Capgemini: Half of big businesses are using AI to cut their climate impacts

Almost half of the world's biggest industrial, energy, FMCG, retail and manufacturing companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce their emissions, with the average business forecasting a 16% related emissions reduction by 2025.

AI can be used to optimise energy generation and resource use, among other applications

AI can be used to optimise energy generation and resource use, among other applications

That is according to new research from Capgemini’s Research Institute, which surveyed 800 industry executives from different large businesses across these sectors.

Some 48% of respondents said that their organisation had implemented AI in recent years, with the aim of reducing emissions, improving resource efficiency or generating more low-carbon power. The average outcome of AI projects was found to be a 13% reduction in emissions and an 11% improvement in energy efficiency. Where the AI was used for resource efficiency, an average waste reduction on 12% was realised.

Taking past results into account and factoring in the likely scaling up of AI in the near future, Capgemini Research Institute calculated that the average business in this cohort could cut emissions by a further 16% over the next three-to-five years using AI-enabled technologies.

Across the five sectors, the research found that AI could deliver up to 45% of the emissions reductions businesses need to deliver by 2030 if they are to align with the Paris Agreement. Calculations were based on the requirements of the Agreement’s Economic Emission Intensity targets (EEI). Consumer-facing retail will likely see the biggest benefits, the report concludes.

Challenges scaling

Despite these clear benefits, the report reveals that most businesses have not fully scaled their AI projects, with the vast majority still in the pilot phase.

Just 3% of the businesses surveyed had applied AI across their operations. A further 11% host projects classed as “partly scaled”. This means that 34% of the 800 businesses are still at the pilot stage.

Capgemini found two major barriers to deployment – a lack of investment in AI and data tracking and the logistics of doing business through Covid-19. On the former, more than eight in ten business surveyed have spent less than 5% of their climate change investment pots on AI over the past two years.

Skills were also found to be a challenge – more than half of the businesses surveyed said that less than 5% of their workforce have the skills to take up AI-driven roles.

Capgemini’s VP for AI and analytics group leader Anne Laure Thieullent said the findings show there is a “missing link” between business’ climate intentions and their plans for investment and digital upskilling.

“Addressing climate change is everyone’s responsibility and AI has the potential to make a significant impact, yet only a fraction of organizations are actively using this technology to its full potential,” Thieullent said. “Frameworks now exist to educate, build awareness, establish scalable operating models, and manage data to deliver tangible business outcomes with AI applied to climate action. And of course, this requires AI solutions to be designed, built, deployed and monitored with sustainable design principles to ensure overall positive environmental impact.”

You can read more AI-related content, including case studies, here.

Sarah George



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