As AI’s adoption grows more widespread and companies see increasing returns on their AI investments, the technology’s risks also become more apparent.1 Our recent global survey of more than 1,000 managers suggests that AI systems across industries are susceptible to failures, with nearly a quarter of respondents reporting that their organization has experienced an AI failure, ranging from mere lapses in technical performance to outcomes that put individuals and communities at risk. It is these latter harms that responsible AI (RAI) initiatives seek to address.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are developing the first generation of meaningful AI-specific legislation.2 For example, the European Union’s proposed AI Act would create a comprehensive scheme to govern the technology. And in the U.S., lawmakers in New York, California, and other states are working on AI-specific regulations to govern its use in employment and other high-risk contexts.3 In response to the heightened stakes around AI adoption and impending regulations, organizations worldwide are affirming the need for RAI, but many are falling short when it comes to operationalizing RAI in practice.
There are, however, exceptions. A number of organizations are bridging the gap between aspirations and reality by making a philosophical and material commitment to RAI, including investing the time and resources needed to create a comprehensive RAI program. We refer to them as RAI Leaders or Leaders. They appear to enjoy clear business benefits from RAI. Our research indicates that Leaders take a more strategic approach to RAI, led by corporate values and an expansive view of their responsibility toward a wide array of stakeholders, including society as a whole. For Leaders, prioritizing RAI is inherently aligned with their broader interest in leading responsible organizations.