How AI is helping organizations to be more environmentally sustainable

By Lily Blake, Writer, United Kingdom

December 16, 2022

From artificial Christmas trees to glitter-covered wrapping paper, with more than 100 million rubbish bags sent to landfills over the Christmas period—environmentally speaking, it’s definitely not the most wonderful time of the year.

Supply chains, in particular for retail, are responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s time for the industry to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to help them install initiatives to go green.

From smart heating controls to AI-powered logistics and demand forecasting—industries have a plethora of ways to embrace sustainability. 

So, what three ways can AI empower enterprises to reduce their carbon footprint for the holidays? Let’s dive in.

Salvage food from landfills

Installing AI and machine learning (ML) software can aid in stock control and accurate demand forecasting; this enables inventory tracking to ensure nothing runs out or is over-ordered. AI can track consumption patterns over the year, so, for example, the U.K. consumes approximately 250 million potatoes over Christmas.

With this data, AI can help retailers place accurate orders with suppliers, leading to fewer unwanted items on the shelves. 

These AI-powered insights are especially beneficial for food retailers who need fresh produce while battling its limited shelf life. If more grocery stores implement this technology, McKinsey & Company predicts that using AI in food retail could reduce waste and generate an economic opportunity of up to $127 billion annually in 2030.

Reducing waste isn’t just good for the environment, but it’s great for business too.

Optimize your last-mile delivery

One of the most significant issues facing retailers embracing sustainability is their approach to delivery logistics. In 2021, one-fifth of cargo trucks in the EU traveled empty. But, with the help of AI, this shameful waste of fuel can be reduced.

During the holiday season, the delivery logistics industry always runs into issues, but by investing in AI software, retailers can maximize truck capacity making journeys more economical. Furthermore, by installing a backhauling policy, retailers can ensure trucks are full on their return journey, reducing the number of harmful empty miles.

Using ML software is also ideal for route optimization as this alters trips depending on the type of cargo, location of deliveries, and weather conditions to provide the most efficient and eco-friendly delivery route.

In addition, retailers can offer a greener delivery option. This could involve delivery trucks only departing when they’ve reached at least 90% capacity, therefore taking longer but having a smaller carbon footprint. To promote their green business outlook, retailers can entice their customers to choose this option by offering a reduced delivery price.

Smart energy control 

There’s nothing better than escaping the cold and stepping into a toasty store this Christmas, but heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are more polluting than you might think. A typical HVAC system accounts for approximately 40% of a building’s total energy consumption; however, with the help of some intelligent controls, this could be rapidly reduced. 

AI-powered HVAC can adjust settings automatically depending on environmental conditions and occupancy. The system can monitor conditions such as temperature, humidity, brightness, and occupancy to ensure no settings are left idle to ensure the atmosphere is ideal while being eco-friendly.

A further benefit of a clever HVAC system is that due to the optimized energy use, this reduces bills and helps businesses stick to minimum efficiency standards set by HVAC regulations.

Wrapping up, with global temperatures rising, it’s looking to be one of the warmest Christmases on record. In light of this, it’s time for one of the largest global industries to leverage AI technology to reduce its carbon footprint. Instead of wishing for a white Christmas, let’s make it a green one.