Gartner: CIOs Must Balance AI Benefits with Environmental Impact

GartnerAccording to Gartner, the advantages of artificial intelligence (AI) must be weighed against the potential negative effects on the environment and unforeseen outcomes brought on by the use of hardware, model training, and energy. When adopting AI projects, CIOs may use their foundation and expertise of the digital world to enhance their businesses’ sustainability goals.

During the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, which is being held here through Thursday, Gartner analists examined how IT and AI might assist environmental sustainability.

“Gartner’s 2023 CEO survey showed that environmental issues entered the top 10 priority ranking for the first time in the history of the survey,” said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, VP Analyst at Gartner. “At the same time, CIOs are under increasing pressure from their executives, customers, employees, investors and regulators to initiate or reinvigorate their IT for sustainability programs. Sixty-four percent of CEOs surveyed said combining digitalization, such as AI adoption, and environmental sustainability is a growth opportunity. CIOs should take that as a call to be more proactive in establishing their leadership through the execution of sustainability transformation strategies and use sustainability as a platform for growth.”

For the majority of CIOs, meeting regulations and specifications entails monitoring and reporting on company KPIs like energy intensity or product carbon footprint. “The key is for the CIO to use their digital foundation, or digital dividend, in a way that meets both the sustainability needs and the organization’s digitalization metrics – a two-for-one situation,” added Tratz-Ryan. “Above all, the CIO should prepare their digital foundation for sustainability, even if the company does not currently prioritize it.”

Being prepared for sustainability pertains to digital threads, cloud and storage, infrastructure and operations, and the rapidly expanding use of artificial intelligence.

‘Weigh AI Benefits Against Environmental Risks and Challenges’

Bettina Tratz-Ryan, VP Analyst at Gartner
“64 percent of CEOs surveyed said combining digitalization, such as AI adoption, and environmental sustainability is a growth opportunity,” said Bettina Tratz-Ryan, VP Analyst at Gartner.

Even though 78% of CEOs polled said that there are more advantages than hazards associated with artificial intelligence (AI), the use of AI, particularly generative AI (GenAI), by more businesses is having an increasing environmental impact. According to Gartner, artificial intelligence may use up to 3.5% of the world’s power by 2030. AI uses a lot of water and power.

Pieter den Hamer, VP Analyst at Gartner, said that this detrimental effect had to be lessened. “Leaders need to actively mitigate the rising environmental impact of AI and be aware of it. For instance, they may give preference to cloud data centers that run on renewable energy.”

According to Gartner, compared to midsize data center facilities, owned data centers, and conventional server rooms, public cloud providers may generate 70% to 90% lower greenhouse gas emissions.

AI, however, poses a threat to environmental sustainability on several fronts, stated Gartner. In actuality, the potential applications of AI to advance several sustainability projects would much outweigh the technology’s own impact.

“This can only be achieved if business and IT leaders proactively initiate and foster a portfolio of AI initiatives that help achieve the sustainability and environment, social and governance (ESG) goals of their organizations,” added Pieter den Hamer. “For instance, AI can be used to predict demand more accurately and reduce the usage of raw materials and energy in manufacturing. Overall, if used in the right way and focused on the right use cases, AI can help companies mitigate sustainability risk, optimize costs and drive growth.”