Carbon footprint
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Can AI help reduce carbon footprint in the retail industry?

Everyone has experienced the pressure of reducing their carbon footprint as a response to the call to end global warming. Companies, entire countries, and whole industries are being scrutinised and held accountable for their climate impact and they are taking measures to become more environmentally sustainable.

One of the industries in heavy scrutiny when it comes to their carbon emissions is the retail industry. Among the biggest contributors to global warming, the retail industry’s value chain emits an incredible amount of greenhouse gases annually.

As consumers are becoming more mindful and particular about which companies that they want to do business with to support the movement to end global warming, retailers are feeling the pressure to go carbon neutral.

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How Artificial Intelligence can help reduce the retail industry’s carbon footprint

While it is one thing for countries, companies, and industries to hold conventions, sign agreements, and release statements regarding their eco-friendly movement, it is another to take concrete action to reduce their carbon footprint. Making a difference that carries a sustainable impact is another matter entirely, considering today’s economic climate. However, there is one tool that can change how we approach carbon footprint management: Artificial Intelligence.

AI and industry data

Artificial Intelligence or AI can deliver in-depth insights and analysis into the different aspects of a company’s carbon footprint. The data can be used to address goals and can present potential courses of action that can accelerate the company’s transformation into an environmentally sustainable organisation while still running profitably.

Larger companies, and industries as a whole, are in an especially strong position to utilise AI in their movement towards carbon neutrality because of their data. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the sheer volume of data available to use from these large companies is key to deploying AI and getting accurate results.

Having the ability to learn by experience, AI can collect massive amounts of data that it then works out by making connections that may be overlooked by humans. It is then able to recommend appropriate actions based on its conclusions. This then helps industry leaders take solid action in the three areas of carbon neutrality: monitoring, predicting, and reducing.

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Monitoring carbon footprint

With the help of AI, companies can automatically track their carbon emissions in any area of their operations.

The system collects data from corporate activities and the movement of inventory in every part of the value chain which it then feeds to the program that can provide estimates of the emitted greenhouse gases. As more data is fed into the AI from every aspect of the supply chain, like materials and components suppliers, transporters, and even the final consumers of the products, it can provide a more accurate representation of the carbon footprint of the retail industry.

Using AI to predict carbon emissions

Utilising AI to forecast future emissions can greatly help companies as they develop their carbon-neutral strategies.

Predictive AI makes it easier to improve current emission reduction efforts and to design newer methodologies in relation to future demand. The programme makes it easier to run simulations, allowing companies to adjust and set their reduction targets more accurately. This way, the feasibility of the environmental sustainability efforts does not create tension with the company’s other responsibility to be economically sustainable.

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Reducing carbon footprint

Ultimately, monitoring and predicting an industry’s carbon emissions is towards crafting a successful system for reducing its carbon footprint. With AI being able to provide detailed insights into every aspect of the value chain, it becomes easier to optimise efficiency in production, transportation, and anywhere else in the chain. Not only will the retail industry be able to achieve supply chain decarbonisation, but it can ultimately cut costs as well.

Artificial Intelligence’s own carbon footprint

Of course, to run AI systems, it also has its own carbon footprint to be mindful of. The design, the hardware, and the electricity it runs on all have emissions as well. But according to Google researchers, mindful planning and operating can keep AI’s environmental impact to a minimum, Fortune reported.

AI developers can consider the location of the data center used to train the algorithm to reduce their carbon footprint as areas with colder average temperatures reduce the cost of cooling all the server racks. Finding areas with greener electricity grids can also reduce the system’s emissions. Besides the kind of electricity it consumes, the systems can utilize specifically-designed computer chips, built for the machine-learning AI, to make it more energy-efficient.

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The retail industry’s movement towards zero carbon emissions

While the retail industry has been able to take notable strides towards carbon neutrality over the past few years, it is still one of the largest industries with a significant carbon footprint. Companies can improve on several aspects of their efforts towards reducing their carbon emissions and AI is the solution to that. The retail industry needs to be more proactive in its endeavours and with the help of technology, it can surely achieve its environmental goals.

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