Guidepost of Plattform Lernende Systeme: How companies are using AI to do business more sustainably

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help companies to operate in an ecologically compatible, socially just and successful manner. On the other hand, the use of AI systems can also run counter to operational sustainability goals, for example due to the high resource consumption of the technology itself. With its new publication, Plattform Lernende Systeme provides companies with strategic recommendations and numerous practical examples that show how the sustainable use of AI in the company can succeed. The experts advise strategically linking innovation and sustainability management in the company. This requires a comprehensive data infrastructure and digital skills.

Download an executive summary

In view of global warming and its consequences, many companies are striving to operate in a climate-neutral manner - not least to meet the changing demands of investors and consumers. AI systems can help make processes in companies more efficient, save energy and resources in production, and offer sustainable products and services. In addition, AI can strengthen the resilience of companies, for example by enabling AI systems to anticipate machine failures or make supply chains more resilient. Nevertheless, negative effects of AI use must also be taken into account, such as the high energy consumption during training and application of the technology or the reproduction of social inequalities, the guidebook "Shaping sustainable change with AI" states. From reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture to returning plastic waste to the material cycle and relieving employees of monotonous tasks, numerous practical examples from various industries show how companies can act more sustainably with the help of AI.

Strategically linking innovation and sustainability

The authors therefore recommend an integrated AI and sustainability strategy in companies that takes into account the ecological, economic and social effects of AI use. In many companies, however, innovation management and sustainability management are located in different organizational units and inhibit a strategic linkage. At its core, he says, AI as a driver enables more sustainability in the enterprise, while at the same time making its use itself more sustainable by means of innovative technological and business management solutions. "Companies need to consider the proportionality of AI use at every stage and ask themselves whether a resource-intensive AI application is really necessary or whether a simple algorithm will suffice. In addition, employees must be involved in the AI transformation at an early stage and qualified to work with AI," says Corina Apachiţe, head of the Artificial Intelligence department at Continental Automotive and head of the Business Model Innovations working group of the Plattform Lernende Systeme.

The experts consider a high level of digitization among companies as well as cross-industry standards and platforms for the exchange of data between companies, which are necessary for the development of AI applications, to be necessary for a strategic linking of innovation and sustainability strategies. In addition, science can improve the transfer of AI technologies, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises, which currently still have a lot of catching up to do in the use of AI. Politics can help research institutions, companies, and organizations to establish a growing AI ecosystem with an ecologically sustainable orientation through targeted funding programs and economic incentives.

About the publication

The publication "Shaping Sustainable Change with AI. On the strategic link between Artificial Intelligence and sustainability goals" was written on the basis of expert interviews and supported in an advisory capacity by members of Plattform Lernende Systeme. It is available for download (in German) free of charge. The executive summary (in English) can be found here.  

Further information:

Linda Treugut / Birgit Obermeier
Press and Public Relations

Lernende Systeme – Germany's Platform for Artificial Intelligence
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