Ethical Impact – is the only way to do business

By | 3 minute read | April 12, 2022

The adage “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not align with our approach to technology ethics. At IBM, we strive to have our actions speak for themselves.

As leaders in the tech industry, we have the privilege of creating innovations, policies, and practices that can benefit all of society. But with privilege comes responsibility – responsibility to ensure the technologies we deploy can be trustworthy, that they protect privacy, that they make a lasting positive impact on the world.

For decades, IBM has presented annual corporate responsibility reports – from Diversity and Inclusion to corporate social responsibility to environmental results. Transparency is embedded in our culture. And this year, we are consolidating this information under our single ESG framework and report.

Our Ethical Impact

We create innovations, policies, and practices that prioritize ethics, trust, transparency, and – above all – accountability. This mindset is at the heart of the Ethical Impact pillar of IBM Impact, our new framework for ESG.

Our longstanding values are centered around creating innovation that matters, for our company and the world, so IBM serves as a responsible steward of technology and considers the ethics and impact of technological innovations before deploying them. This has never been more important than now, as technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing are creating game-changing innovations by unlocking the potential of data. These innovations hold the promise of advancing transformative innovations in business, government, medicine, etc., but we cannot ignore our responsibility to embed ethics principles into every step of our AI development and application processes.

As the world’s oldest technology company, we have a responsibility to help others improve their own practices. We must not only protect against cybersecurity risks but also implement privacy by design, ensuring that our clients, partners, and the general public see in our products a comprehensive set of security and privacy commitments. And now, we are doing the same with technology ethics.  Consumers everywhere deserve consistent privacy protections, such as knowing what personal data is collected and being able to access it, delete it, or opt-out of having it collected. And they deserve technology solutions that are fair, transparent, explainable, and secure.

And that is what we have done in 2021 and we plan to keep doing for the years to come – advocating for trust and transparency.

  • Supporting our partners with ethical training: From corporate governance to supply chain, from technology ethics to data security and privacy, IBM is dedicated to embedding ethical solutions not only into our software and systems but into our ecosystem. That is why we have set the goal of training 1,000 partners in the IBM ecosystem in technology ethics education by the end of this year.
  • Engaging suppliers in ethical practices: IBM uses its position as a global company with more than 13,000 suppliers to promote a commitment to social responsibility throughout our supply chain and our industry. Therefore, we will continue to engage 100% of suppliers on sound practices including social and environmental responsibility, ethics, and risk planning. We require our first-tier suppliers of hardware, software, and services (and IBM’s own operations) to adhere to the RBA Code of Conduct, which contains provisions on labor, health and safety, environmental requirements, ethics, and management systems. Also, new suppliers must demonstrate having management systems for social and environmental responsibilities within a year of starting to do business with IBM, and all must establish goals, disclose results, and cascade IBM’s requirements to their next-tier suppliers.
  • Added diversity modifier: above all, we prioritize accountability. We actively work to ensure that IBM’s commitment to integrity, compliance, and inclusion is reflected in our culture. As a result, we will continue measuring our progress and holding our global executives accountable by including a diversity modifier in the calculation of their annual performance bonus. The diversity modifier is based on improvement in executive representation for women globally and Black and Hispanic executives in the U.S. Our goal remains to improve and close the gap in representation in these key areas, following the improvement in 2021 in the executive representation by 1.0 point, 1.5 points, and 0.4 points, respectively.

We believe not only in following industry best practices but also in setting high standards that we strive to achieve. We are proud of our progress towards the goals we set in our annual ESG report, IBM Impact, which you can find here. We believe our report will demonstrate that our business leaders are actively doing what is right, not what is easy.

It’s the only way to do business.