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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Collaboration with the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Encourages Ethical Use of Technology

Ethics by design : An organizational approach to responsible use of technology

Ethics by design : An organizational approach to responsible use of technology

World Economic Forum - “Ethics by Design” – An Organizational Approach to Responsible Use of Technology. 

The Ethics Center was recently part of a collaboration led by the World Economic Forum (WEF), an international organization for public-private cooperation. Along with WEF and Deloitte, one of the Big Four accounting organizations and the largest professional services network in the world, the center contributed to the report, Ethics by Design” – An Organizational Approach to Responsible Use of Technology. Ann Skeet, the Center’s senior director of leadership ethics was a major/significant contributor to this piece that provides business, academics and civil society leaders with a set of comprehensive recommendations to build and use technology more ethically and responsibly.

Over the past 8 years, the technology sector has experienced a steeper decline in trust compared to any other sector. As a field that experiences rapid rates of growth and innovation, there are always new ethical concerns to be dealt with, such as data privacy and algorithmic biases. Technological development cannot be done in a vacuum; there must be considerations for societal impacts and this report guides executives on practical tools and approaches for such considerations. 

The report integrates psychology and behavioural economics findings to help shape decisions to prompt better and more ethical behaviours. These methods have proven to be more effective than traditional incentives such as compliance training, monetary compensation, or penalties.

The report builds on earlier work by Nicholas Epley and David Tannenbaum, who approached ethics as a design problem. Epley and Tannenbaum identified three critical components to designing ethics into organizations: attention, construal, and motivation. Skeet, and  her co-authors, draw from their own research and that of the Center’s, to identify models organizations can use and specific ethical design techniques currently in use by business and nonprofit enterprises from start-ups to long-lasting companies in mature industries. 

“This partnership is a wonderful example of blending insights and research to identify models organizations can use to help employees learn and be comfortable with ethical principles,” said Don Heider, executive director, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. “Executives will find practical, specific recommendations enabling their organizations to be intentional in their efforts to embed ethical thinking into their cultures and their practices.”


Dec 10, 2020


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