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Paula Goldman, chief ethical and humane use officer at Salesforce.

Business Tech

Now for the chief humane
use officer

There was no roadmap for the role when Paula Goldman became chief ethical and humane use officer at Salesforce, she told ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

In the middle of the last decade, it became fashionable for large organisations to appoint a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Their main role was to develop and implement an organisation’s digital strategy, particularly when “digital transformation” became the buzzword of business strategy. That has also meant the role existed in a silo, requiring buy in from other executives.

Today, the CDO has largely broken out of its silo, as its purpose becomes part of every executive role in an enterprise. And that means it may eventually become a redundant role.

That is the precise trajectory we may well see for a new executive role that has emerged in recent years: Chief Humane Use Officer. It is easy to confuse it with animal welfare, which has long seen humane officers appointed in countries like the United States and Canada. However, in this case it is all about building trust among people in and outside an organisation.

Do a search on the role, and only one name pops up from the business world: Paula Goldman, chief ethical and humane use officer at Salesforce. She was appointed to the role five years ago, when it simply did not exist. Both Salesforce and Goldman were pioneers, anticipating an era when ethics would move front and centre of technology debates. As the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution spreads to all countries and all sectors, it is one of the most frequently discussed issues in tech.

In an exclusive interview, Goldman told us that Salesforce created the Office of Ethical and Humane Use in 2018 to pioneer trustworthy technology for the enterprise.

“We recognised the ethical questions and complexities around companies’ use of technology and wanted to build an infrastructure for the responsible development and deployment of our technologies,” she said. “Now, with the explosion of Generative AI, tech ethics has become top of mind for almost every business. For Salesforce though, this work isn’t new. We’ve been building policies and processes to help guide responsible AI for nearly a decade.”

That also meant it was not too difficult to define the role of a Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer, even five years ago, but it presented a fascinating challenge.

“There was no roadmap for this work when our office was founded, but to be successful, we knew we had to lead with transparency and trust. A huge part of the job is being able to partner with stakeholders across the business.

“Every day, my team works with product managers and engineers, policy and government affairs teams, sales leaders and many other stakeholders to ensure that we’re leading with trust in every part of the business. Technology is always changing, so it’s important that our team is always learning and evolving our approaches to address technology’s impact on our society.”

After five years in the role, Goldman has built up a vast body of knowledge and experience. But there was one learning that stood out, she said.

“Technology is always changing but the past five years have taught me that one thing remains consistent: ethical technology is as much about the people as it is about the technology. In many ways, my job is about changing culture — and empowering people to harness and use technology in responsible ways. At Salesforce, we believe trust and ethics are everyone’s responsibility — and investing in trustworthy technology serves as a major point of differentiation, innovation and customer success.”

Goldman joined Salesforce from Omidyar Network, an “impact investment” firm” established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and legendary for its focus on inclusiveness. She had served as global lead for impact investing, before becoming its vice president for tech and society solutions.

“Working at Omidyar Network laid an incredible foundation for the work that I do at Salesforce,” she said. “I got the opportunity to work with both tech startups and large companies, and invest in guardrails to ensure responsible technology. I saw first-hand the potential of technology to create more inclusive and equitable societies — but only if it’s developed with trust at the centre.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.

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