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  • Writer's pictureMalcolm Kennedy

Can B Corp set a framework for ethical AI?

From steam engines to digital communication, the benefits of new technologies have often been concentrated with their creators and shareholders, at the cost of other stakeholders such as employees, local communities, and the environment.

The ongoing development and use of AI is an opportunity to reverse the trends of past technological innovations — that is, to harness the power of innovations for the good of all stakeholders, rather than just for shareholders. There are already ample warning signs about the dangers of failing to take action: a previous blog post summarized the ways in which AI can, and in some cases already has, deepened social inequalities, violated privacy rights, and spread misinformation; but AI also carries tremendous potential for good.

Although popular and expert opinions agree on the urgency of creating standards for responsible AI development, government regulation has lagged behind. Some companies, meanwhile, have adopted a variety of voluntary initiatives (such as the Montréal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence) that spell out best practices for AI development. While such initiatives are promising first steps, one limitation is that they are not legally binding.

The B Corporation certification process is ideally situated to help the world’s new and existing corporations navigate this juncture, and ultimately create a world where powerful advancements in AI benefit all stakeholders. Certified companies (B Corporations) are held legally accountable to standards on a wide array of environmental, community, and internal governance issues, all of which stand to benefit from advancements in AI. The certification process provides a well-defined ethical and environmental framework for AI development and use, ensuring that companies benefit society at large, rather than creators and shareholders alone.

A small but diverse group of AI-oriented companies have already signed on to the B Corp standards to help make AI for good a reality. For example, Delft Imaging is a Dutch medical diagnostics company and B Corp helping battle tuberculosis in developing countries. In the hospitality industry, UK-based B Corp Winnow helps commercial kitchens reduce food waste. Other certified B Corps leveraging AI include SkyHive, a Canadian company helping employers hire and reskill more effectively; and OneSeventeen Media, an American B Corp using AI to improve mental health and social emotional well-being for kids. This suite of companies committing to hold themselves legally responsible for ethical and sustainable business is paving the way for a more transparent and accountable AI future.

As a Certified B Corp, Whale Seeker has chosen to pursue its mission of developing AI that benefits communities and the environment, within a sustainable and ethically sound company. To us, this means only working with clients or partners whose projects we view as aligned with our values and mission. It also means measuring our impact and setting objectives that work towards specific Sustainable Development Goals. We know it’s possible to be for-good and for-profit, and we believe that B Corp certification is a way for AI to exist within this space as well.


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