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Responsibility for AI Ethics Shifts from Tech Silo to Broader Executive Champions: IBM Study

  • Ensuring ethical principles are embedded in AI solutions is an urgent need for organizations, but progress is still too slow says IBM Study.
  • 80% of respondents in this year’s survey pointed to a non-technical executive as the primary advocates for AI ethics, compared to 15% in 2018
  • 79% of CEOs surveyed are prepared to implement AI ethics practices 
  • 68% of organizations acknowledge diversity is important to mitigating bias in AI, but respondents indicated their AI teams are: 5.5 times less inclusive of women, 4 times less inclusive of LGBT+ individuals and 1.7 times less racially inclusive.

A new IBM (NYSE: IBM) Institute for Business Value (IBV) study revealed a radical shift in the roles responsible for leading and upholding AI ethics at an organization. When asked which function is primarily accountable for AI ethics, 80% of respondents pointed to a non-technical executive, such as a CEO, as the primary “champion” for AI ethics, a sharp uptick from 15% in 2018.

The global study found  that despite a strong imperative for advancing trustworthy AI, including better performance compared to peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion, there remains a gap between leaders’ intention and meaningful actions

The study found:

Business executives are now seen as the driving force in AI ethics

  • CEOs (28%) – but also Board members (10%), General Counsels (10%), Privacy Officers (8%), and Risk & Compliance Officers (6%)  are viewed as being most accountable for AI ethics by those surveyed.
  • While 66% of respondents cite the CEO or other C-level executive as having a strong influence on their organization’s ethics strategy, more than half cite board directives (58%) and the shareholder community (53%).

Building Trustworthy AI is perceived as a strategic differentiator and organizations are beginning to implement AI ethics mechanisms.

  • AI ethics is important to  organizations, up from about 50% in 2018 .
  • 51% of respondents say their organizations have taken steps to embed AI ethics into their existing approach to business ethics.
  • 45% of respondents say their organizations have created AI-specific ethics mechanisms, such as an AI project risk assessment framework and auditing/review process.
  • 75% of respondents believe ethics is a source of competitive differentiation,67% of respondents that view AI and AI ethics as important indicate their organizations outperform their peers in sustainability.
  • 45% of respondents say their organizations have created AI-specific ethics mechanisms, such as an AI project risk assessment framework and auditing/review process.

Siddhesh Naik – Data, AI & Automation Sales Leader, IBM Technology Sales, IBM India South Asia

“As the use of AI proliferates across organizations, societal concerns over the ethical impacts it can have on businesses, governments, and individuals are also increasing. Our study reveals that business leaders across India and globally are aware and agree that AI ethics is essential and makes business sense for competitive differentiation. Hence, they also understand that organizations deploying AI have an obligation that AI outcomes are trusted and explainable. They need to use governed data and AI technologies rooted in ethical principles to ensure AI’s decisions are fair, safe, trusted, and reliable as they scale AI for various use cases”.

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