What would you expect a driverless car to do when it has to choose between hurting its passenger or hurting a pedestrian? That is called an ethical dilemma, and they are not simply for autonomous vehicles. With the advancement of this Fourth Industrial Revolution, these innovations are spreading at unprecedented rates, impacting more and more communities. As business leaders, it is going to be essential that you find ways to maintain a winning and ethical focus as the business models shift around you. So, let’s take a look at a few ways you can reap the benefits of these technological advancements while also navigating the new dilemmas they create.
With this new wave of globalization disrupting businesses, national and global governance structures fail to keep up. Historical precedent has provided us with many examples of the harm of ungoverned business transformation. For example, the nationalization of the food industry during the turn of the 20th Century led to health and safety concerns thus causing the creation of the FDA. The irrational exuberance and lack of integrity within the financial market during the 1920s led to the creation of the SEC in the 1930s. In both of these cases, the lag between industry transformation and the government’s response was punctuated with periods of value destruction along with societal harm. So, even though these advancements are great in the long run, business leaders should be able to govern themselves to avoid any stakeholder harm while the government catches up.
We also need to find consistency when it comes to our ethics and values as we face the constant economic and geopolitical change. New industries, especially those involved Artificial Intelligence, are emerging meaning we must build ethical standards within them that are widely accepted. With the new technology emerging, we should pay attention to the stakeholder implications of these developments. Both business and civil society should lead on this challenge globally and create a new alliance of norms, industry associations, civil society, and non-profits which can respond more quickly than the government.
Another tip is to work on capturing the exponentially-increasing data flow of this fourth Industrial Revolution in order to make better business decisions. One of our responses to this has been the Sustainable Business Monitor which is a leadership tool that shows leaders their business impact based upon 450 points of sustainability, governance, citizenship, and long-term financial performance.