Game Changers 2020 Essay Series: Why Being Responsible Company is Everyone’s Job

Why Being Responsible Company is Everyone’s Job

Patrick Gelsinger, CEO, VMware

Make the World a Better Place
When the heroes of the satirical HBO show ‘Silicon Valley’ – based on the life of a fledgling start-up – attended the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, they witnessed founder after founder proudly proclaiming, “We wont to make the world a better place.” It mode for a laugh-out-loud scene, but the real joke is on us. As much as the founding principles of many tech companies may have enshrined a quest to make the world a better place, the reality is they [we] have not delivered on their [our] promise. Now we are seeing a powerful backlash against the technology industry and the somnolent way they [we] have approached their [our] responsibility to society. And rightly so.

Innovation Key Criteria
Sure, the tech industry has delivered incredible innovation, disrupted established industries, and has within its grasp the ability to positively impact every one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. But at what cost? It’s not enough to create dazzling technological innovations if each innovation is not also assessed against key criteria.

  1. Can it be responsibly managed?
  2. Will it hurt or meaningfully help the environment?
  3. Will it drive a more inclusive society, or the reverse?
  4. Is it designed for safe use that protects individuals and society?
  5. Is there a model for transparency and ethical governance?

As tech platforms continue to evolve and exert greater influence in the world, it’s up to us in the tech industry to ask ourselves these difficult, searching questions. By challenging our assumptions at every stage of the product development process, we have an opportunity to address potential issues as they arise, versus after the fact. Will we have the courage to reconsider our technology and continually shape and reshape it to serve as a force for good? By definition, as we ask and  answer these probing questions, we’re embracing a more inclusive, transparent approach with input from more diverse sources – which in turn leads to better solutions and better outcomes.

Much of this comes down to the core values that shape your company culture. VMware hos a powerful set of values that we crowd-sourced with our employees around the world.

We recognize that building a values-driven organization is a lifelong journey and commitment. By definition, values are never ‘done,’ especially in times of rapid growth and hiring.

Too often companies confuse legal compliance with ethics and integrity, and they fail to give employees clear guidelines for making ethical decisions. At VMware we believe ‘ethical fitness’ is everyone’s job, and we’re committed to providing individuals and teams with practical tools to drive effective conversations, if faced with ethically ambiguous situations. Our long-term goal is to…

Foster a high-integrity, ethically conscious culture;
encourage inclusion of diverse perspectives;
enable informed and sound decision-making; and
create a space supporting accountability  for decisions.

While “making the world a better place” has become a cliché and a comedic punchline, the tech industry has an urgent, and ever-increasing, responsibility to step up and demonstrate a serious commitment to transparency and ethical governance. There’s no time like the present to deliver on that promise.

Let us work together to make our incredible technology a powerful force for good.

July 19, 2019