When asked which function is primarily accountable for AI ethics, 80 percent of respondents pointed to a non-technical executive, such as a CEO, as the primary “champion” for AI ethics, a sharp uptick from 15 percent in 2018. The global study also indicates 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.
Business executives are now seen as the driving force in AI ethics. CEOs (28 percent), but also board members (10 percent), General Counsels (10 percent), Privacy Officers (8 percent), and Risk and Compliance Officers (6 percent) are viewed as being most accountable for AI ethics by those surveyed. While 66 percent 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 percent) and the shareholder community (53 percent).
Building trustworthy AI is perceived as a strategic differentiator and organizations are beginning to implement AI ethics mechanisms. More than three-quarters of business leaders surveyed this year agree AI ethics is important to their organizations, up from about 50 percent in 2018. At the same time, 75 percent of respondents believe ethics is a source of competitive differentiation, and more than 67 percent of respondents that view AI and AI ethics as important indicate their organizations outperform their peers in sustainability, social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion.
Ensuring ethical principles are embedded in AI solutions is an urgent need for organizations, but progress is still too slow. More surveyed CEOs (79 percent) are now prepared to embed AI ethics into their AI practices – up from 20 percent in 2018 – and more than half of responding organizations have publicly endorsed common principles of AI ethics. Yet, less than a quarter of responding organizations have operationalized AI ethics, and fewer than 20 percent of respondents strongly agreed that their organization’s practices and actions match (or exceed) their stated principles and values.