How retailers can use AI and ML to drive sustainability in 2020

By Michael Feindt, Blue Yonder
Sustainability has become an increasingly key issue in the retail industry over the last few years. While it’s promising to hear retailers making the...

Sustainability has become an increasingly key issue in the retail industry over the last few years. While it’s promising to hear retailers making the right noises, they won’t be able to follow through on their good intentions if they don’t use technology to help them to put their words into practice. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will become increasingly important, as they can drive the change, putting more sustainable behaviour within reach for many retailers.

In a nutshell, AI enables businesses to measure their environmental and social impact, while ML helps take the next step by recommending tangible ways to adapt behaviour in line. As a result, AI and ML can help retailers make huge strides towards sustainability in their supply chains, through from transporting products to stores in the most intelligent way possible, to making sure they don’t order too much stock.

Grocery retail in particular could reap huge rewards from using AI and ML to reduce food waste.


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Grocery retailers already have access to a wide range of internal numbers including previous sales figures, current stock levels and warehouse/store capacity, and these can be supplemented with knowledge around external factors including weather, traffic on the roads, the day of the week or time of year. Using this data, AI and ML can enable grocery retailers to drastically change their behaviour right the way across the supply chain, from making sure they order the right amount of produce, to making sure it gets to store on time and giving it a price that is likely to sell before it expires. In fact, if the UK’s top eight grocery retailers used AI and ML in 2020, they could prevent £144 million food waste.

Retailers need to make sure they are practicing what they preach when it comes to sustainability. That’s why adoption of AI and ML is so crucial, as it can put them into a position to run their supply chains in an increasingly sustainable way as we head into a new decade.


Michael Feindt is Chief Scientific Advisor and Founder of Blue Yonder, a JDA Software company


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