The Ethical Province of AI in Supply Chain Management: Whose Responsibility is it?

author picture

Paul Morrissey

· 15/08/2023 · 5 mins

In an age where automation and artificial intelligence (AI) dominate numerous industries, the supply chain environment is not left untouched. AI-driven advancements in supply chain processes can predict demand, optimize routes, improve inventory management, and reduce overhead costs. However, as with any technology, there’s an underlying ethical province that cannot be ignored. One of the pivotal concerns pertains to the biases ingested by prebuilt AI models. So, who bears the responsibility for these biases, and how do we ensure the ethical usage of AI in supply chains?

The Inception of Bias in AI

Bias in AI can arise from several sources. Mostly, it stems from the data on which the model is trained. For instance, if an AI system used in the supply chain is trained on data primarily from one region or demography, it may not function optimally for a different region. This can lead to inefficiencies or even costly mistakes. Additionally, biases can get inadvertently introduced if the historical data itself contains inherent prejudices. In supply chain terms, if past decisions were based on biased views, an AI trained on such data will likely replicate those biases.

Impact on Supply Chain Decisions

In a supply chain environment, biases in AI can lead to significant repercussions. For example, an AI system might favour suppliers from a particular region over others, not because they are more efficient or offer better terms, but merely because of the biases in its training data. Such skewed decisions can lead to loss of business opportunities, unfair competition, and even legal implications.

Whose Responsibility is it Anyway?

It’s a valid question. If biases stem from prebuilt models, should the original creators be held accountable? However, the complexities of AI and the continual evolution of the supply chain need to imply a shared responsibility.

While it’s true that the biases originated from prebuilt models, once an organization decides to integrate an AI system into its supply chain, the onus is on them – the new model generator – to ensure that it’s unbiased. They are no longer mere users but have become stewards of that technology.

Moreover, given the cascading nature of supply chains where one entity’s output becomes another’s input, the new model generator has an ethical duty to inform other members of the supply chain. They should be made aware of the potential biases, their origins, and their implications. This not only ensures transparency but also safeguards the integrity of the entire supply chain process.

Passing the Baton Forward

This leads us to a crucial point: ethical responsibility doesn’t end with one entity. It’s a chain reaction. Once informed, it becomes the duty of the next member in line to ensure that they further refine the AI, mitigating biases, and then pass on the knowledge to the next member. It’s a continuous cycle of improvement and information-sharing.


AI in supply chains holds immense potential. However, it’s not just about technological prowess but also about ethical considerations. The biases ingested by prebuilt models undoubtedly pose challenges. Still, the responsibility rests with the new model generator to rectify and inform. Ethical AI usage is a collective responsibility, and in the interconnected world of supply chains, the duty to pass this forward ensures a transparent, efficient, and morally sound system.