As we attempted to forecast the trends for 2024, artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainable development prominently featured in our discussions. By the end of February, it's become clear that these two areas are not just central to Microsoft's strategy but are beginning to converge, as demonstrated by the mid-month announcements regarding the Cloud for Sustainability service. Let's delve into these developments further.

AI supports sustainable development

Microsoft announced the introduction of new AI-powered solutions within its Cloud for Sustainability service. These innovations aim to provide organizations with the necessary tools for achieving sustainable development. They include faster analysis of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data, an AI assistant designed to expedite effective decision-making and reporting, among other advanced capabilities.

Microsoft Fabric: an analytical platform for sustainable data

In May 2023, Microsoft unveiled Microsoft Fabric, a SaaS analytical platform that consolidates all enterprise data, including previously inaccessible ESG data. Fabric grants teams unrestricted data access and the ability to derive insights using AI solutions. These analyses can be embedded into daily-use applications, enhancing practical accessibility. Currently, in its preview phase, Microsoft Fabric has introduced features related to sustainable development data, providing a ready-made ESG data model, connectors, and reporting models to accelerate insights and progress in sustainability.

Faster decision-making with Copilot

Copilot, Microsoft's AI assistant known from Microsoft 365 services, is now in preview within the Microsoft Sustainability Manager tool. This development brings the vast potential of generative AI to users of the Cloud for Sustainability, allowing natural language interactions for querying environmental data. Copilot's utilization enables:

  • Analysis of environmental data and identification of reduction opportunities in areas such as CO2 emissions and water usage, saving both labor and time;
  • Quick responses to inquiries about sustainability data;
  • Preparation of sustainability reports, reducing reporting time and freeing up resources.

Furthermore, organizations gain an integrated and interactive AI model that facilitates deeper emission data analysis, highlighting areas in need of more comprehensive data. AI swiftly and effectively identifies opportunities for emission reduction, both short and long-term, and provides insights into historical trends, seasonality, and data anomalies, aiding in better business decisions.

Business strives for sustainability

According to research by the United Nations and Accenture, cited by Microsoft, 98% of CEOs consider sustainability a crucial aspect of their operations. Two-thirds of survey participants engage in collaborations and initiatives towards sustainable development, with many translating these efforts into new business models.

Microsoft contends that the intersection of AI and sustainable development offers immense opportunities for any organization. Microsoft's AI responds to customer needs through a responsible approach to AI, grounded in thorough assessment, verification, and validation. By leveraging data and AI capabilities, progress in sustainability becomes tangible, marking a significant step forward in the intersection of technology and environmental stewardship.