The Intersection of Trust, Digital Ethics and ESG

I never imagined working for a tech company at the start of my career. For the longest time, I thought my path would keep me in academia. I set out to inspire class after review film class of business students at Presidio Graduate School to care about sustainability. I made sure they all read “Tempered Radicals” by Debra Meyerson, a guide to driving positive change from inside organizations. And I encouraged them to be those change agents for a better, greener world when they entered the corporate space.

What led me to give up teaching and become a corporate change agent myself? I’ve always been motivated by the desire to make a difference in the world—to create as much good as I possibly can. And when the chance to join VMware came up in 2010, it was clear to me that the future—of sustainability, education and business—would be shaped by technology. So I had to say yes to the opportunity and jump in with both feet. I wanted to be part of making sure the future of technology could also support a better future for the world.

More than a decade later, technology has become more enmeshed in the fabric of our lives than I could have anticipated. It’s part of the foundation for how people learn, work and connect with each other, especially in the past two years. But with this centrality comes mixed feelings.

We’re long past the rose-colored heyday of people thinking Silicon Valley would save the world. Yes, technology can enable extraordinary advancements that make our lives easier, solve complex problems, and improve productivity, connection and communication. But it can just as easily cost jobs, sow social divisions and exacerbate inequality.

These tensions have only been amplified in recent years. Increased regulatory scrutiny, misinformation on social media, and incidents like Cambridge Analytica, SolarWinds and the recent Log4j vulnerability have sent trust in tech plummeting. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in technology reached all-time lows in 17 out of 27 countries last year. This was particularly pronounced in the United States, where tech dropped from first to ninth place in trust by sector between 2020 and 2021.