How to ethics wash the right way


Alright folks, let’s get real. Everyday people care about ethics. They want organisations to act in the public interest. But here’s the thing, its ridiculously hard (if not impossible) for people to verify that organisations are doing exactly what they say they do.

This is good news for us (we are already failing to act on stated values). It means perception matters more than reality. It means they kinda can’t hold us to account. Big smiles all round…

This blog is about helping you take advantage. It’s a simple plan to do ethics washing right.

Start expensive

You must first hire a very expensive consulting firm. Better yet, hire a firm with limited experience grappling with the issues and opportunties relating to ethics in digital society.

Although there’s a lot they can do (in order to justify the 7+ figures), they must produce at least 5 principles. Google’s AI Ethics Principles are an excellent example of this.

The CEO must get involved

Not actively or in any meaningful way. They’re far too busy to care about ethics and morality. They need to further the neoliberal agenda. Check out an awesome example of this from the one and only Eric Schmidt.

They simply need to be prepared with talking points, put their name to an inch deep blog and get ready to speak on the big stages. Aim for Davos.

You will note Eric’s wonderful speech is of course at Davos.

Divert attention

This is an ongoing effort. You must divert stakeholder attention away from critique and criticism in favour of stuff that grabs attention, even if it’s meaningless.

Remember, doing what you say requires courage to act and the intention to change, for and with your stakeholders. This isn’t what we want. We want to maximise the value of our key business activities.

Your mantra… Divert, divert and divert.

Publish reports

You don’t have to do this too often. Just often enough to show there’s something going on that aligns to those principles you paid a few million for (even though they’re the same as everyone else’s).

Better yet, get a more seemingly credible organisation to partner with you on the report. Why go it alone when you can go it together?

Oh, and obviously only publish as a PDF. Make it super dense and ensure the readability is about post graduate level. You want to limit meaningful engagement and any action people might take. If in doubt, print the entire thing (wasting lots of trees in the process of course) and slam it on a desk. If it makes a noise that scares everyone in a 100m radius, you’re onto something special.

Discredit and disable

Look, we won’t lie to you. Not everyone will be okay with this playbook. There will be folks that call out the hypocrisy and intent-action gap.

Discredit them. Shut them down. Find ways to ensure their voices and the information they expose never really has an impact.

This is how you continue reinforcing the status quo…

Oh, and if you’re stuck for more detail, check out the approaches from our friends at Tabacco, Big Ag and Fossil Fuels. They’re excellent inspiration points. Wonderful leadership demonstrations.

April fools!

Yes, this was all a joke. Funny how realistic some of it sounded though, right?

For those of you who got this far, we trust it provided a tad of comedic relief. For those of you that don’t know us, seriously, we’re joking.

If you want to dive deeper into our position on a lot of this stuff, check out one of our latest keynotes on how we solve The Social Dilemma.

With love.

Oh, and we have a course on how to move beyond principles and feel good statements called A Primer to Operationalising Data Ethics. Check it out.