Inside Amazon’s innovative ways of using AI to further sustainability

In a comprehensive exploration of Amazon’s strategic application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) towards achieving sustainability, the tech giant has unveiled its innovative foray into leveraging technology for environmental stewardship. As reported directly from Amazon‘s website, the company’s multifaceted approach to AI is not just a sign of its technological prowess but also a clear signal of its commitment to the Climate Pledge of reaching net-zero carbon by 2040. This deep dive reveals Amazon’s dedication to transforming sustainability from mere pledges into significant, measurable progress. 

Amazon’s utilization of AI spans a broad spectrum of applications, each designed to address specific challenges in the realm of sustainability. From optimizing packaging to minimize waste to enhancing the efficiency of its fulfillment operations, Amazon has been at the forefront of integrating AI and ML into its processes for decades. Notably, Amazon’s AI infrastructure, provided through Amazon Web Services (AWS), has democratized AI access, enabling both customers and businesses to accelerate their journey toward sustainability. 

Read also: How AI will revolutionize sustainability efforts in Africa.

One of the standout initiatives is Amazon’s Packaging Decision Engine, an AI model tasked with identifying the most efficient packaging options for shipping millions of items. This model, by understanding product attributes and analyzing customer feedback on packaging performance, has significantly reduced packaging material use since its inception in 2019. Amazon reports a staggering elimination of over two million tons of packaging material worldwide since 2015, showcasing the tangible impact of its AI-driven sustainability efforts. 

In the battle against waste, Amazon employs AI-powered technology across its fulfillment centers to detect damaged goods, aiming to decrease customer returns of such items. Impressively, this AI is three times more effective at identifying damages than human inspection, showcasing the precision and potential of AI in enhancing product quality control. 

Amazon’s commitment extends into the grocery aisle, where AI solutions monitor the freshness of fruits and vegetables, reducing food waste. By detecting visual imperfections on produce, Amazon Fresh can repurpose otherwise wasted food, highlighting an innovative approach to sustainability in the retail sector. 

Amazon is tackling the carbon footprint of products head-on with Flamingo, an AI algorithm that utilizes natural language processing to estimate the environmental impact of millions of products. This tool has dramatically reduced the time required for carbon footprint calculations, from months to mere hours, underscoring the efficiency AI brings to environmental assessments. 

Amazon’s efforts also reach into the preservation of natural habitats, as seen in its collaboration with a Brazilian nonprofit to develop an AI model for monitoring deforestation. This initiative underscores the potential of AI in global conservation efforts, demonstrating Amazon’s commitment to sustainability beyond its immediate business operations. 

The company’s pursuit of energy efficiency is further evident in its investment in AWS chips, including the AWS Trainium and Inferentia chips, designed to power AI more sustainably. These chips not only enhance the performance of AI applications but also significantly reduce energy consumption, aligning technological advancement with environmental responsibility. 

These examples, as highlighted on the Amazon website, are mere facets of Amazon’s comprehensive strategy to embed AI in the pursuit of sustainability. Through these initiatives, Amazon not only showcases its innovation in AI but also sets a precedent for how technology can be harnessed to address some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. As Amazon continues to explore and expand its AI capabilities, its journey offers valuable insights into the transformative potential of technology in achieving a more sustainable future.

First published by Africa Sustainability Matters