As businesses and governments alike strive towards improved sustainability in 2023, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly being touted as a tool that can manage environmental impacts and climate change while also improving business efficiency. But is AI as green as it seems, or is it just another instance of greenwashing?
Copyright: womblebonddickinson.com – “Greenwashing vs. Real Impact: How to Spot the Difference in AI Sustainability Claims”
Organisations using AI to support sustainability
AI has huge potential to make businesses more sustainable. Already being deployed by companies like Google to efficiently cool their data centres, in hospitality to track and reduce food waste, and by governments including Indonesia and Peru using AI and satellite data to show near-real-time vessel movements in the ocean to combat illegal and unsustainable fishing.
From a legislative stance, businesses will soon have to comply with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which obligates financial market participants to disclose their non-financial and diversity information. Businesses are, therefore, actively looking for green solutions that can improve their marketability and ultimately their bottom line. AI is being touted as something that can manage environmental impacts and climate change while also improving business efficiency – a win-win.
Is AI sustainable?
However, when implementing AI solutions, there is often little detail given at the micro-level on how AI will save the planet any more effectively or efficiently than traditional computer-human operations. Greenwashing occurs when environmental claims are unproven, over-inflated, or just incorrect. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been cracking down on greenwashing in advertising, recently issuing reprimands to HSBC, Alpro, and Innocent, among others.
When implementing AI and measuring the energy savings it can produce, this needs to be offset against the electricity consumption of AI systems themselves, as this is potentially substantial. It has been calculated that AI’s global carbon footprint might foreseeably be equal to that of the aviation industry.[…]
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