Welcome to Responsible Business Week 2018!

Amanda Mackenzie, Chief Executive, Business in the Community, welcomes Responsible Business Week 2018 and discusses how we can make the most of human potential in a Brave New World.

It doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was opening my very first one as CEO of Business in the Community in 2017 but a lot has happened since then. We’ve seen some fantastic examples of responsible business and we’ve celebrated and worked alongside our 2017 Award winners for a whole year – in only a few short months we will be revealing who we think is the very best in responsible business in 2018.

As we kick off this Responsible Business Week, I’m looking forward to hearing about and celebrating all the incredible journeys our members have been on in the last year. But I’m also excited to look forward and see how we can work together to make the most of the business world’s human potential.

But the frontpage stories of the last year haven’t all been positive. Just last month, the Cambridge Analytica scandal reminded us how quickly our world is changing and how fast we need to run to keep up. It wasn’t just the knowledge that people’s private data had been taken without their knowledge, or that this had been monetised in ways which affected communities across the UK. One of the most frightening things was the realisation that so few of us – in the press, Parliament or public – really understand the digital world that we all take for granted on a daily basis. How many of us had really thought about the deal that we were striking with Facebook and its partners to join the free social network? The old maxim seems to hold truer than ever: if you’re not paying, you’re the product.

The more speed the fourth industrial revolution gathers, the more we’ll have to consider what it means to be at the digital frontier. So, I was pleased to see that the House of Lords Select Committee on AI published a report last week that cut through some of the complications and fears to focus on the simple principles that we should guide us in our digital age. I particularly liked its conclusion that ‘all citizens should have the right to be educated to enable them to flourish mentally, emotionally and economically alongside artificial intelligence’.

I believe it’s time we really thought about what the reality of that flourishing ‘alongside’ AI means, which is exactly what Business in the Community is doing through Brave New World. In 2016, we showed you the state of the nation and gave you 64 examples of best practice; in 2017, we set out the key areas for companies to focus on.

Now, in 2018, we’re partnering with Digital Champions who can act as trailblazers, benchmarks and problem-solvers, helping us all to make this journey together. It’s one of the areas at the centre of our Responsible Business Map and we think a business can’t be truly responsible without thinking digital – you can hear Duncan Tait of Fujitsu explain what this really means in our latest episode of The Lens, out today.

If Cambridge Analytica teaches us anything, it’s that we’ll get the best, the most responsible results from digital technology when we remember not to lose sight of the human lives that generate the data and use the technology. It’s technology with a heart that’s going to reach the furthest and last the longest. After all, even Elon Musk – the poster boy for cutting-edge tech – brought humans back into his Tesla factory last week and his reasons why is worth remembering: ‘humans are underrated’.

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