Closing ‘AI confidence gap’ can make it a force for good and drive progress towards a sustainable future

Last updated: 13th November 2023

• Protection of the planet is a top AI priority for a third (29%) of people globally • BSI research finds closing the ‘AI confidence gap’ could spur climate change solutions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be a force for good in the race to protect the planet and accelerate progress towards a sustainable world, with three in ten people (29%) globally placing environmental protection as their top priority for AI by 2050, suggests new research by BSI. More than half of people globally (51%) are optimistic about the prospect of AI to help create a built environment that is more energy-efficient, while 46% back the use of AI to make the food system more sustainable.

While there are concerns about the environmental impact of data storage, given the carbon footprint from data centres,[1], BSI’s Trust in AI Poll of 10,000 adults across nine countries identifies global recognition that AI has the potential to positively shape the future of people and planet.

For example, there is enthusiasm for the role AI can play in enabling a sustainable food system, given that agriculture contributes to around a quarter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions[2]. 48% say they would welcome AI being used to ensure food has accurate use by dates to reduce food waste, while more than two fifths (42%) would welcome AI being used to analyze their eating habits and provide recommendations for how to make their diet more sustainable. The same proportion say we should use AI tools to minimize the impact of agriculture and food production on the environment.

The research was commissioned to launch BSI’s Shaping Society 5.0 essay collection, which explores how AI can be a partner in driving progress. One essay, by Neil Coole, Director of Food at BSI, focuses on the AI innovation being explored to manage soil health and water stewardship, drawing on forecasting[3] suggesting that AI can help reduce emissions by up to 160 mega tonnes CO2 equivalent by 2030, while producing more food and using fewer resources.

Coole writes: “If the initial innovation we are seeing is anything to go by, AI offers the opportunity to support sustainability goals and give consumers greater confidence about where food comes from and how it is produced. These are outcomes that can surely only further trust in AI to benefit society and accelerate progress towards a sustainable world.”

Nearly one in five people globally said AI should be used to help eradicate modern slavery. An essay by Associate Director Tony Pelli explores this, noting that “the opportunity is for AI to complement human efforts, not replace them, by helping organizations quickly identify signs of forced labour”. It highlights AI being used to analyze satellite imaging of the Amazon to identify forced labour at deforestation sites [i].

Denelise L’Ecluse, Managing Director for Assurance in Continental Europe, examines AI’s emerging power to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 10[KF1] [ii] to reduce inequality within and between countries. More than a fifth (22%) want AI to help make society fairer and L’Ecluse looks at how in education, AI could act as a personal tutor[iii], overcoming language or skill barriers. 27% of people globally polled by BSI expect AI to be used in schools by 2030.

L’Ecluse said: “As AI advances, society has the opportunity to help close the equality gap and bring AI to all, by collaborating on technology, education and oversight to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and ensure AI is a force for good.”

BSI’s research highlights that building trust and understanding will be crucial to unlocking AI’s environmental benefits, as nearly four fifths (79%) say that they need trust in the technology before it can aid the reduction of carbon emissions. There is a clear opportunity for education to build understanding in AI and empower people to collectively harness its capabilities, with 55% saying we need to be training young people now for working in an AI-powered world.

Craig Civil, Director of Data Science and AI, BSI, said: “AI is a transformational technology and could be key enabler to meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But for AI to realize its potential as a powerful force for good for people and planet, trust in AI needs to be the critical factor.”

“Whether around tackling modern slavery, bringing education to all or creating a more sustainable food system, there is a clear opportunity to harness AI to drive societal impact, change lives and accelerate progress towards a better future. Closing the AI confidence gap to build understanding can help us realize these benefits and shape a sustainable future. BSI is proud to be at the forefront of ensuring AI’s safe and trusted integration into everyday lives around the world.”

BSI has extensive expertise in the area of digital trust. In its role as the UK National Standards Body, it develops and publishes standards international standards including the forthcoming BS ISO 42001: Information technology — Artificial intelligence — Management system.


Notes to Editors

About the research

BSI commissioned Trust in AI research to explore the views of 10,000 people in nine countries, USA, UK and Ireland, Australia, China, Japan, France, Germany, Netherlands, and India. The research was independently conducted by Censuswide in August 2023.

About BSI

BSI is a business improvement and standards company and for over a century BSI has been recognized for having a positive impact on organizations and society, building trust and enhancing lives. Today BSI partners with more than 77,500 clients in 195 countries and engages with a 15,000 strong global community of experts, industry and consumer groups, organizations and governments. Utilizing its extensive expertise in key industry sectors – including automotive, aerospace, built environment, food and retail, and healthcare – BSI delivers on its purpose by helping its clients fulfil theirs. BSI provides organizations with the confidence to grow by partnering with them to tackle society’s critical issues – from climate change to building trust in digital transformation and everything in between – to accelerate progress towards a better society and a sustainable world.

[1] Carbon emissions of data usage increasing, but what is yours?, Climate Neutral Group, September 2023

[2] Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Our World in Data, November 2019 

[3] How AI can enable a Sustainable Future, PWC. April 2019

[i] Detecting Modern-Day Slavery From the Sky, Stanford University HAI, April 2022

[ii] Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries, UN, accessed September 2023

[iii] AI could mark pupils’ work and act as a ‘personal tutor’, says education minister, Independent, June 2023

N.B. The information contained in this entry is provided by the above supplier, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher

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