A Q&A with Margery Moore

These days, EHS professionals know that their job isn’t as simple as achieving compliance. In an evolving world of regulation and requirements, the administrative challenge to develop systems while staying current - all the while compiling, maintaining and extracting data from mountains of documents - is daunting, costly and laboured at best.

Enter Margery Moore, who after 20 years of commercializing EHS software, was primed to take the industry to the next level. A leader and widely respected expert in her field, Margery has a growing list of accomplishments. She created her own charity in BC 15 years ago, the Institute for Sustainability Education & Action (I-SEA), and has been advising organizations like the National Association of Environmental & Sustainability Managers (NAEM), and the Biomimicry Institute’s Asknature.org, a non-profit that provides tools to develop sustainable solutions for the planet. Currently, she’s Co-Founder and CEO of Moore & Gasperecz Global Inc. Her latest venture is destined to change the EHS landscape forever, and forge an innovative new path that redefines how many industries function in our world – for the better.

This may seem like a bold statement, but the facts speak for themselves. Utilizing AI (artificial intelligence), and specifically Machine Learning and NLP (Natural Language Processing), the Moore & Gasperecz team developed a patent-pending algorithm called ehsAI that deconstructs documents automatically, and presents the output to a user in a form that allows for systematic compliance with a set of concise action items. When comparing their output to a human-created output, ehsAI results were more granular, more consistent in interpretation, more accurate, 100 times faster and 10 times cheaper. The results were staggering, and exciting indeed. Their technology is being utilized by some of the largest customers in the world, including several Fortune 50’s.

For Moore, the incentive behind this breakthrough product is clear and passionate – “We cannot afford to have companies not in compliance.” It’s also about human potential.

Below, Margery talks about artificial intelligence, women in tech, and the future of the industry.

Q. What led you down this path?

I received my BSc. and Masters in Environmental Data Management in 1999, and then started out my career at ICF Consulting. It wasn’t long before I moved to Bloomberg BNA, where I was the Director of Business Development and Strategic Alliances. That helped to define my career, as all the product lines I managed were EHS software of some kind. I ended up staying at Bloomberg for almost 16 years.

Q. What led you to leave the corporate world and form Moore & Gasperecz?

I saw the writing on the wall, that the focus within the company was shifting. Professionally, I was ready to challenge myself in a new way, and often these things just happen organically.

Over the years, I had been hearing people ask whether or not there was a way to automate the processing of digesting complex EHS documents, like permits and regulations, which were now numbering in the hundreds of thousands for many companies, and becoming an enormous administrative burden. I was seeing the advancements in AI and particularly machine learning (ML), and suddenly the potential to transform EHS regulations and compliance workflows seemed not just real, but a necessity.

So, I contacted my long-time friend Greg Gasperecz, who was part of many discussions about how to crack this type of problem over the years. Greg, an industry veteran who has 40 years of experience in the EHS industry said, “let’s do it!” He looked at how to automate the deconstruction of complex regulations into succinct requirements, and how the technology needed to think like an EHS professional. We worked together to identify the “what” and we pulled together a team of machine-learning rockstars to do the “how”. We built a POC and it was purchased by 2 companies all within a few months during Q4 of 2018. We now have 10 developers, 4 machine-learning data scientists and a wonderful group of data labellers.

Q. How is ehsAI a game changer?

Well, it’s reducing the administrative burden of complying. I like to think of it in a more sexy way, that we are liberating professionals to do much more creative work with their time, and in that way unlocking human potential. I just don’t like the idea of bright minds sitting in a room doing data entry, when it could be so much more valuable to have them working on higher-level improvements. This is the perfect application for AI, where machine learning and predictive analytics can do the job in seconds, rather than in days or weeks, and much more accurately.

I also like the idea of giving back control to companies in terms of their own data. They can now unlock knowledge that has been trapped in documents, or where consultants and law firms are managing it.

Q. AI often gets a bad rap, particularly in pop culture where it’s portrayed as the dystopian end of humanity. What are your thoughts on its potential, and what is AI’s good side?

I think AI gets a bad rap because people are more interested in the hype of innovation and doing flashy, cool things (i.e. what Facebook is up to) than in consciously benefiting humanity.

It’s important to clarify that AI is like a child’s brain – it needs to be exposed to information, and that information comes from us. A parent teaches a child how to play a sport. In a similar fashion, AI has to be repeatedly shown and taught, fed information that broadens capacity. The wider, more complicated sets of data you can feed it, the smarter it will become. If we provide AI with narrow, limited data, or if we omit pertinent data, this provides a perfect case for error-prone AI. So any problem with AI will reflect back on humanity, our intentions, our ability to follow through properly with our ideas, and potentially our moral code.

I don’t believe that people set out to do anything Machiavellian, but if we aren’t asking the right questions, we aren’t properly engaging the technology to its full potential. AI’s major practical application is that it can accurately and instantaneously process massive amounts of data – and we as humans have generated so much data it’s becoming an impossible task for us to process it meaningfully without revolutionary technology.

In terms of pop-culture representation, AI will probably continue to reflect the dark side of humanity, because it makes for good news, but our job in the industry is to highlight the amazing work being done. For example, the advancements being made in the environment, health and safety fields (EHS).

We are always looking to optimize – to do more with less. But we have to look at becoming efficient with our global resources and our sustainable practices. It’s undeniable that we can get amazing bang for our buck utilizing AI. So on that level, we are remiss if we don’t apply our most innovative technology to making the world a better place. AI and machine learning are the next tool in humanity’s toolkit.

People are now using AI and deep learning to tap into Biomimicry to address urgent problems such as climate change, early cancer diagnosis, managing bacterial and viral outbreaks, and sustainable fisheries practices. Technology still has so much to learn from nature, and in looking closer at biological systems and mimicking their genius, we can also develop a much deeper respect and appreciation for the natural world.

As an industry we absolutely need to address regulation, to be transparent to inspection, as well as morally accountable. This is a conversation that is happening with some urgency, and it’s a difficult one, but I also see it as a wonderful opportunity to chart our course forward and create partnerships.

Q. How do you see the role of women changing the culture of tech?

I firmly believe that without including women in the creation process, we are losing out on 50% of the human perspective. To embrace only half the population and their brain power is a huge loss to everyone, not just to women. We need all ideas from every corner to solve problems. It can’t just be men. But nothing will change until there are more women in tech. What we need are more programs to encourage women to take the training and the education, and we desperately need a welcoming culture. And we can’t have one without the other. ehsAI tries very hard to be that kind of diverse, welcoming environment. It’s worth noting that ehsAI’s three largest (and first) investors are women.

I speak where I can on the subject of women and tech to provide a voice, and to promote a welcoming culture. I want to show women it’s possible, and to work as hard as I can myself to create a welcoming environment. As a company we are trying to promote the education of young people all the time. For example, we support and mentor co-op students at UBC and UVIC. The Canadian Consulate in Palo Alto has partnered with BDC Capital’s “Women in Technology Venture Fund” to host the “2020 Women in Tech Silicon Valley Program”. I’ve been selected to attend, which is very exciting - and I intend to make the most of the opportunity to further encourage women to take the reins.

Q. What’s the long–term vision?

We are definitely going to move beyond EHS documents in our growth. Regulatory systems around the world will need to be organized into a machine learning format in order to solve some of society’s most pressing problems. What excites me most is that we can take this technology and tackle some of those issues in a way that saves time, money and energy. Our machine learning solutions have great potential, so EHS documents are only the first footstep for us. The feeling that we’ve created something that can be applied to many other sectors in a myriad of ways is exhilarating – it means we’ve tapped into something transformative, and that’s when I truly love what I do.