In this Q&A, Ethical Corporation’s Head of US Operations Ed Long talks to Samir Goswami about business transformation, collaboration and what is exciting about the AI industry at present
Q: Why do you feel the Responsible Business Summit West is an important meeting?
A: We see RBS West as a great opportunity to share best practices and demonstrate how artificial intelligence (AI) can be developed with the benefit of society and humanity in mind. Many companies have proven that the profit vs sustainability paradigm is a false choice. They have demonstrated that companies can prioritise shareholder profits while also engaging in practices and processes that protect the environment and promote human rights. RBS West is a venue to share, learn and inspire and mainstream this balance – particularly on the West Coast where innovation and speed is prioritised. AI is an emerging technology(s) that is impacting companies across industries, and we look forward to adding to the conversation.
Q: What are your top three priorities in 2019/20? And why are they important to your team?
A: (1) Building a sustainable organisation that respects its employees; (2) Bringing our community together to produce research that is of value to our stakeholders; and (3) Using our leverage to have our members adopt best practices.
Q: How are businesses going to have to transform their operations to meet the needs of the customers in the future?
A: Customers value sustainability and respect for human rights, and, increasingly, ESG factors are important to institutional investors as well. Businesses need to build a corporate culture (top down and bottom up) that integrates these values into every aspect of their operations (sales, procurement and product development). There is currently a lot of public fear that AI technologies can pose risks (privacy, civil rights, lack of accountability and job displacement). Businesses need to also reassure their customers that AI is being developed with safeguards. Businesses can take the Ruggie principles on business and human rights and apply them broadly to AI product development – upholding their responsibility to protect human rights and ensuring that processes exist to remedy wrongs.
Q: How important is collaboration to long-term cross-industry transformation? What are you doing to deliver it?
A: Partnership on AI brings together stakeholders from across industry, academia and civil society to collectively address challenges. We believe that this multi-stakeholder process can ensure that AI is developed and deployed to benefit people and humanity, and that best practices are adopted across industries.
Q: What excites you about the sustainability industry at present?
A: The industry has learned many lessons in the past two decades that can be applied to emerging technologies. For example, AI research teams at large companies can learn from their colleagues who manage environmental issues, or sustainable procurement, on how to integrate sustainability into their AI product development. We don't have to reinvent the wheel in the AI ecosystem and can learn from the progress made in other areas and apply it to AI.
Samir Goswami will be speaking at Ethical Corporation's Responsible Business Summit West 2019 in San Diego 9-10 October. He will join 250+ CEOs, investors and heads of business to share practical ideas on how business can take the lead and accelerate action on social and environmental issues.