HWZ study: Digital ethics gains strategic relevance

Today, digital ethics is a central and reputation-relevant topic that companies must address. This is shown by the 2022 Digital Ethics Sentiment Barometer of the HWZ and the Centre for Digital Responsibility, which measures the digital responsibility of companies in Switzerland on an annual basis.

Cornelia Diethelm, head of the CAS Digital Ethics course at the HWZ and author of the Digital Ethics Sentiment Barometer.

The survey shows that a large majority of companies have experience with ethically controversial projects. This relates primarily to the handling of collected data that enables data analyses and evaluations involving customer data (77%). Other experiences with controversial projects include datafication in the workplace (33%) and dealing with new technologies (32%).

Increasing awareness

Companies are not only sensitized to the responsible handling of data. The survey further shows that ethical issues have already been integrated into internal policies and processes in several companies: Every second person states that the data management (51%) as well as the data strategy (46%) contain corresponding specifications. An ethics policy often exists (38%) or is at least planned.

According to Cornelia Diethelm, head of the study, there is a general trend toward standardization: "Large companies have guidelines for data management and data strategy, and they have an ethics policy. Regardless of size, however, many companies are working on ethical guidelines, which our new survey has once again confirmed. "

Ethics is a matter for the boss

The survey also shows that digital ethics is present at the executive level: management is one of the most important internal advocates. "Digital ethics is digital responsibility in action. For companies, it is a far-sighted investment in good customer relationships," says Ralph Hutter, Head of Product Development and Research at HWZ IDB.

However, the central drivers of digital ethics in companies are individuals from data protection. Differences make it clear that within a company, goals are also pursued that contradict each other. "Consciously addressing digital ethics can help to systemically address internal conflicting goals. Business practices must be aligned with ethical guidelines that reflect the company's values and are also perceived accordingly from the outside," Diethelm emphasizes.

Customers want data security

The survey makes it clear that companies take the expectations of their customers seriously. Companies can position themselves as attractive employers if they take the issue of digital ethics seriously. Those who handle data responsibly are not only investing in good customer relationships. The company can also gain a competitive advantage by positioning itself as a trustworthy company, especially in the face of foreign competitors.

According to the study, there is a general lack of the necessary knowledge on how to integrate digital ethics into one's own company. The demand for training and continuing education to integrate ethical aspects into companies is increasing.

The Digital Ethics Sentiment Barometer measures the digital responsibility of companies in Switzerland and was conducted by the HWZ together with the Centre for Digital Responsibility (CDR). The author is Cornelia Diethelm, head of the CAS Digital Ethics course at the HWZ. 225 people took part in the survey, which was conducted from mid-November to the end of December 2021. The survey takes place annually.

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