In a digital era where environmental sustainability is becoming a crucial part of business strategies, the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a double-edged sword, according to leading research and advisory company Gartner. With the rapid adoption of AI across various sectors, experts are urging Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to weigh the substantial benefits of AI against its growing environmental impact.
At the recent Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo 2023 held from November 6-9 in Barcelona, Spain, significant emphasis was placed on how IT and AI can support environmental sustainability. As AI technologies become more pervasive, with applications ranging from predictive analytics to generative AI (GenAI), their electrical consumption is predicted to reach 3.5% of global usage by 2030.
Bettina Tratz-Ryan, VP Analyst at Gartner, highlighted the newfound prominence of environmental issues in corporate agendas, noting their entry into the top 10 priority ranking of Gartner’s 2023 CEO survey. CEOs are recognizing the intersection of digitalization and environmental sustainability as a fertile ground for growth, with 64% seeing it as an opportunity. CIOs are encouraged to champion sustainability transformation strategies, leveraging their digital knowledge to ensure that their organizations’ digital infrastructure is ‘sustainability-ready.’
Gartner’s analysts pointed out that while 78% of surveyed CEOs believe AI’s benefits surpass its risks, the increasing utilization of AI comes with a significant environmental toll. Pieter den Hamer, VP Analyst at Gartner, advised executives to be aware of AI’s environmental footprint, suggesting the prioritization of data centers powered by renewable energy as one of the mitigation strategies. It was noted that public cloud providers can generate significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional data centers.
Yet, the narrative is not all gloomy. AI has the potential to be a powerful ally in the fight for environmental sustainability. Den Hamer emphasized that if directed towards appropriate use cases, AI could help organizations meet their sustainability and Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets. This includes applications in manufacturing to reduce the consumption of raw materials and energy through more accurate demand prediction.