Technology, Ethics, and the Green Recovery
Ms Anna Moore discusses the importance of considering ethics in the adoption of technology across business operations.
The advancement of technology and increased adoption of artificial intelligence affords greater security and transparency to support the development of sustainable global supply chains. The efficiencies inherent in technology-enabled global supply chains can enable the transition into a greener economy thereby contributing to the larger sustainability goals of economic and environmental development.
As a Sustainability Consultant at Eco-Business in Singapore, Ms Anna Moore works on a diverse range of engagements and issues, including human rights and corporate due diligence, ethical technology use in supply chains, sustainability reporting and strategy, and stakeholder engagement. Drawing upon her expertise in social risk mitigation strategies that promote global corporate supply chain sustainability, she discussed how the plans to cut emissions after COVID-19 need to extend into the transition towards low-carbon, sustainable economies, supported by necessary regulatory changes. She reiterated that such regulatory changes needed to also consider infrastructural changes.
To kick things off, Ms Moore shared that companies looking to adopt technological advancements in their operations need to consider three key areas — the philosophical, the ethical, and the practical. The philosophical side of technology, particularly artificial intelligence and data collection, prompts people to ponder: what is artificial intelligence and how can it benefit and hinder businesses and individuals? Ms Moore also pointed out that the ethical issues surrounding a machine’s ability to learn and think also present moral and legal challenges for businesses.
In fact, one of the biggest problems across sectors is that robust ethics are not being embedded in the development of artificial intelligence, and are therefore absent in their global implementation and subsequent use by third parties. Worryingly, such technologies are already ubiquitous in industries such as food and agriculture, media, and commerce. A lack of knowledge about these technologies in the companies that are implementing them has huge implications for human rights and privacy.
So, whose responsibility is it to govern technology and artificial intelligence systems?
Ideally, it would fall on the shoulders of the governments of each nation. However, our legal systems are not evolved and/or updated enough to catch up with the exponential growth of technology.
It is therefore an imperative for all businesses, regardless of size and stage, to advocate for the development of policies which provide guidance for the development of robust ethical principles. This would help business users to mitigate the negative consequences arising from adoption and use of artificial intelligence, which lack the necessary robust ethical principles. Otherwise, we may see technology contributing more harm to society than strengthening human resilience.
In the present climate, corporate human rights abuse occurs when systems of law fail to protect those at risk, resulting in a significant disadvantage to the weakest players in the global economy. Over the last decade, many countries have passed laws on corporate rights abuses, highlighting the need for organisations to undertake responsible business practices at their core. In addition, more governments have become increasingly vigilant of such issues and require companies to proactively identify and prevent human rights abuses.
By leveraging complex and advanced technologies — such as artificial intelligence systems and blockchain technology — in an ethical manner, businesses can effectively mitigate risks and minimise the unintended consequences of their business operations. For example, data collection and artificial intelligence systems can help to monitor and reduce fuel usage in transportation. It can also help to uncover potential risks to employees and customers in real-time.
Moving forward, businesses will need to consider and minimise the carbon emissions from operations throughout their supply network, and also consider how ethical use of technology can help them achieve this. Companies who are able to manage this will be able to support positive action towards the climate crisis and thrive in the new normal. By instilling this forward-looking mindset in ourselves, we can build back better from the pandemic and make the green recovery possible.
View the full recording of the webinar “Technology, Ethics, and the Green Recovery”.
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