Embracing technology trust ethics

Ethical technology: the heart of purpose-driven companies

Companies are making momentous strides in infusing purpose into their businesses through philanthropy, sustainability, and equity initiatives. One of the newer frontiers in organizational purpose — one that provides ample opportunity to connect with customers, employees, and stakeholders — is the trustworthy and ethical use of technology.

In classes, meetings, and ceremonies we are asked to put away our phones—and for many of us, that feels like being asked to turn off one of our senses. We have likely reached a point where we cannot just “put down” technology because it informs and affects much of what we do. We live in an era in which our livelihoods, health, status, reputations, and more are shaped by technology. Today, every company is a tech company at its core.

Ethical technology practices have come into focus because many consumers, employees, and other stakeholders expect their organizations to address technology-driven risk.

Often, the ubiquity of technology leaves people with no choice but to trust it, even in the face of preventable data privacy issues and opaque algorithms. That means trustworthy and ethical technology must become the responsibility of those who make and deploy it—and the only way to succeed is to place ethics at the center of technology development.

The value of centering ethics and embracing change

Purpose-driven companies often witness higher market share gains and on average, can grow by up to three times faster than their competitors, all while achieving higher productivity and workforce and customer satisfaction. 

Research shows that even after a data breach, surveyed customers were 2.8 times more likely to continue purchasing from an organization with identifiable hallmarks of trust. Other research has shown that 79% of employees who highly trust their employers also feel more motivated to work.

Technology doesn’t have inherent values; it’s up to the people who create and use it to consciously embed ethical principles in it. Which is why trustworthy and ethical technology must become the responsibility of those who make and deploy it—and the only way to succeed is to place ethics at the center of technology development.

  • Private

    User privacy is respected, and data is not used or stored beyond its intended and stated use and duration; users are able to opt-in / out of sharing their data.

  • Transparent & Explainable

    Users understand how technology is being leveraged, particularly in making decisions; these decisions are easy to understand, auditable, and open to inspection.

  • Fair & Impartial

    The technology is designed and operated inclusively in an aim for equitable application, access, and outcomes.

  • Responsible

    The technology is created and operated in a socially responsible manner.

  • Accountable

    Policies are in place to determine who is responsible for the decisions made or derived with the use of technology.

  • Robust & Reliable

    The technology produces consistent and accurate outputs, withstands errors, and recovers quickly from unforeseen disruptions and misuse.

  • Safe & Secure

    The technology is protected from risks that may cause individual and / or collective physical, emotional, environmental, and / or digital harm.

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The benefits to centering ethics are clear, but so are the roadblocks, including:

Speed of development

Many technology development projects move quickly and do not allot time to address complex ethical issues that new tech may surface.

Inherent uncertainty in the future

No matter how much information we gather, it’s impossible to truly forecast the future.

Current management mindsets

Fully implementing effective risk management means that companies need to shift from a reactive to proactive approach.



Fortunately, those challenges can be addressed with the help of policies and frameworks that promote ethical technology practices.

Frameworks offer freedom

Establishing ethical technology structures, policies, practices, and frameworks for ethical tech assessment gives companies the freedom to act quickly and decisively, while maintaining an alignment with organizational purpose. This alignment with purpose has allowed many organizations—Deloitte included—to create a common definition and mindset around ethical tech that’s anchored in an overarching set of values.

To promote trustworthy and ethical standards and practices in technology, we’ve established a goal that by 2025, all systems that Deloitte develops and operates for its own use and for clients will be designed, developed, and operated using decision-making principles intended to drive trustworthy and ethical outcomes and expand equitable opportunities of a tech-savvy world to all people. Why? Simply put, when we create trustworthy technology, we create avenues to renew and strengthen trust in society’s systems and one another—all of which can underpin our organizational purpose.

Technology risk management should be viewed as a foundational priority, rather than a roadblock—one that helps us build a trustworthy and hopeful future. The degree to which technology upholds our trust can affect the quality of life we share. Companies who truly prioritize purpose place trust at the center of their technology operations and culture. They understand the value of integrity, of doing what is right and good for people and the planet. And they believe a future in which people can leverage technology with more confidence and trust is one that can help advance all of humankind.


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