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AI is many things to many people. How someone views AI as a concern, a threat, or an opportunity, largely depends on their role and AI’s influence in relation to that role. Even within the same sector, there can be divergent viewpoints on AI and its usage. Lawrence has previously written about AI in ESG on many occasions, addressing some of the potential upsides of AI use, and acknowledging many of the drawbacks. It seems that the underlying impacts of AI, whether those are positive or negative, revolve around how you use it, and the DOL has thrown its hat into the ring identifying eight principles for AI developers and employers looking to utilize AI. These relate to both its development and deployment, having their own ESG concerns/impacts:

  • “[North Star] Centering Worker Empowerment: Workers and their representatives, especially those from underserved communities, should be informed of and have genuine input in the design, development, testing, training, use, and oversight of AI systems for use in the workplace.
  • Ethically Developing AI: AI systems should be designed, developed, and trained in a way that protects workers.
  • Establishing AI Governance and Human Oversight: Organizations should have clear governance systems, procedures, human oversight, and evaluation processes for AI systems for use in the workplace.
  • Ensuring Transparency in AI Use: Employers should be transparent with workers and job seekers about the AI systems that are being used in the workplace.
  • Protecting Labor and Employment Rights: AI systems should not violate or undermine workers’ right to organize, health and safety rights, wage and hour rights, and anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation protections.
  • Using AI to Enable Workers: AI systems should assist, complement, and enable workers, and improve job quality.
  • Supporting Workers Impacted by AI: Employers should support or upskill workers during job transitions related to AI.
  • Ensuring Responsible Use of Worker Data: Workers’ data collected, used, or created by AI systems should be limited in scope and location, used only to support legitimate business aims, and protected and handled responsibly.”

The DOL principles envision a world where AI is used to remove tedium and generally free up workers to do more complex and engaging tasks. Additionally, under the principles, there should be strong governance and oversight surrounding the use of AI, and how a company uses AI should be transparent to their workers. While these principles are intended only as guidance when navigating AI use, momentum is gathering in the Senate to regulate AI and these principles may give a hint about how those regulations will take shape. Of course, DOL being focused on the human element didn’t mention AI’s energy consumption or associated emissions, but those are other matters that shouldn’t be ignored, as KPMG recently highlighted.

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile