Quo vadis – AI in the sustainable transformation?

Copilot is currently the flagship of Microsoft AI and is already familiar to many. The assistant is now being integrated into the MS Sustainability Manager as the first AI functionality.

Amid the sustainable transformation, artificial intelligence (AI) is held to have tremendous potential for reducing environmental impact and making a crucial contribution to climate action. However, even the biggest AI enthusiasts rarely point to concrete use cases, as the focus lies elsewhere. First, transparency will need to be created in key indicators that are relevant to sustainability while also ensuring that increasingly strict European specifications are met. There are about 50,000 companies in Europe facing this same challenge right now.

In our day-to-day work on projects, we’ve increasingly been seeing that most organizations don’t collect their ESG (environmental, social, governance) data sufficiently to make it possible to use AI effectively. However, the introduction of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in the EU marks a turning point in that it provides the framework for building a solid basis in data, along with the necessary technical infrastructure. This is now opening up concrete avenues of integrating AI into the management of ESG indicators.

IT solutions increasingly maturing in a sustainability context

In our experience, every sustainable transformation is also an IT transformation. ESG management requires mature technical solutions that integrate smoothly into organizations’ existing IT landscapes. The market used to consist primarily of isolated solutions, but established providers’ enterprise technologies have come a long way in recent years. Our close collaboration with Microsoft gives us an up-close view of how factors such as “cloud for sustainability” are being incorporated into many customers’ IT and sustainability strategies. Microsoft Sustainability Manager is the centerpiece of these activities. It makes it possible to collect and manage environmental indicators on things like emissions, water consumption, and waste management. 

Sustainability copilot takes off

Microsoft Copilot is currently the flagship of Microsoft AI, and many people are already familiar with it. This assistant is now being incorporated into MS Sustainability Manager as the first AI feature. The market is still in its early days, but the new functionality already allows sustainability professionals to interact with this solution in natural language. This helps them to interpret analyses of emissions data and increase efficiency in generating customized reports ad-hoc.

Intelligent insights and forward-looking analyses

Our experience has shown that analyzing sustainability data requires solid expertise and an understanding of the context. AI-supported analysis using Sustainability Manager through Intelligent Insights supports sustainability professionals with interpretation, and especially with identifying anomalies and potential sources of error – a step that is often very labor-intensive. Scenario analyses such as “what ifs” also make it possible to generate forward-looking scenarios for reducing emissions and managing resources and water. The support provided by AI empowers people to optimize and make strategic decisions with an eye to sustainability targets.

AI depends on data

Groundbreaking flagship projects attract public attention, but the key to all AI ambitions surrounding corporate sustainability lies in ESG data management. To get there, companies need to know where to tap into data and collect the data in an organized way. We help our customers take the initiative in this space, taking their sustainability management to the next level by building a structured approach to ESG data management.

Organizations cannot put AI to work in the sustainability context at all unless and until they have the ESG data foundation in place – not just to meet regulatory requirements, but also to create lasting added value for the company and society at large. 

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Lennard Everwien

Head of Sustainability