A new IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study revealed a radical shift in the roles responsible for leading and upholding AI ethics at an organization. When asked which function is primarily accountable for AI ethics, 80% of respondents pointed to a non-technical executive, such as a CEO, as the primary “champion” for AI ethics, a sharp uptick from 15% in 2018.
The global study also indicates that despite a strong imperative for advancing trustworthy AI, including better performance compared to peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion, there remains a gap between leaders’ intention and meaningful actions. The study found:
CEOs (28%) – but also Board members (10%), General Counsels (10%), Privacy Officers (8%), and Risk & Compliance Officers (6%) are viewed as being most accountable for AI ethics by those surveyed. While 66% of respondents cite the CEO or other C-level executive as having a strong influence on their organization’s ethics strategy, more than half cite board directives (58%) and the shareholder community (53%).
More than three-quarters of business leaders surveyed this year agree AI ethics is important to their organizations, up from about 50% in 2018. At the same time, 75% of respondents believe ethics is a source of competitive differentiation, and more than 67% of respondents that view AI and AI ethics as important indicate their organizations outperform their peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion. Many companies have started making strides. In fact, more than half of respondents say their organizations have taken steps to embed AI ethics into their existing approach to business ethics. More than 45% of respondents say their organizations have created AI-specific ethics mechanisms, such as an AI project risk assessment framework and auditing/review process.
“As many companies today use AI algorithms across their business, they potentially face increasing internal and external demands to design these algorithms to be fair, secured and trustworthy; yet, there has been little progress across the industry in embedding AI ethics into their practices,” said Jesus Mantas, Global Managing Partner, IBM Consulting.
The time for companies to act is now. The study data suggests that those organizations who implement a broad AI ethics strategy interwoven throughout business units may have a competitive advantage moving forward.
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