International Business Machines Corporation's (NYSE: IBM) latest Institute for Business Value (IBV) study indicated a significant shift in the roles responsible for leading and supporting AI ethics inside an enterprise. When asked which role is largely responsible for AI ethics, 80 percent of respondents named a non-technical executive, such as a CEO, as the key "champion," a sharp increase from 15% in 2018.

Executives in the business world are now considered the driving force behind AI ethics. CEOs (28 percent), but also Board members (10%), General Counsels (10%), Privacy Officers (8%), and Risk & Compliance Officers (6%), are seen as the most responsible for AI ethics by those polled. While the CEO or other C-level executive has a massive impact on their organization's ethics policy, more than half of respondents (58%) cite board directives and the shareholder community (53 percent).

Furthermore, corporations are beginning to adopt AI ethical processes, as building trustworthy AI is seen as a strategic differentiator. This year more than three-quarters of business leaders polled say that AI ethics is vital to their companies, up from around half in 2018. At the same time, 75% of respondents believe that ethics is a source of competitive differentiation, and more than 67 percent of those who believe AI and AI ethics are important believe that their companies outperform their competitors in terms of sustainability, and social responsibility, and diversity and inclusion.

Additionally, now is the time for businesses to act. According to the findings, companies that execute a wide AI ethical policy that is integrated across all business units may gain a competitive advantage in the future. The report suggests that business executives should establish both organizational and AI lifecycle governance to operationalize the discipline of AI ethics