How Can Artificial Intelligence Contribute to Sustainability Projects?

What is Sustainability? The concept of sustainability, which was first encountered in a report of the United Nations in 1983, can be briefly defined as producing without endangering the lives of other living beings today and in the future.

When sustainability is mentioned, the first issues that come to mind are; There are events such as water and air pollution. However, as the years passed and technology developed, some issues related to data and energy started to come into play. This is where industries’ use of artificial intelligence comes into play. 

By optimizing the excess data and energy generated by focusing their own management, resources and distributors on efficiency, they avoid wasting unused energy thanks to artificial intelligence.

More than 800 organizations in 130 countries have pledged to reduce their emissions to zero in the atmosphere, and upon this promise, they have started their work by integrating Artificial Intelligence in their fields. 

In terms of the work they started, rather than directly optimizing themselves and moving to a sustainability plan, they started to move forward with a comprehensive action plan by incorporating indirect situations into their own work. Companies in this plan began to be called ‘Net Zero Companies‘.

To talk about the plan;

  1. Measuring and interpreting emissions
  2. Reducing emissions by optimizing business processes
  3. Balancing and optimizing emissions with different mechanisms.

There are a multitude of potential AI applications that can collectively inform sustainability strategies for a variety of industries. An organization’s sustainability strategy can implement AI in the following ways

  • Monitoring and reporting emissions: Track and analyze a company’s emissions data to identify areas for improvement. 
  • Supply chain tracking: Involve suppliers by analyzing and monitoring their sustainability practices. 
  • Predictive maintenance: Predict possible equipment failures and plan their maintenance to minimize unplanned malfunctions and repair times, and reduce energy waste. 
  • Smart transportation: Make transportation networks and logistics sustainable by optimizing them to minimize emissions from transportation. 
  • Energy efficiency: Optimize building energy systems, lighting and other equipment to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
  • Renewable energy integration: Optimize renewable energy sources such as wind and solar at the grid level. 

Artificial intelligence; It can reduce the carbon footprint of various sectors, from production to mining, from travel to transportation. Real-world use cases for sustainability depend on sectors. Here are just a few real use cases;

  • The retail industry is using AI to optimize energy use in stores and reduce transportation emissions for product delivery.
  • E-commerce companies use artificial intelligence to optimize shipping routes and reduce emissions from delivery vehicles.
  • Telecom companies look to AI-based data analysis for overall maintenance. The same approach can improve network efficiency, reduce downtime and energy consumption.
  • Technology companies use artificial intelligence to optimize data center energy consumption and emissions.
  • Vendors in the food supply chain use artificial intelligence and analytics to predict demand, thus reducing waste and losses.
  • The fashion industry suffers from high return rates and returned items sometimes end up as trash. AI-based consumer analytics provides demand forecasting and inventory management to prevent waste.

Companies may not have the resources and expertise to implement several AI applications simultaneously. Following the steps below can help with project prioritization. 

First, start with projects that align with the values ​​and interests of key stakeholders such as customers, investors, employees, and nonprofits. Second, look for projects with the greatest potential to reduce emissions. 

For example, improved energy efficiency in production processes can have a greater impact on a company’s overall carbon footprint than redesigned packaging. Finally, try to choose areas that support strategic priorities and can be easily integrated into existing business processes.

By incorporating AI to optimize operations and reduce emissions, companies can take meaningful steps towards net zero goals and a sustainable future. However, carrying out joint projects with other institutions and organizations will often make more sense than doing it on your own. 

Technology companies, government agencies, universities and R&D institutions can form industry-level collaborations to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle complex environmental problems. Thus, with the resulting unity of power, big problems can be overcome together.

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