Tool Guideline

A How-to Guide on Tech Ethics for Start Ups & SMEs

Uploaded by RRI Tools on December 15, 2020
Last modified on December 15, 2020

This booklet was produced by the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Values, Ethics and Innovation, and the design funded by the University of Sheffield.

It was written by Hilary Sutcliffe, SocietyInside (council co-chair) together with Angie Hobbs, University of Sheffield, Ibo van de Poel and Emad Yaghmaei from the Technical University of Delft and thanks also to Larry Stone, BT India for the initial work on the risk approach.

Who is this booklet for

We have designed this advice for start up companies and SMEs, particularly in companies
developing or using new and emerging technologies, in all countries, across all sectors.

Its aim is to provide a quick overview of how ethics can be discussed and managed in
organisations without massive resources, but where the issues can provide great opportunities if handled well, or potentially devastating risks if handled badly.

The technologies, and sectors using these technologies, are extremely diverse - including
nanotechnology in advanced materials, gene editing in life sciences or agriculture, robotics in manufacturing, internet of things in consumer products and data and artificial intelligence almost everywhere. Because of this, and the need to keep it short and compact, we have resisted using tech specific case studies, or providing frameworks or models for handling these issues. Each organisation will have its own systems and processes and will need to find their own way of dealing with them in the context of their sector, country, culture.

So our focus is on providing a general understanding of good practice approaches and ideas for the internal and external processes which are most likely to be successful.

Here are 5 highlights from the booklet to spotlight:

  • Ethics could be your biggest hidden commercial risk - so put it on your Risk Register
  • Find out what ethical issues matter to you 
  • Start with values and work from there 
  • Make it normal to discuss ethics and think about problems in advance
  • Be collaborative in revolving issues 


  • Values, ethics and ‘the great reset’
  • Who is this booklet for?
  • Contents page
  • Lead with values & ethics now
  • Thinking about ethics right now...
  • Difference between values and ethics?
    •  Values
    •  Defining your Values
    •  Ethics
  • What is business ethics?
  • What ethical issues should I care about?
  • Put ethics on your risk register
  • Practice ‘competitive listening’
  • Make ethics part of everyday business
  • Make it normal to discuss ethics internally
  • Be collaborative in resolving issues
  • Engagement & openness earns trust
  • Framework for putting eithics into practice
  • Things to look our for
  • Ethics is a catalyst for innovation
  • Acknowledgements


(*) For more info about the booklet - you can read this interesting interview with Hilary Sutcliffe,  by  Szilvia Szabó, Managing editor | Business Spirit Platform and Profit with Purpose magazine








Related Resources