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How AI helps drive enterprise sustainability initiatives

By Julie Kae, VP of Sustainability and DE&I, Executive Director of Qlik.org

The business world continues to be defined by disruption and evolution, the latest being an unrelenting interest in generative AI. This has set off what some are deeming a ‘new era’ in every industry. While technology has always progressed at high speeds, the pace of change spurred by AI certainly seems to be accelerating it.

Thankfully, many organisations have remained focused on their sustainability missions. They are doing so by leaning on their data – the collection, organisation and activation of trusted data provides the insights that lead to the right actions at the right time. AI has the potential to elevate these efforts, democratising access to collective intelligence and high-quality decision-making by making better use of global knowledge to tackle common problems. Whether a company is focused on solving the water crisis, carbon reduction or another equally important sustainability goal, AI backed by trusted data can empower individuals with previously siloed knowledge and expertise, surfacing insights to and activating change on what matters most.

Let’s explore the promise of AI and what we need to do collectively to harness it for action.

The promise of AI for sustainability

The use of new data insights and context will inform the most important decisions of our time. AI will play an essential role in identifying and supporting sustainability initiatives through predictive analytics, data aggregation and collaboration.

In an examination of the global water crises, for example, AI-infused analytics has the potential to help better manage water supplies, predict shortfalls and provide direction on adaptations that need to be made to cope with it. In another example from our own business, to support Qlik’s commitment to net zero, we took a hard look at how to better execute sustainable events, an avenue we were already pursuing with partners and then built into our own data sustainability strategy. Emissions from our events are now included in our overall carbon reduction strategies, giving us measurable goals and impact results for tracking and reporting.

From this initiative, the amount of single-use plastic avoided at Qlik events in 2022 equated to nearly 1 metric ton of CO2.

The urgent need to remove data silos

Data access and data sharing remain major obstacles to making impactful progress as a global community toward sustainability initiatives. Right now, companies and governments are limiting access to key data sets that could, if made available, help deliver insights to save lives, crops and communities. Wider democratising of data to help develop more impactful models for anonymised sharing and collaboration is essential to marshalling resources and directing action.

One approach is to create more highly advanced and explicit processes for data sharing across public and private sectors. This would redefine real-time, and even historic, data as a ‘digital public good’ for revolutionising society. Robust data sets could then be built to be processed by AI and presented in ways where people, organisations and governments could collectively better tackle their most complex challenges.

We need collaborative intelligence, where humans complement each other in terms of creativity, leadership, teamwork and of course, speed and scalability to make this all work.

Increasing impact and hope

As new AI use cases emerge and technology matures, much more research is being done in areas like using analytics and AI to fuse disparate data sets. The potential to harness data points that we have not had access to and use them to create impact in ways we never imagined gives us a promising future. Through the collaborative and constructive use of AI and data across the world, we have an opportunity to make bigger and broader change than we ever have before.

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