How innovative technologies are being used to enhance sustainability
JoAnn Martin, VP Retail Strategy at JDA discusses the use of innovative technology within the retail industry for sustainability.
Millennials are projected to soon overtake baby boomers as the largest adult population group, bringing demands for sustainability to the front of every grocery checkout aisle.
Fresh retailers, or retailers in the business of providing highly perishable foods like fresh produce and meat to consumers, can strengthen sustainability efforts and combat the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted annually with the support of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions. AI and ML not only help fresh retailers reduce their environmental footprint through waste reduction, but the technologies allow them to respond to market conditions in real-time and offer more personalised assortments in line with the core values of their key consumers, resulting in more efficient and eco-friendly supply chains.
So what does this look like in practice? Here are three ways AI and ML can enhance sustainability for fresh retailers:
1. Waste reduction
Food waste is a worldwide issue. Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted, which releases approximately 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fresh retailers that take action to eliminate food waste and reduce carbon emissions help not only the environment, but their bottom lines as well.
By introducing AI and ML to merchandising and supply chain processes, such as store replenishment and price optimisation, grocers can cut down on wasted product through reduced out-of-stocks, shortened shelf gaps and more accurate demand forecasting. For example, automated markdown recommendations can help fresh retailers reduce spoilage and combat waste by more quickly moving perishable items off store shelves. By carrying the right amount of inventory, the risks of highly perishable foods going to waste drops, and customer demand can be satisfied without lost sales.
2. Real-time response to market conditions
Demand and supply are constantly fluctuating, making them difficult to predict. No grocer can foresee contamination or disease, like the banana fungus that has been ravishing supply across the globe; however, fresh retailers can use the data available to them to proactively enhance their supply chains, make informed decisions and avoid wasted efforts and resources.
AI automatically evaluates hundreds of demand factors that influence consumer decisions including weather, promotions, holidays, and day of the week. Deep insight into the connections between these different influencers creates probabilistic forecasts that take all possible scenarios into account. This provides grocery retailers with the most sustainable solutions.
Ultimately, embedding AI and ML into core supply chain and merchandising processes enhances sustainability by decreasing time and resources spent responding to dynamic market conditions and customer preferences.
3. Satisfy evolving customer preferences
Customer buying patterns, and the external factors around them, give fresh retailers the data points they need to stock shelves optimally. Everything from consumer sentiment to what day of the week consumers typically shop create a whirlwind of complexity that fresh retailers can better understand with AI and ML to maximise satisfaction while minimising their global footprint.
Fresh retailers can respond to changing demand factors based on their real-time relevancy thanks to AI’s highly automated algorithms. The value of AI and ML lies in their cognitive learning abilities to draw correlations between these disparate sets of data, and use them to plan ordering, replenishment and shipping activities accordingly. Aligning store ordering plans with consumer preferences through the help of AI and ML reduces waste, drives sustainability, and increases customer satisfaction.
For example, the explosion of non-milk based dairy products, like almond, soya and coconut milk, is driving challenges with predicting assortment and sales volumes for grocery retailers. Forecasting and replenishment solutions infused with AI and ML enable intra-day replenishment of dairy items in high-volume regions, optimising supply with date sensitive information.
Creating a sustainable future
With complexities mounting for fresh retailers in the form of increased competition, high consumer expectations and their changing preferences, finding ways to deliver on all fronts without sacrificing quality is critical. Consumers’ growing desire to better the planet by narrowing their carbon footprint is changing the way fresh foods make their way into our homes. Advanced technologies including AI and ML solutions can give fresh retailers the advantage they need to compete in such a fast-moving industry.
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How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.