy sources – such as wind, solar, or hydroelectric – can greatly reduce the tech’s carbon footprint.

Putting GenAI to Work for Your Sustainability Strategy

In an earlier blog, I presented the strategic prerequisites for ensuring the value-based impact of GenAI for your business. While these prerequisites also apply here, there are additional factors that you need to consider when rolling out GenAI to support sustainability.

First, define your sustainability goals. It’s vital to gain a clear understanding of these at an early stage if you want to use GenAI technologies successfully. Make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Examples of sustainability goals include reducing your organization’s carbon footprint or improving energy efficiency.

Pinpoint High-Impact Areas and Plan Your Investments

Next, identify the areas where GenAI can most significantly impact the achievement of your defined goals. You can then select an area for use as a pilot project. Once you’ve completed this step, start looking into your investment in GenAI. Focus on allocating the resources needed to acquire or develop GenAI technologies tailored to your specific sustainability efforts.

Get the Right Data and Monitor Your Performance

As I’ve often mentioned in this blog, high-quality data is key to making the most of AI solutions. So, be sure to give enough attention to data collection and analysis. You need a comprehensive data pool that GenAI can draw on to make sound sustainability recommendations.

And finally, deploy your GenAI tools not just to deliver recommendations, but also to continuously monitor the performance of your sustainability initiatives. The real-time data they provide will make for faster, more informed decision-making.

Smoothing the Way to Your Sustainability Goals

GenAI has immense potential to shape and advance your sustainability initiatives. By delivering intelligent data analysis, helping optimize resource efficiency, supporting development of sustainable products and processes, and improving decision-making, GenAI can contribute greatly to promoting ecological, economic, and social sustainability.

Any Questions or Comments? 

Want to find out more about GenAI and how it can power your sustainability efforts? Then, feel free to contact me. And if you have your own ideas about GenAI and sustainability, please share them in the comments below.


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