Most business leaders know that technology is the key to being successful and beating the competition in the modern era. With the right technology, you can improve productivity, invent new products, and create more efficient systems for your customers to use. But what too many business leaders neglect is the importance of using technology responsibly—and responsible tech practices are only going to become more important in the near future.

What is responsible tech?

What exactly is “responsible” tech use? Put simply, it’s a way of implementing and using technology in your business that prioritizes ethics.

These are just some of the aspects of responsible tech to consider:

  • Timing and distraction. If you’re like most ambitious professionals, you’re never too far away from your smartphone, tablet, or mobile device of choice. You want to stay in communication at all time, and be able to work when you get a free moment. But there’s a dark side to that constant connective potential: It has the power to distract you from the things that truly matter. On the relatively innocent side of things, it can draw you away from paying attention in a meeting with a concerned employee. More seriously, tech distractions can make you more likely to be involved in a car accident.
  • Copyright and fair use. You also need to think about how you’re using other people’s work. Our digital landscape makes it easy to copy and paste the works of others, whether it’s a stock photo or a chunk of text from a blog post. Big corporations have legal teams that can and will hunt down copyright infringers, but it’s a matter of ethics to avoid infringing on the rights of smaller publishers and content creators. If you’re going to use someone else’s work, it’s your responsibility to pay for it or acknowledge them as originators.
  • Tech, health, and employees. Tech is such a part of our lives that it has a measurable impact on our overall health. It’s up to you to make sure your employees are educated and equipped with the resources they need to use technology responsibly in this dimension as well. For example, it’s important to encourage frequent breaks, to stave off the onset of computer vision syndrome, and regular exercise, to avoid the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Privacy and security. One of the more obvious responsibilities of modern business owners is to enact privacy and security measures that keep their information, as well as the information of their employees and customers, safe. Using multi-factor authentication, refusing to share private data, and relying on encryption are all important measures to take.
  • Cyberbullying and harassment. Though uncommon in a professional environment, companies also need to take responsibility for any instances of cyberbullying or online harassment perpetrated or enabled by their employees. It’s a small step that leads to a higher quality of life for everyone.
  • Discarding and recycling. Recycling electronics when you’re done with them isn’t necessarily convenient, but it is important if you care about the environment. Eventually, your devices will be obsolete or ready for disposal, and when they are, you need to dispose of them with care.

Business longevity

Why is responsible tech so important for your business’s future in the first place?

  • Public perceptions. First, using technology is going to improve the public’s perception of your brand. Conducting yourself responsibly and showing the public that you care about ethics can make consumers more confident in buying from you, which will improve sales and customer relationships.
  • Security and trust. It’s also important that customers trust you to handle their data responsibly. All it takes is one significant data breach to undermine your business’s credibility, so it’s vital that you remain proactive and mitigate the possibility of one occurring.
  • Sustainability. Technology is only going to grow more advanced, occupying a bigger niche in our lives in the years to come. Instating and enforcing responsible technology practices now is the best way to ensure your company operates sustainably for the long term.

What to do now

If you’re interested in revisiting or perfecting your business’s responsible use of tech, you can start by drafting a “responsible tech use” policy for your employees. In this document, explain how you expect your employees to use and handle all forms of technology. It’s tricky to create comprehensive rules for conduct with such a broad array of available technologies in the modern era, but try to be as detailed as possible.

From there, you’ll need to set a good example for the rest of your employees. Habits tend to manifest from the top down, so practice responsible tech use in your own role before asking your employees to follow suit.

For more on responsible business practices, see “Ethics Are The New Aesthetics.”