Our approach to corporate responsibility

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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 and connect to communities. In this section, you will find more detail about our approach to corporate responsibility and corporate citizenship.

For more than 100 years IBM has been delivering differentiating value to stakeholders, demonstrating the sustainability of our business practices and our ability to transform ourselves as markets and industries change. We have nearly 400,000 employees and do business in more than 175 countries. And we have an extensive, integrated supply chain of approximately 14,000 suppliers operating in nearly 100 countries. Our definition of corporate responsibility reflects our expansive footprint and spans environmental responsibility; social responsibility to our workforce, clients and business partners; innovation to address critical societal needs in the communities in which we operate; and a culture of ethics and integrity — guided by a rigorous system of corporate governance — that promotes transparency on a global basis.

IBM’s large and complex operations involve a vast ecosystem of stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, suppliers, non-governmental organizations, public officials and community organizations. Exceeding the expectations of all of these varied interests is part of our corporate culture and integral to our business strategy and success. All of these stakeholders are equally important and should, and do, benefit from IBM’s operations. Thomas Watson Jr., IBM’s second chairman and the son of its founder, put it this way: “Corporations prosper only to the extent that they satisfy human needs. Profit is only the scoring system. The end is better living for us all.”

IBM is pioneering many of the technologies that are driving global business and societal progress — data and analytics, cognitive computing, cloud, mobile, social and security. In 2015, we invested more than 6 percent of our revenue on research and development aimed at making a positive and meaningful impact around the world. For the 23rd consecutive year, IBM led the U.S. list of patent recipients, once again breaking the 7,000 threshold.


Guiding principles

We follow four guiding principles in our corporate responsibility efforts:

Alignment to values — A company must be true to its values in all of its activities — both internal and external. IBM’s core values have remained consistent and are embedded in all our citizenship activities. These values are:

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

Our senior management is ultimately responsible for our economic, environmental and societal performance, as well as compliance with laws, regulations and the corporate policies that govern our operations and practices worldwide. This responsibility begins with our CEO and includes the IBM Board of Directors and its committees that regularly review performance and compliance.

A Corporate Responsibility Executive Steering Committee, made up of executives from all relevant global functions across IBM, provides leadership and direction across our corporate responsibility activities. Chaired by the vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, the Steering Committee includes members from human resources, employee well-being, corporate governance, environmental affairs, governmental programs, supply chain and corporate citizenship. Through all of our community efforts, as through our business pursuits, we seek to provide meaningful leadership in creating solutions, bringing them to scale and making them sustainable. We also believe that good corporate citizenship is good for business. For example, strong communities, strong healthcare systems and strong schools go hand-in-hand with strong business enterprises, which are directly connected to jobs and economic growth. This is how our good corporate citizenship can help produce real value for society and all of IBM’s stakeholders.

Cross-sector collaboration — We work closely with the public and private sectors, including local, regional and national governments, nonprofit organizations, universities, research organizations and school systems. We engage with highly qualified public and civic entities that are deeply committed to solving problems, finding solutions and bringing them to scale.

Solving problems by leveraging the full range of our company resources and then bringing solutions to scale — To address some of the world’s most vexing problems at their roots requires more than simply writing checks. We take a hands-on approach to identify and implement solutions, drawing on all of IBM’s technologies and expertise. We focus on building innovative solutions and then bringing them to scale. We collaborate with people, companies and governments across sectors and silos to concentrate efforts on fewer, more comprehensive programs that can help address issues that no single entity can manage alone.

Impact and measurement — Whether we are taking on some of the unique and complex problems of the world’s cities, helping to transform global health or working to prepare students for 21st-century careers, we endeavor to effect widespread, measurable and sustainable change. We measure that change by developing a set of comprehensive desired outcomes and key performance indicators for each program we initiate. To maximize the impact of our investments, we plan for the longevity and sustainability of our solutions by ensuring that they are scalable and transferable.


Stakeholder engagement

At IBM, engaging and collaborating with stakeholders from a cross-section of communities, governments, investors and the social sector is integral to our business strategy. Here are a few examples:

In an innovative education initiative to close the skills gap and blaze a clear pathway from high school to college and career, IBM has forged key partnerships with governments, school districts, postsecondary education institutions and corporate partners. Public/private collaborations and partnerships are essential to overcoming societal challenges that are too big for any single public entity or industry sector to manage alone. That’s why IBM works with a variety of education stakeholders — including policy makers, administrators, teachers, labor, business and nonprofit leaders — to help bring about transformative and sustainable change to benefit the greater society. IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Vice President Stanley S. Litow brings a unique set of skills and deep personal commitment to our education initiatives as a former deputy chancellor of the New York City Public Schools and a governor’s appointee as a trustee of the State University of New York. Corporate Citizenship Director Maura Banta — former chair of the Massachusetts Board of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education, now serving on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education — also brings her knowledge and expertise in the education sector to support IBM’s initiatives.

IBM is a founding member of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), a nonprofit industry group with the ultimate goal of enabling the sector to consistently operate in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion. IBM encourages its suppliers of products and services to join the group and participate in the development and deployment of resources aimed at driving improvements in social responsibility. The EICC has grown to over 100 member companies across retail, electronics brands, contract manufacturing, hardware components, software, logistics, and communication industries, representing multiple distinct tiers of the extended supply chain. The EICC Code of Conduct contains provisions on labor, health and safety, environmental, ethics and management systems. The standards set out in the Code of Conduct reference international norms and standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO International Labor Standards, OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, ISO and SA standards, and many more. The EICC Code of Conduct was updated in January 2016 and, in turn, IBM updated its Global Employment Standards to be in alignment.

Incorporating the latest thinking and external expertise into our leadership development offerings and programs, IBM is a member of The Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research association with a mission to provide the world’s leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society. The Conference Board works within and across three main subject areas — Corporate Leadership; Economy and Business Environment; and Human Capital. The unique, enterprise-wide perspective enables IBM to hone our thought leadership on important topics and better respond, anticipate and make the right strategic decisions. IBM has 15 senior executives serving on or leading each of the Conference Board’s key councils, in addition to nearly 1,500 IBM employees who engage with and benefit from research provided by The Conference Board throughout the year.

IBM is a founding member of IMPACT 2030, a business-led coalition launched in 2015 that convenes leaders from corporations, the United Nations (U.N.), civil society, academia and philanthropic organizations from around the world. As a member of IMPACT 2030’s Executive Committee, Diane Melley, IBM Vice President, Global Citizenship Initiatives, is leading the effort to align companies and their employee volunteer efforts with the Global Goals, advance the practice of employee volunteering and pro bono consulting, and create real and sustainable change. IMPACT 2030 is the first time that companies will unite their corporate volunteering efforts to address the U.N. Development Agenda through collaboration. To continue to redefine employee engagement, IBM is a member of the Points of Light Corporate Service Council, a global platform for mobilizing, equipping and inspiring high-impact volunteering. Council members include 75 of the world’s largest and most successful companies. The Council fosters and develops corporate thought leaders and connects them with experts in academia, business and civil society to advance the corporate citizenship field on issues that include creating effective employee volunteer programs, scaling and deepening global impact through service and more.

IBM promotes habitat conservation and management through its membership and participation in the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). Four IBM sites in the United States have had their land management and wildlife habitat programs certified by the WHC, including IBM’s corporate headquarters located in Westchester County, New York, where IBM established a 2-acre wildflower meadow and installed approximately 20 nest boxes to provide habitat for Eastern bluebirds, songbirds and other species.

IBM actively seeks to work with organizations that share our commitment to local, national and global corporate citizenship and sustainability. We often play leadership roles in these organizations, which in turn influence our approach to corporate responsibility. Some of the organizations we work with are listed below:

  • ACHIEVE
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Red Cross
  • Australian Business Volunteers
  • Business for Social Responsibility
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
  • Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy
  • Corporate Responsibility Association
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • CSR Asia
  • CSR Europe
  • Digital Opportunities Trust
  • Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition
  • Environmental Law Institute
  • European Academy of Business in Society
  • Global FoodBanking Network
  • Independent Sector
  • International Medical Corps
  • Meridian International Center
  • Peace Corps
  • Points of Light Institute and Corporate Service Council
  • Pyxera Global
  • Student Achievement Partners
  • The Conference Board
  • The Conservation Fund
  • The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • UnboundEd
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • U.S. Chamber Foundation Center for Corporate Citizenship
  • U.S. Department of State
  • VSO International
  • White House/Let Girls Learn
  • Wildlife Habitat Council
  • World Environmental Center