Responsibility at IBM

2012 Corporate Responsibility Report

Section Downloads

Download report sections


In this section, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty’s letter describes how IBM’s goal to unite its business and citizenship strategies is taking shape. We take a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to corporate responsibility and corporate citizenship at IBM, and we integrate that approach into many aspects of our company. In this section you will also find a high-level overview of some of our major activities.


It’s not enough to develop world-class technology, services and expertise—at IBM we realize we must directly apply these things to the communities in which we live and work in order to have a positive impact. In this section, you will find examples of the ways we practiced this approach over the course of 2012 and into 2013.

The IBMer

A great company is forever evolving and growing. At IBM, we make it a top priority to hire, support and retain the people who make us a great company. In this section, you will find examples of the ways we support both the personal and professional development of our employees.


IBM’s unwavering commitment to environmental protection is evidenced across all of our business activities, from our research, development, products and services to the solutions we provide our clients that help them be more protective of the environment. In this section of IBM’s Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find information on our environmental programs, performance and solutions during 2012.

Supply Chain

Social and environmental responsibility is an important part of our business relationships with our suppliers. We work closely with them to encourage sustained improvement throughout our global supply chain and across various aspects of corporate responsibility. In this section you will find examples of how we set requirements for the companies we do business with, grow the global diversity of our supply base and collaborate with industry groups and stakeholders.


IBM’s culture of ethics and integrity is guided by a rigorous system of corporate governance. In this section, you will find examples of the many ways we govern the conduct of the company, manage risk and contribute our expertise to public discourse.

Awards & Metrics

Many of our corporate responsibility efforts received recognition from others in 2012. The most significant of these are listed in “Awards and Recognition.” We rely on a number of metrics to measure our corporate responsibility efforts. Our Key Performance Indicators and other significant metrics can be found in “Performance Summary.”

Our Approach to Corporate Responsibility

IBM pursues the highest standards of social responsibility, from how we support and empower our employees, to how we work with our clients, to how we govern the corporation. We aim to regularly exceed those standards. In this section, you will find more detail about our approach to corporate responsibility and corporate citizenship.

IBM is a company of more than 430,000 employees, doing business in nearly 170 countries. We manage a supply chain of more than 20,000 suppliers. We strive to operate our business consistent with the highest standards of corporate responsibility. We do so because we believe this is how a great company is built and sustained. We integrate our commitment to corporate responsibility into many aspects of our company.

We engage a vast network of stakeholders, from clients, to employees, to business partners and investors. And the work we do impacts not only individual companies’ business success, but the efficiency and innovation of countries, cities, governments, communities and our planet’s critical infrastructure.

Throughout its history, IBM has taken a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to corporate responsibility that we believe aligns with IBM’s values and maximizes the impact we make as a global enterprise. In all these efforts, there are several guiding principles we follow.

Alignment to values

A company must be true to its values in its activities, internally and externally. While strategies and circumstances may evolve, IBM’s core values have remained consistent, and are embedded in all our citizenship activities.

  • Dedication to every client's success
  • Innovation that matters for our company and for the world
  • Trust and personal responsibility in all our relationships

We insist on the highest ethical practice. Contributions are not connected to any sales transactions. Our contributions align to our business and use the best assets of our business, but are not made with intent to receive any direct benefit back from the recipient, its officers or directors, or to influence their purchasing decisions.

This commitment is fostered throughout the company and led by senior management, which is ultimately responsible for our economic, environmental and societal performance, as well as compliance with laws, regulations and our various codes of conduct. The IBM Board of Directors and its committees regularly review performance and compliance.

Our corporate responsibility activities are coordinated by a steering committee made up of executives from all relevant functions across IBM. Its chair is IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, who also serves as president of the IBM International Foundation.

Cross-sector collaboration

No one sector of the economy on its own can solve the problems the world faces. We work closely with the public sector, cities, states and national governments as well as nonprofit organizations and school systems. We engage with highly qualified public and civic entities that are deeply committed to finding solutions and bringing them to scale.

It is essential to identify the best organizations to work with, those that share our view that innovation, management experience and capacity, deep subject matter expertise and commitment to sustainability and scalability are essential to achieve maximum value and impact. And we insist on both excellence and accountability.

Consistent with our values, we treat our collaborators and grant recipients no differently from business customers, giving them the same attention and support. At IBM, we value depth of engagement. We are committed to every client’s success. We know that it takes time and hard work to successfully implement technology solutions in organizations. For this reason we tend to form longer lasting and deeper connections with our collaborators and grant recipients.

Alignment to and integration of the full range of our company resources

The greatest value IBM can offer the world is to apply our innovation and expertise to address significant societal problems. We believe that we need to be part of identifying and then implementing solutions. Finding and implementing the appropriate knowledge and solutions that attack problems at their root cause requires full utilization of IBM’s best technologies and particularly the skills of our people. For this reason we favor rolling up our sleeves in full collaboration with partners across other sectors, as opposed to simple “checkbook philanthropy.” Further, we empower our employees and others by building their skills to better serve their communities through innovative online resources.

Thought and execution leadership

We believe our approach of using the best technology in strong collaboration with others is a path to real and lasting change and demonstrates the essential nature of our company. We have been in the forefront of articulating, implementing and promoting these ideas. We also strive to be at the forefront of identifying opportunities and demonstrating practical solutions. In all of our community efforts, as in our business pursuits, we aim to provide real leadership in creating solutions, bringing them to scale and making them sustainable.

Focus on essential issues

We believe it is important to focus efforts on fewer, more comprehensive programs that help address issues critical to society and IBM. This means prioritizing issues, supporting projects consistent with those priorities and proactively disengaging from efforts that are no longer consistent with those priorities.

Accordingly, we focus on projects designed to help ameliorate significant social and educational conditions that impact quality of life and well-being around the globe, and we focus on subject areas where our expertise and solutions have particular applicability. Key examples of areas we support are:

Concurrent with all our programs is a company-wide commitment by our employees to community service and volunteerism via the IBM On Demand Community where we marry IBMers’ skills to the needs of communities where IBMers live and work.

Impact and measurement

Whether it’s solving the complex problems of the world’s cities or developing schools that prepare students for careers, we expect to effect widespread, measurable change. To maximize the leverage of these investments, our relationships with grantees include planning for and incorporating the ability to bring solutions to scale as we seek to transfer solutions to other locations to solve the same or similar problems, which results in longevity and sustainability.

As with our business, we measure our results and adjust our approaches regularly to achieve maximum benefit. Programs receiving IBM support include both process and summative evaluation plans. Major new initiatives are structured to include evaluation plans. Ongoing programs are reevaluated regularly to assess their continued impact and value and to modify them as appropriate to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.

Good for the business

Good corporate citizenship is also good for business. Strong communities and strong schools go hand in hand with strong business enterprises, which are directly connected to jobs and economic growth, so our good corporate citizenship produces real value for society and all of IBM’s stakeholders.

Also, customers are more likely to enter into business relationships with corporations that have strong values and are involved in their communities, and people are much more likely to want to work and stay employed at a company that is a good corporate citizen.