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.


IBM has been delivering differentiating value to stakeholders through a legacy of service as old as the company itself. We continue to demonstrate the sustainability of our business practices and our ability to transform ourselves to build a better world as markets and industries change. We have nearly 400,000 employees and do business in more than 175 countries. And we have an extensive network of 12,000 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, nongovernmental 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. To that end, as we continue to lead the cognitive era, IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty has said, “For most of our businesses and companies, it will not be man or machine…it will be a symbiotic relationship. Our purpose is to augment and really be in service of what humans do.”

In addition to cognitive computing, IBM is pioneering many other technologies that are driving global business and societal progress — data and analytics, cloud, blockchain, nanotechnology, quantum computing and security. IBM annually invests 6 to 7 percent of total revenue on research and development aimed at making a positive and meaningful impact around the world. For the 24th consecutive year, IBM led the U.S. list of patent recipients and broke the 8,000 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 step up as full partners, providing 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 working together to amplify the positive impact we can have on communities around the world.

Solving problems by leveraging the full range of our resources and bringing solutions to scale — To address some of the world’s toughest challenges at their roots requires more than merely making donations. We bring our best talents and technologies to bear in crafting 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 brought about by climate change, helping to transform global health, or working to prepare an emerging generation with the skills and education needed for meaningful 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. 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.

In countries around the world, the race is on to prepare today’s and tomorrow’s workers with the skills required for careers in an evolving, knowledge-based economy. IBM works with educators and other key stakeholders globally to create innovative models and technologies that fundamentally transform teaching and learning in ways that better prepare people of all ages to engage meaningfully in 21st century opportunities.

  • Reinventing high school and dramatically improving college completion rates, IBM in collaboration with New York Public Schools and The City University of New York created the innovative P-TECH 9-14 school model, which in just six years has scaled to 60 schools across the U.S. and Australia. Students have already graduated to “new collar” jobs with IBM, or have used their associate degree in Applied Science to transition to four-year colleges or universities.
  • Teacher Advisor with Watson is a cognitive-computing-based personal coach created “by teachers for teachers” to improve their effectiveness in teaching math and save precious time while planning. Teacher Advisor will be available to teachers across the U.S. at no charge in time for the 2017-18 school year.
  • Teachers TryScience, a global initiative developed in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science and teachengineering.org, registered 9,000 new users in 2016. IBM added 425 new lessons and pedagogic strategies in 10 different languages to the Teachers TryScience website, created to help teachers improve their math and science instruction skills.
  • In 2016, the IBM University Relations program expanded and continued to work with university participants around the globe to engage and inspire postsecondary students for careers in the cognitive era. Students from hundreds of universities explored new career paths, joined IBM as interns or regular employees, or participated in competitions to demonstrate their technology training.

To address the skills gap while assisting military veterans, IBM’s Veteran Employment Accelerator Impact Grant program helped hundreds of vets train for data analyst certification throughout 2016. Corporate partners such as American Express, Aetna, PNC and USAA are essential to the program, working with IBM to place these highly skilled vets in key roles in their companies.

IBM is a founding member of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and encourages its suppliers of products and services to join the EICC and participate in the development and deployment of resources aimed at driving improvements in social responsibility. IBM’s Global Employment Standards are aligned with the EICC Code of Conduct which contains provisions on labor, health and safety, environmental, ethis and management systems, and which reference international norms and standards.

IBM’s commitment to making a difference through meaningful transformation requires that we incorporate the latest thinking and external expertise to advance our leadership development programs, foster employee engagement, and ensure our tradition of service remains vibrant.

  • Our membership in The Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research association, enables IBM to hone our thought leadership in areas including the economic and business environment, corporate leadership, and human capital, and allows us to 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.
  • As chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Corporate Citizenship, dedicated to strengthening America's long-term competitiveness, IBM’s vice president, Global Citizenship Initiatives, leads the efforts to educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, on how business positively impacts communities, and on emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.
  • IBM is a founding member of IMPACT 2030, a business-led coalition that convenes leaders from corporations, the United Nations (U.N.), civil society, academia and philanthropic organizations from around the world, uniting their corporate volunteering efforts to address the U.N. Development Agenda through collaboration. IBM’s vice president, Global Citizenship Initiatives, serves on IMPACT 2030’s Executive Committee, and 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.
  • IBM’s vice president, Global Citizenship Initiatives, also serves on the board of Independent Sector, the only national membership organization that brings together nonprofits, foundations and corporations to engage in charitable endeavors to advance the common good.
  • 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 that are connected with experts in academia, business and civil society on issues that include creating effective employee volunteer programs and scaling and deepening global impact through service.

Our comprehensive environmental programs are boosted by partnerships with innovative organizations that bring together governments, nongovernmental organizations, multilaterals, leading companies, thought leaders and citizens to protect and preserve the planet.

  • In 2016, IBM became a founding member of the SMARTer2030 Action Coalition, an initiative promoting an agenda that implements “smart” information and communications technology (ICT)-enabled solutions to advance a low-carbon economy.
  • In 2017, IBM also joined the U.S. Water Partnership whose mission is to unite and mobilize the best of U.S. expertise, resources and ingenuity to address global water challenges, with a special focus on developing countries, where needs are greatest.
  • IBM continues to promote wildlife habitat conservation and management through its membership and participation in the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC). Five IBM sites in the United States currently have their wildlife habitat management and conservation education program certified by the WHC. In 2017, IBM’s Research Triangle Park (RTP) site partnered with local Eagle Scouts to build a Community Garden that will provide a food source for pollinators.

Some of the additional organizations we work with are:

  • 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 America Supports You (CASY)
  • Corporate Responsibility Association
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • CSR Asia
  • CSR Europe
  • Digital Opportunities Trust
  • Environmental Law Institute
  • European Academy of Business in Society
  • Global FoodBanking Network
  • International Medical Corps
  • Let Girls Learn
  • Meridian International Center
  • Peace Corps
  • Pyxera Global
  • Stop the Traffic
  • Student Achievement Partners
  • The Conservation Fund
  • The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • UnboundEd
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. Diplomacy Center
  • VSO International
  • World Environment Center
  • Yale School of Management

Download the 2016 report