Jeff Sternberg is a Technical Director, Sustainability at Google Cloud’s Office of the CTO, where he guides technology innovation to accelerate sustainability impact. In this role, he collaborates with technology leaders in Google’s most strategic customers to develop high impact emerging sustainability projects, including approaches to ESG transformation and climate risk and resilience. Before joining Google, Jeff held technical leadership roles at Blackstone, Ipreo, Observer Media, S&P Global, and fintech startups.
At Einride Mesh, Jeff will participate in a fireside chat about AI and advanced technology as tools to accelerate sustainability.
What do you see as one of the most important trends for 2023?
Everyone has heard a lot of about AI recently! I would like to focus on one aspect of AI that I see as incredibly important not only in 2023, but in the years ahead: Sustainability and AI. People across the globe are increasingly interested in learning how to live more sustainably, and they often turn to Google to help them make more sustainable choices. Worldwide, search interest for electric vehicles reached an all-time high in March 2022, according to Google Trends. In shopping, fast fashion is the top trending topic related to environmental issues over the past year. And in energy, global search interest in renewable energy reached an all-time high in March 2022. Organizations – including private and public sector, researchers, and policymakers – are seeing this continued upward trend in sustainability interest from all stakeholders, including customers, regulators, and even employees. According to Google Cloud’s 2023 sustainability survey, the vast majority (85%) of executives acknowledge customers are more likely to engage and do business with sustainable brands.
However, the macroeconomic environment is forcing many to achieve sustainability results with less money than before. Greenwashing and green hypocrisy are significant concerns – and accurate measurement is one tool to combat this problem. The really interesting thing is what can happen if we apply advances in AI – including the newest Generative AI technologies like large language, image, and sound models – to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. One example is with flood forecasting. Google’s Flood Hub is expanding to 80 countries, providing forecasts up to 7 days in advance of a flood to 460 million people around the world. This technology is powered by advanced AI that uses diverse, publicly-available data sources, such as weather forecasts and satellite imagery. The technology, then, combines two models: the Hydrologic Model, which forecasts the amount of water flowing in a river, and the Inundation Model, which predicts what areas are going to be affected and how deep the water will be.
What does "Make intelligent moves" mean to you?
To me, this means: collect and analyze data so that you have as much information as possible about the current and future state of things. I look forward to the day when people say “ok, we have enough climate change information to make this bold decision”. Nobody wants to just guess – it’s all about the data!
How can machine learning and artificial intelligence support in building solutions to combat climate change and promote social good?
Yes! See my answer to the first question. Here is another example: we can use Document AI to read and understand documents, such as complex sustainability reports that are commonly shared across supply chains or with investors. My team (Google Cloud Office of the CTO or OCTO) recently performed an experiment where we used the latest in AI to extract Scope 1 greenhouse gas information from sustainability reports. The experiment showed promising results: 0.752 F1 score with a training set of 601 labeled documents. And this was before the latest advances in large models referenced above!