Business Ethics in the News: Jan - Feb 2023

15 March 2023

Tags: Diversity, Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Reflecting on business ethics stories in the news in January and February 2023

What is the right thing to do when profits soar in a cost of living crisis?

Following the windfall tax imposed on energy companies in May last year, businesses such as BP and Shell, and others globally, continue to report record profits, whilst energy prices continue to fuel inflation and add to the cost of living crisis. What is the ethical thing to do when, as in any crisis, some are doing well where other businesses, families and individuals face very real challenges?

FTSE 350 companies reach women on boards target three years early

The Women Leaders Review has revealed that the UK’s biggest companies have hit their 40% for women on boards three years early. This follows the Lord Davies report on women on boards, published in 2011, which set the 40% target.

Of course, there is more to do, in executive roles and across all other aspects of diversity, but this achievement demonstrates what can be done. Something that 12 years ago seemed like an audacious ambition is now common sense and well accepted – that a well-governed organisation will have a board that includes women and men, and that there are more than enough very well-qualified women willing and able to serve. The hope is that the Parker review will be widely accepted as the blueprint that allows for comparable progress on race.

The AI Chatbot race has begun

The race for the first AI-enhanced search engine has begun, with Google and Microsoft fiercely competing to secure first place. The advancement in technology will take the artificial intelligence space into its next phase and revolutionise how we can access and search for information.

With tech giants across the world such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Baidu competing for dominance in the future of artificial intelligence, it provokes questions as to what the implications will be for employees and businesses. Over the last few years, millions of companies have already utilised chatbots to take over their online customer service roles. We have often heard concerns about AI replacing a wide range of other job roles.

There are huge ethical debates here, from the future of work to the governance of this new technology, and who gets to decide what information we will all have access to. One important policy debate is how we educate young people to succeed and thrive in this rapidly changing information environment.  A valuable tool is the Skills Builder framework, which defines essential skills and gives guidance to children and adults to help develop them. These skills, such as leadership, teamwork, problem solving and creativity, are the skills that, so far, only humans have. They are the skills that we will need to succeed and thrive in the world of work, and the skills we will need to work out how to make the best use of AI, and how to integrate ethical considerations into its governance.


Rachael Saunders
Rachael Saunders

Deputy Director

Rachael is Deputy Director of the Institute and is responsible for our research programme, and our advisory and training services. She is most interested in how research can generate insights that inspire action. 

Rachael has collaborated with senior leaders across business, charities, communities, local and central government. After gaining her first degree in Politics and History from the University of Durham, and a Masters in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics, Rachael worked in Westminster, then for Carers UK, for UNISON, the public sector trade union, and for the TUC, on skills policy. She was at Business in the Community for over ten years, as an expert in workplace diversity and then in education business partnerships. As a Director at BITC, she worked closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and business leaders from Aviva, Barclays, Nationwide, UBS, McKinsey and many more.  Her most recent role was on the SLT of Speakers for Schools as it scaled its delivery of opportunities for young people. 

She has held a number of trustee roles including on the board of the Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, the Bromley by Bow Centre and East End Homes. She is currently chair of a charity called Sister System.  She was an elected local councillor for ten years and served as leader of the Labour Group on Tower Hamlets Council. In 2019 Rachael gained an MSc from Birkbeck, University of London, in Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, with a dissertation focussed on how boards communicate their community engagement. 

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