While we can’t deny the massive boost that disruptive technologies provide for companies, each piece of new tech presents challenges. As organizations become smarter, more agile, more flexible, and more responsive, they also get more exposed to reputational and financial risks.

A joint MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte study found that around 90% of managers and executives believe digital trends will disrupt their industries to a great or moderate extent. Still, only 44% say their organizations are adequately preparing for these. The bottom line: Not all companies may be ready for the potential repercussions of digital transformation. And much of this has to do with the fact that organizations don’t consider their high technology use’s ethical implications.

What Is Ethical Tech?

In the simplest terms, ethical tech refers to the ethical use of technology. It pertains to a wide-ranging set of values that addresses a company’s approach to its overall technology use, including how it is deployed to enhance business strategies and operations.

Ethical tech aligns how an organization uses technology to its fundamental purpose and core values. Customers, partners, and other stakeholders must continue trusting your company despite the many digital transformations it goes through.

How Can Companies Ensure Ethical Tech Use?

Various ways to ensure ethical tech use exist, no matter how digitally advanced an organization becomes. For those just starting their digital transformation journeys, though, these steps can help:

Digitize Core Values

Today, companies often decide and take action based on data collected and analyzed, aided by machine learning (ML). At times, they fail to consider that ML algorithms can have biases, and results don’t coincide with their principles.

Organizations can turn their core values into measurable elements that can be integrated into their technological solutions. With these in place, they can safeguard stakeholder welfare by preventing employees from using tech irresponsibly. Examples include imposing time and spending limits on habit-forming games or using a content aggregator that prompts users to verify crowdsourced information before citing it.

Fortify Data

Data privacy is probably the most prominent consumer concern today. Around 71% of consumers said they would stop doing business with a company that shared their sensitive data without permission. On the flip side, organizations that collect and use inaccurate data can cost businesses an average loss of US$15 million per year.

The inability to methodically and consistently track the kind of data you have, where it is stored, and who can access it can lead to a lack of trust. Having strong data security and accuracy can increase the confidence that stakeholders place in your organization. Data accountability and integrity should be a company priority. Business owners should strive to give stakeholders some control over how their data is used. Deleting data on demand unless it’s necessary for legal or regulatory purposes should also be considered.

Strengthen Cybersecurity

The total cybersecurity spending is expected to reach US$123 billion this year, which isn’t far-fetched given that we’ve seen 540 data breaches in the first half of 2020 alone.

Using the best cyber defense available represents a company’s commitment to protecting customers, employees, and partners. Part of effective ethical tech use is coming up with cyber risk strategies built and managed from the ground up and embedded in every business process, not to mention practiced by all employees.

How Can Organizations Identify Ethical Tech Issues and Respond Appropriately?

Effective ethical use requires a consistent way to identify issues and take action. Companies should focus on:

Start with an Ethical Mindset

To stay ahead of potential ethical tech challenges, design new products and services with ethical principles in mind. You can thus anticipate and avoid problems, rather than reacting after the fact.

Create an Ethical Tech Guide

Create a framework that explicitly addresses technology use cases in your company that matches your culture. Update the guide regularly by making adjustments each time problems arise.

Think Beyond Compliance

Ethical tech use should be part of your organization’s cultural DNA; not just a means to comply with government-mandated policies. Every employee should know the potential repercussions of tech-related ethical dilemmas on your business.

Ethical tech guidelines are not set and then forgotten. They need to keep up with the pace of technological evolution to remain effective. Business leaders must prioritize and mold it into their company culture if they wish to enjoy continued stakeholder trust despite their digital transformation.