Report spotlights urgent need to address Corporate Digital Responsibility

By Charlotte McLeod, CEO, Allegory.

The failure of organisations to manage data and digital technologies frequently generates high profile headlines.

Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR) is a broad set of responsibilities related to the application and management of data and digital technologies. It has emerged as a critical risk issue for boards in light of high-profile failures in data and digital governance, regulatory issues and data breaches.

The rise of data is an opportunity to enhance organisational performance and the potential to play a part in addressing society’s bigger issues, such as climate change, diversity, and sustainability. It is critical that C-suite leaders and communicators, with support from data governance experts, approach CDR as a strategic issue.

We at Allegory have published a new report – Corporate Digital Responsibility: What You Need To Know Right Now – which calls for a multi-stakeholder approach to CDR led by management and communicators. It proposes a framework to manage CDR risk.

The case for Corporate Digital Responsibility

High profile failures related to poor management of data and the digital technologies deployed by organisations have led to CDR becoming a critical issue.

These include failures of systems, including the Post Office Horizon scandal, and the misuse of personal data like the facial recognition system which was removed from London’s King’s Cross in 2019 amid protests from the public and privacy campaigners.

There is an explicit expectation when individuals share their personal data with an organisation that it will be handled securely. However, data breaches or leaks have become commonplace. For example, Facebook is under investigation for an alleged breach of EU privacy laws after the personal information of 533 million users was shared online.

A Corporate Digital Responsibility framework underpinned by ethics

The Allegory report reveals that to get started with CDR, organisations need to develop a framework, underpinned by ethical values such as decency and integrity, to describe their management of data. This includes spending time navigating data ethics, which involves assessing and identifying potential ethical issues associated with data and digital tech.

Adopting a multi-function, multi-stakeholder approach is a good starting point outlined in the report. Data and digital responsibility should be embedded within organisational culture and everyone within an organisation should consider it part of their role.

CDR should not be limited to the domain of data and IT experts who typically underestimate the risk of technology. Allegory believes that ultimate responsibility for CDR must lie with the CEO, supported by a community of practice made up of executives with the breadth of knowledge and understanding across an organisation.

The report sets out a six-stage framework that communications professionals can use to help organisations address CDR risk.

1 Landscape analysis and audit: this will ensure the communications function has an overview of internal and external factors related to CDR within an organisation

2 Communication planning: this should mitigate risk and support the organisation with engagement and reporting on CDR to its stakeholders

3 Community of practice: CDR requires a multi-function and multi-stakeholder approach, and the communications function is the right convener to create a forum

4 Horizon scanning: identify and understand issues at the earliest possible point in their emergence

5 Internal communications: employees are a critical audience to ensure that an organisation has a positive culture in relation to CDR

6 Stakeholder engagement underpinned by open and transparent communication: engage external stakeholders in the co-creation of governance around CDR issues

Allegory convened a panel of experts from academia, industry, think tanks and professional associations to explore the emerging governance issues related to CDR.

Here’s a link for you to download a copy of the Allegory report: Corporate Digital Responsibility: What You Need To Know Right Now.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

Leave a Reply