Business Ethics and Sustainability
Business Ethics is widely considered to be one of the most important ingredients of the Social pillar of Sustainability. A business can be considered sustainable when supported and approved by its stakeholders, employees and the community. Fairness, efforts towards retention and engagement, and good practices towards these groups constitute key indicators for a business’s sustainability.
Compliance officers are expected to respond to various trends regarding business ethics, which gradually become more challenging. The evolution of technology greatly assisted the steps towards a business’s sustainability (better work conditions, increased communication, additional jobs), while it has dramatically changed the face of these developments, e.g. automation. Dilemmas have arisen concerning the point where the human substitution becomes unethical. Is it ethically acceptable for organizations to “get into the consumers’ head” or to try to influence their emotions? The examples below come from the marketing and psychology field. One could say the “robots” are taking over.
From Science Fiction to Neuromarketing
Marketing has been the pioneering field in this dynamic invasion of technology in people’s minds. Brands, in their effort to create strong connections and engagement with consumers, have recruited neuroscience. Marketers study the nervous system, how the brain reacts to particular stimulus and specifically what particular emotions they trigger. The ultimate goal is for consumers to bond with the brands and raise engagement and loyalty.
Facebook feels us
In 2012 Facebook also attempted to involve the examination of human emotions in the social media’s strategy, by carrying out an experiment where it screened certain words from 689,003 peoples’ news feed for one week. This disclosure aimed towards seeing how this adaptation would then influence the “participants” of the experiment (it was realized without their knowing) concerning their subsequent posts, “Likes” and reactions. The reactions of the CSR communities however were not positive, mostly criticizing how the experiment had an underlying desirable consumer purchasing behavior.
Meet Ellie, the virtual interviewer, by the USC Institute
Ellie is a human-like machine developed to assist the diagnosis of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, through actual interaction. Substituting the therapist, Ellie “listens” to the patients and detects psychological problems. A job ordinarily assigned to humans has now evolved into a technology involving occupation. What will be the outcome for psychologists and patients over the world? We’ll see.
It looks like technology has invaded in our lives more dynamically than ever. For us, Sustainability professionals, where should the limit be?