The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, bringing a wave of change and innovation that’s altering the way human beings interact, communicate and learn. New technology has had a profound impact on the way consumers view the values, ethics and social responsibility of business.

In the ‘Ethical Leadership and Business’ report, Salesforce Research surveyed over 2,400 consumers to discover attitudes and ideas about business ethics, emerging technology and the progress of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Below we offer illuminating insights from the report, together with thought-provoking suggestions on how this information can help your business to prepare for the future. 


Changing perceptions of emerging technology

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing rapid and unprecedented change. According to the report, 69% of consumers feel that emerging technologies are having a fundamental impact on how they live, but not always positively. 

In fact, according to the Business and Technology Ethics Survey, 93% of consumers are concerned about the risk of misinformation from emerging technology, and 91% are concerned about surveillance. An additional 88% worry about job loss, and 85% view emerging technology as a threat to democracy. Inequality and environmental damage are also concerns for consumers.

With so much at stake, consumers are highly influenced by the ethics of a business during technological transformation. In fact, 90% of consumers think businesses have a responsibility to improve the state of the world, and 93% say businesses should look beyond profit to change society in a positive way. 



For technology companies, these expectations can be even more profound. The majority of consumers believe emerging technologies have the potential to make the world a better place and improve their individual experiences. As a result, technology companies are not only expected to be at the forefront of innovation, but they’re also responsible for creating and deploying products that have positive uses and beneficial social impact. In fact, 70% of consumers believe that companies should have ethics advisory boards to support the development of technology products. 

Fortunately, there are many ways a business can adapt to these concerns.


Listen to the consumer

One of the best ways for companies to keep human rights and social impact in the spotlight is by listening to the consumer. By understanding their needs and giving them an input in the process, companies can provide consumers with better and more appropriate products.

Consumers are also asking for a voice in technology development and are calling for advocacy groups to be involved. 




Future-proof your workforce

Job loss due to advancing technology is one of the primary concerns of consumers, with a staggering 96% believing that businesses have a responsibility to prepare their workforce for the changes such technology will bring. This not only involves ensuring their current employees are skilled and confident with new technology, but also training the future workforce and providing equal access to job opportunities for under-represented groups. 

To address this, companies can provide training and development in specific technologies or support educational programmes for marginalised or disenfranchised groups, such as individuals with disabilities or minorities.



Seize the moment for positive change

Despite public apprehension, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing unprecedented change and opportunity for business. Although consumers are rightly concerned about the potential for misuse of emerging technology and its destructive power, early applications are showing promise for improving human lives at both the individual and global level.

To gain more insights into consumers’ views on emerging technology, social impact and business ethics, download the Ethical Leadership and Business Report.