The Opportunities at the Intersection of AI, Sustainability, and Project Management

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez & Ricardo Vargas

Originally published on Harvard Business Review

In 2020, Microsoft announced its “Planetary Computer” initiative, a monumental project aimed at collecting environmental data on a global scale and making it accessible for sustainability solutions. By partnering with environmental organizations and leveraging cutting-edge AI algorithms, Microsoft aims to tackle some of the planet’s most pressing environmental issues, from biodiversity loss to climate change. This forward-thinking project serves as more than just an example of corporate responsibility. It stands as a significant milestone, indicating a broader paradigm shift towards making AI and sustainability the backbone of modern project management.

In today’s project economy, where projects are the primary unit of work and value creation, traditional project management paradigms are undergoing radical transformation. Sustainability is no longer a “nice-to-have” but an essential criterion for success — both on the initial completion of projects, and as project deliverables continue to deliver benefits over their lifetime. As companies like Microsoft demonstrate, there’s an unprecedented opportunity at the intersection of AI, project management, and sustainability (in the social and financial realms as well as the environmental realm).

Skills Project Managers Need to Succeed

Unfortunately, without proper execution, integrating AI and project management to achieve sustainability goals can contribute to the very carbon footprint we aim to reduce. How can we simultaneously harness the computational powers of AI and meet sustainability objectives without tipping the scales unfavorably in terms of cost and environmental impact? This is where the “green algorithms,” specialized AI constructs designed to both enhance operational efficiency and prioritize sustainability, enter the arena.

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