Should Organizations Link Responsible AI and Corporate Social Responsibility? It’s Complicated.

MIT Sloan Management Review and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have assembled an international panel of AI experts that includes academics and practitioners to help us gain insights into how responsible artificial intelligence (RAI) is being implemented in organizations worldwide. This month’s question for our panelists: Should an organization tie its RAI efforts to its overall corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts? The results present a mixed picture. While 52% of panelists (11 out of 21) believe that an organization’s RAI and CSR efforts should be linked, 24% do not (5 out of 21 disagree or strongly disagree), and an equal percentage expressed ambivalence (5 out of 21 neither agree nor disagree). Despite the lack of consensus, there are some common characteristics among those who agree that organizations should link their RAI and CSR efforts, as well as some concerns shared among the remaining panelists. Leaders are the most mature of three maturity clusters identified by analyzing the survey results. An unsupervised machine learning algorithm (K-mean clustering) was used to identify naturally occurring clusters based on the scale and scope of the organization’s RAI implementation. Scale is defined as the degree to which RAI efforts are deployed across the enterprise (e.g., ad hoc, partial, enterprisewide). Scope includes the elements that are part of the RAI program (e.g., principles, policies, governance) and the dimensions covered by the RAI program (e.g., fairness, safety, environmental impact). Leaders were the most mature in terms of both scale and scope. We also conducted a global survey of more than 1,000 executives to inquire about a similar question — the extent to which they believe their organization’s RAI and CSR efforts are actually linked in practice.1 An overwhelming majority of survey respondents — 90% of managers in companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues — reported that their organization’s RAI and CSR efforts are linked, albeit to varying degrees (23% to a great extent, 24% to a moderate extent, 25% to some extent, and 18% to a minor extent). Among RAI leaders, 73% reported links between the two (strongly agree/agree), compared with only 35% of nonleaders. Only 10% of managers surveyed reported no connection at all between the two. While the question posed to our panelists was a normative one and the question posed to survey respondents was an empirical one, the divergence between survey and panel results might also be attributable to the wide variety of opinions we outline in this article as to what RAI and CSR encompass.

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