At the 10th Sommet de l'Économie organised by French media Challenges on 22 and 23 November 2023, Estelle Brachlianoff, CEO of Veolia, took part in a round table entitled "Sharing knowledge: AI revolution, what consequences for knowledge?". Alongside Florence Allouche Aknin (Mynpharm), Vincent Lecerf (Orange), and Christophe Périllat (Valéo), this panel discussion explored the implications of generative artificial intelligence, highlighting the issues, the challenges and the need to regulate this technology.
Generative AI: issues, challenges and regulation
Since the launch of ChatGPT, generative artificial intelligence has become a central element in discussions on technological transformation. A study published in October 20231 shows that 65% of French business leaders consider generative AI to be a priority investment.
Over the past decade, AI has gradually infiltrated businesses, ushering in what some consider a "fourth industrial revolution". Estelle Brachlianoff, CEO of Veolia, highlights significant progress at the leading green transformation company, where AI tools are monitoring water leaks and improving the energy performance of buildings, resulting in a 10% reduction in leaks and 15% energy savings. Significant results boosted by artificial intelligence, but which cannot work without the human dimension.
We're putting our capacity for innovation and our technologies at the service of a common project: ecological transformation.
The transformation of jobs through generative AI
Tomorrow's businesses are set to change dramatically, and so will companies. So how do we grasp and understand these changes? According to Estelle Brachlianoff, there are two keys to this transformation: "We are putting technology and innovation at the service of a project: this is ecological transformation. The second key is putting technology and innovation to work for people".
By applying this approach, Veolia is not reducing the number of jobs, but rather changing them: for example, at the sorting centres, fewer and fewer humans are handling the waste, replaced by more and more robots that sort for them. This is improving the physical working conditions of our employees, guaranteeing greater safety and less drudgery. The combination of ecological transformation and artificial intelligence can therefore lead to better quality jobs and, what's more, job creation.
Veolia now has the capacity to create 8 times more jobs in France to recycle a bottle of water than to send it to landfill.
Protecting knowledge through training
The notion of learning in the age of ChatGPT encompasses both the use of generative AI to simplify work tasks and the need for in-house training for employees. The participants in the round table agreed on the importance of training to preserve the technological advantages. The direct transmission of knowledge within companies was hailed as an effective way of fostering the sharing of knowledge in this new landscape shaped by AI.
According to Estelle Brachlianoff, training is key: "You have to learn to adapt and learn to learn". Adaptation is therefore a cornerstone for Veolia, where learning and fundamentals intersect and complement each other. For example, in the United States, the Veolia Academy has made it possible to open free online training courses for all candidates interested in working towards ecological transformation. This is an edifying example of the Group's commitment to sharing value and investing in people, at the heart of the company.
Generative AI offers revolutionary opportunities in knowledge sharing, but its use must be supervised to ensure ethical and inclusive development, and training is one of the levers that can guarantee reasoned and reasonable use of this technology.
1 Study conducted and published by KPMG in 2023 on AI within companies.