Comparing your Digital Ethics ratings to your Competitors – Part II

Structuring Ethics

If we are putting more of a focus on ethics, seeing it separately from risk and regulatory compliance domains, ethics needs its own form of management. Ethics Boards are created by those that prefer an expert dominated approach. These Boards consist of experts from outside industry and design processes. They are independent in formation and are top-down in structure. Their priorities concerns are more with industry, rather than considering individual characteristics of the company.

Ethics Councils and Ethics Boards get frequently confused. Ethics Council are also external, but they have greater industry knowledge, which is reflects the organisation’s goals and interests. Therefore, they will give greater feedback regarding design, implementation and application of the company’s products.

One risk may be that Ethics Councils’ high level of strategic integration may slow down innovation of technological development as they are focused too heavily on the potential harms of technology. Management structures with low levels of strategic integration can also run in with other issues. It might not have as much importance as other structures within the firm, therefore be converted to a ticking-box exercise to a panel of experts. Ethics Champions is an example of being at risk of this but also have other disadvantages. Commonly, internal volunteers within the firm are made as go-to contacts for discussing application. This could lead to failure of diversity and inclusion within the ethics management, failing to make sure enough diversity and viewpoint is included in the conversation.

Ethic Networks distributes ethics through business units, such as Ethics Champions, but does so with formal structures from Ethic Councils. They are much likely to have an extent of expert involvement, as well as industry knowledge. 


Measuring Ethics using ESG model

As investors have flocked to the tech industry in 2020, many will find themselves ‘overweight’ on tech stock. As such they are more likely to be concerned with the specific risks that pertain to this sector, and the ‘techlash’ will move from a marketing problem to an investor relations problem.

Just as how when CSR shifted to ESG – an understanding that non-financial performance of an organisation and its impact on the world around needs governance and not just principles. This is as true now with relation to AI ethics as it was a decade ago with climate change.

The breadth and depth of governance can be measured. And in Peter Drucker’s words, if it can be measured, it can be managed. Managing Digital Ethics is perhaps the most important task for the tech industry, and the time to start is now.


Charles Radclyffe, AI Ethics, Technology Governance and ESG Specialist