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Can IT become an ally of the planet?

In November 2023, Atos and WWF announced their new partnership, putting environmental technology at the heart of the NGO's biodiversity conservation.

What does this partnership involve, what are its concrete actions and what lessons can we learn from it in the fight against environmental degradation? Here are some answers from Nourdine Bihmane, CEO of Atos, and Véronique Andrieux, CEO of WWF France.

Last November, Atos and WWF France announced a partnership. What led your respective organizations to decide to work together?

Nourdine Bihmane: At Atos, sustainability has been at the heart of our strategy for a decade now. Like everyone else, we started with Scope 1 and Scope 2 of SBTi to reduce our CO2 emissions. In this respect, we quickly realized that the most significant lever would be to reduce the energy consumption of our data centers on one hand and to switch the remaining energy to renewable sources on the other. At present, 68% of the electricity we consume comes from renewable sources.

We then tackled Scope 3, which represents a much greater challenge, since we must work with all the players in our value chain raising our standards and ensuring that they reduce their emissions as much as possible when working for us. By the end of 2023, considering all our greenhouse gas emissions (Scopes 1, 2 and 3), we had reduced our emissions by 32.5% compared to 2019. Our ambition is to achieve a 50% reduction by 2025, and 90% reduction by 2039.

Digital technology currently accounts for 4% of global emissions, and this share is rising sharply with the development of new technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (AI). We therefore need to accelerate the decarbonization of our customers and suppliers, as well as our employees, and that's where this partnership with WWF France comes into its own. At Atos, it will enable us to mobilize our employees and encourage them to get involved in environmental technology projects by capitalizing on WWF's formidable experience in the field. This NGO has been a champion of biodiversity for several decades now and we want to put our expertise at its service to maximize the impact of WWF’s actions.

Véronique Andrieux: WWF's objective is to halt environmental degradation and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, and we cannot achieve this goal alone. In particular, by being at the heart of production and consumption patterns, businesses have a decisive role to play and we expect them to be major agents of change for an ecological transition.

This is why WWF has chosen to enter partnerships with companies that demonstrate a willingness to transform and influence others in their sector and ecosystem. This is the case with Atos, which on the one hand is acting with the right level of ambition to reduce its own carbon footprint, by committing through SBTi to climate targets aligned to the Paris Agreement, and which on the other hand is encouraging and helping companies in other sectors to decarbonize.

We believe that by joining forces and working together, we have the credibility and legitimacy to convince other companies to set ambitious climate targets.

In addition, Atos's expertise in digital solutions is invaluable in helping WWF with several conservation projects, in particular the ability to collect quality data and use it to develop innovations to better protect nature.

How do you intend to use this partnership to put data processing at the service of the environment?

Nourdine Bihmane: First of all, we think that Atos can contribute its expertise in artificial intelligence, with very promising applications in a field such as monitoring biodiversity and its evolution, which is one of the pillars of WWF's work to protect and restore natural environments.

Véronique Andrieux: To work towards preserving a given species, it is crucial to be able to assess the state of its habitat. Nature is disappearing at an alarming rate: the latest WWF Living Planet Report shows a 69% decline of vertebrate populations over the last fifty years: AI algorithms coupled with high-definition images taken by satellites can be used to predict the evolution of a habitat and the threats it faces to protect them more effectively.

Nourdine Bihmane: For example, a pilot project is being carried out in the East African savannah using images supplied by Planet, a company specializing in satellite imagery. AI is used to spot signs of human activity in protected areas (fences, buildings, etc.). It is also used to analyze the color of the grass when the savannah is in good health, based on data from previous years, so that a period of drought, a fire or some other form of environmental degradation can be spotted more quickly.

Another project is devoted to zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from one animal species to another or from animals to humans. WWF's Asia-Pacific Counter-Illegal Wildlife Trade Hub has identified a correlation between deforestation and the sale of wild animals in a given geographical area, and the prevalence of these diseases. We have deployed a working group in the Mekong Basin, an area rich in biodiversity, to use AI processing of masses of historical data in the region to predict the emergence of diseases such as avian and swine flu.

Another focus of your collaboration is the decarbonization of certain industries. Which industries, for example, will be targeted?

Nourdine Bihmane: Our first study is looking at the maritime shipping sector, a strategic sector that transports 80% of the world's traded goods, and which, although less polluting (per tonne transported) than air or road transport, still emits a lot of CO2, accounting for 3% of global emissions. It is therefore particularly important to make this industry greener. There are some promising initiatives around alternative fuels and boat design, but these will only have an impact in the medium to long term. We have therefore worked with WWF on a white paper proposing solutions that can be implemented in the short term.

Our analysis shows, for example, that by migrating data to the cloud, we can improve the energy efficiency of this industry by a factor of three and reduce the carbon intensity of the electricity consumed by 75%. In addition, collecting data with the IoT, processing it with AI using edge computing, and finally sharing this information live to all stakeholders via the cloud can reduce fuel consumption, during a journey and while a ship is docked. By correctly and harmoniously applying these different technologies, we estimate that we can rapidly reduce the industry's current emissions by 20%.

By Nourdine Bhimane

CEO, Atos Tech Foundations

By Veronique Andrieux

CEO, WWF France and sustainable development specialist

 

Posted on March 15, 2024

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About Nourdine Bihmane
CEO, Atos Tech Foundations
As CEO of Atos Tech Foundations, Nourdine brings over 20 years of proven tech expertise driving change management, growth and P&L performance. He has served in several global management roles across Europe, North America, and emerging markets and drove successful transformation and turnaround programs for Atos. Prior to his Tech Foundations CEO tenure, Nourdine was Executive Vice President, Head of Global Delivery, and CEO of Growing Markets.

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About Veronique Andrieux
CEO, WWF - France
Veronique Andrieux is a sustainable development specialist and currently serves as CEO at WWF France. Previously, she served for as CEO at Action Contre la Faim (ACF), as Senior Program Advisor at the Club de Madrid and Senior Policy Advisor at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and seven years as Oxfam Regional Director. She has field experience in Latin America, West and Central Africa, and Northern Africa countries. She holds a Masters’ degree in Business Administration from ESADE, and postgraduate diplomas in Development Studies from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS Paris) and in Policy Studies from the School of African and Oriental Studies at the University of London (SOAS).

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