Our Approach to Corporate Responsibility

Our Approach to
Corporate Responsibility

IBM pursues the highest standards of corporate responsibility, from how we support and empower our employees, to how we work with our clients, to how we govern the corporation. 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 more than 175 countries. We have a supply chain of more than 18,000 suppliers. And we have been in business for more than 100 years, a length of time that speaks to the sustainability of our business practices. Our definition of sustainability includes not only environmental responsibility, but also social responsibility to our workforce, clients, business partners, and the communities in which we operate, as well as a culture of ethics and integrity guided by a rigorous system of corporate governance that promotes transparency on a global basis.

In fact, our definition of sustainability predates today’s common use of the term. It originally came from Thomas Watson Jr. in 1969, when he said: “We serve our interest best when we serve the public interest…we want to be at the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.”

This notion of sustainability drives us to operate our business consistent with the highest standards of corporate responsibility. We do so because we acknowledge our obligation to our vast network of stakeholders, from clients and employees to business partners, suppliers, and investors. And we recognize that our work can impact not only individual companies’ business success, but also 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

We believe a company must be true to its values in all of its activities – both internal and external. While strategies and circumstances may evolve, IBM’s core values have remained consistent, and are embedded in all our citizenship activities. These values are:

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.

Our commitment to corporate responsibility 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 corporate policies that govern our operations and practices worldwide. The IBM Board of Directors and its committees regularly review performance and compliance.

Our corporate responsibility activities are coordinated by a Corporate Responsibility Steering Committee made up of executives from all relevant global functions across IBM, including human resources, employee well-being, corporate governance, environmental affairs, governmental programs, supply chain, and community relations.

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.

We seek out the right 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.

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 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

IBM’s intent is to apply our innovation and expertise to help address significant societal problems. We believe that we can be part of identifying and then implementing solutions. Finding and implementing solutions that can help attack problems at their root cause requires full utilization of IBM’s technologies, and in particular the skills of our people. For this reason, we favor rolling up our sleeves in full collaboration with people, companies, and governments across other sectors, as opposed to simple “checkbook philanthropy.” Further, we empower our employees and others by helping build their skills to better serve communities through innovative online resources.

Thought and execution leadership

We believe our approach of using our technology in strong collaboration with others can create a path to real and lasting change and demonstrates the essential nature of our company. We have been at 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 can help address issues important to society and IBM. This means prioritizing issues and supporting projects 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.

Impact and measurement

Whether it’s the complex problems of the world’s cities or developing schools that prepare students for careers, we hope to help cause widespread, measurable change. To maximize the leverage of these investments, our relationships with grantees include planning for and incorporating the ability to scale solutions by transferring them to other locations in order 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 help us achieve 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 can produce 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.