In a recent episode of the AICD’s podcast Boardroom Conversations, Judy Slatyer, MAICD, chair of the NSW Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board and a leader of the National AI Centre’s Responsible AI think-tank, speaks candidly about climate change, AI and the board and the importance of ESG for company directors. Listen to this engaging episode here.
With artificial intelligence entering every corner of the world in the most prolific implementation of modern technology since the internet, it’s never been more important to know where and how to use it responsibly.
“The first thing for a board to do to understand AI is to be thinking how we could use this to enhance what we do for our clients to increase speed and accuracy, to bring different services, different capabilities,” Judy Slatyer, chair of the NSW Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board and a leader of the National AI Centre’s Responsible AI think-tank, told Boardroom Conversations. “AI systems can learn, reason and make decisions based on what they've been taught. In doing so, they’d also be making predictions. So therein lies the opportunity risk of AI.”
Slatyer says that if the machine is not trained on a sufficiently diverse set of data with appropriate guardrails, it could create havoc in that field. So, the difference with AI as a board director is understanding that learning dynamic and making appropriate decisions to govern it.
Climate change and the Net Zero plan
As chair of the NSW Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board, Slatyer oversees implementation of the government's net zero and clean economy plan.
“There's a clear set of projects and initiatives underway,” she says. “So, our job is to guide it and to guide the government, not from a dollars spent point of view, but from an advisory point of view to government.”
But she admits that achieving net zero will not come without challenges.
“Just like in AI, we need a massive upskilling of capability and skills in order to thrive in a low carbon economy and society. The majority of companies I'm involved with are well and truly on the path, but ultimately, it’s Australia’s job to make it happen.”
Fifteen years ago, Slatyer asked herself, “What type of leader do I want to be?” The answer led her into senior executive roles across government, not-for-profits and the private sector, both internationally and in Australia, eventually landing her in the boardroom at chair level dealing with important global topics like AI and climate change.
“[Back then] I focussed on things like how to use the future as a resource today,” she says. “How do you get the whole organisation looking forward, how are the forward shifts going to change us, being curious and pulling the future back into today? I wanted to create a leadership style that enabled others, encouraged curiosity and external thinking, while creating accountability to ensure things were delivered.”
Slatyer, who is also a former CEO of both Lonely Planet and the Australian Red Cross, now deals with the most critical issues coming down the path, working to build initiatives that maximise her ability to help others accelerate worthy changes in those areas.
About Boardroom Conversations
Boardroom Conversations is a new podcast from the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In each episode, we have a candid conversation with a company director, delving into their background, journey to the boardroom, and the challenges they’ve faced. We also discuss their leadership styles, approach to decision-making, and some of the lessons they’ve learned.
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