Skip to main content

BY: NICKY SINKER

Climate action is the focus of many Auditel articles given our carbon expertise. However, another strategic priority for a number of organisations in 2024 is embedding the use of AI into their operations to drive efficiencies.

The rapid increase in the use of AI across the business community has meant that the government has had to look into AI regulation, outlining its thinking in its response to the AI Regulation White Paper consultation in February 2024.  It is often said that the most carbon efficient businesses are also very efficient businesses overall. AI has many applications, which can drive efficiency in business and therefore there should be overlap between climate action and the use of AI. There are challenges as training  and running large AI models consumes lots of energy and water. However, significant activity is taking place to manage the energy and water consumed by AI, for example data centre energy consumption and the use of modern, energy-efficient servers  and storage devices. As these advances continue, it is expected that AI will play an increasingly important role in carbon reduction plans and the overlap between these two strategic priorities will increase.

How can you therefore use AI to reduce your carbon footprint?

Using Data Insights To Drive Efficiencies

As Carbon Accountants we always say that you cannot reduce what you cannot measure. We advise clients that measuring their carbon footprint is crucial as their first step towards Net Zero. It is the data about your current footprint that informs decisions  about how to reduce and prioritise reduction initiatives. One of the first benefits of AI is its ability to use data and provide meaningful insights. AI can analyse energy consumption patterns in buildings and recommend optimisations to reduce waste. AI is an integral part of an efficient building management system, with smart thermostats and sensors that can adjust heating, cooling and lighting based on occupancy and usage patterns.

AI can also be used to analyse data across your company and spot  opportunities for carbon reduction. Take, for example, business travel. Rather than flying to the United States multiple times a year to visit different locations, AI can help create a travel schedule which delivers the same outputs with less time in the air.  Data insights can be produced at a company or individual level to highlight the full range of choices available. AI can be applied to the logistics of a company. For example, data can be used to help map more efficient delivery routes and timings, minimising  fuel consumption. AI can also facilitate carpooling or ride-sharing to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. These insights can therefore drive significant efficiencies in your business, reducing cost and carbon emissions. I recently spoke to  a fertiliser company which was using AI to optimise the fertiliser being used by analysing data on soil quality, weather conditions, and crop health, ultimately aiming to reduce the amount of water and fertiliser being used. This would reduce emissions  and help to preserve ecosystems.

Replacement Of Manual Tasks

There are manual tasks within organisations which can be done much more efficiently through the use of AI. Data input is one example. Think about when you hire a new employee and they fill in a form as part of the recruitment process. That information then needs to be inputted into the various different systems to get the new employee fully set up for their first day. Rather than having individuals do this, risking human error being introduced to the process, companies can use robotics to do the job. The  human task is then to check accuracy, making the process much more efficient and saving huge amounts of time. We have seen AI being used for things like due diligence exercises, which can involve searching for certain clauses in large sets of documents.  This has helped support the digitisation of documentation, with many more records now being held electronically rather than in print. How does this reduce your carbon emissions? Some of these practices replace processes which have historically been  paper based, requiring documents to be printed, sent and disposed of.

There is however significant scope for organisations / individuals to improve their disposal of electronic documents when they are no longer needed to minimise the amount of digital  storage. AI is already widely used in contract automation. In some cases this has the added benefit of reducing the amount of printed materials used in the process as some people find it easier to review documents online. We are also seeing more people  use AI to generate the first draft of reports, driving further efficiencies. Replacement Of Manual Tasks AI is being used in a number of different ways across specific sectors. For example, in agriculture AI is being used to pick fruit only when it is perfectly  ripe, reducing waste. As each sector works to reduce its carbon emissions, using AI to drive efficiencies could form part of the reduction plan.

Conclusion

AI is being used in a number of different ways across specific sectors. For example, in agriculture AI is being used to pick fruit only when it is perfectly ripe, reducing waste. As each sector works to reduce its carbon emissions, using AI to drive efficiencies could form part of the reduction plan.