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Chairman’s Letter

A commitment to corporate responsibility pervades IBM, from new hires to the chairman’s office. In this year’s letter, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano describes IBM’s long-term approach to corporate responsibility, and the IBMers that make it possible.

IBM’s Approach

Through the years, IBM has consistently expanded the definition of corporate citizenship, pushing the boundaries of what is required to be considered a responsible enterprise. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find more detail on our approach to corporate responsibility, and some examples of how that approach manifested itself during the past year.


At IBM we engage with communities around the world by offering our technology, services and expertise to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems. While the monetary value of these contributions is great, we eschew checkbook philanthropy whenever possible. We believe that this approach is the most efficient, effective and sustainable way to practice good corporate citizenship. And we believe it is helping to make the world work better. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of the contributions IBM made to the global community this past year.

The IBMer

For the last 100 years, IBM has pioneered innovative approaches to hiring, managing and retaining our work force. From some of the earliest thinking on work force diversity to progressive programs for employee well-being and leadership development, this ongoing commitment to our employees is critical to the success of IBM and IBMers. And as the nature of our business changes, we will continue to apply the same innovation and creativity we use to develop products and services to our relationship with employees. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of the commitments IBM made to its work force this past year.


IBM has long maintained an unwavering commitment to environmental protection, which was formalized by a corporate environmental policy in 1971. The policy calls for IBM to be an environmental leader across all of our business activities, from our research, operations and products to the services and solutions we provide our clients to help them be more protective of the environment. Download this section of the report (2.2MB)

Supply Chain

IBM manages a supply chain of more than 27,000 suppliers in nearly 100 different countries. We understand that managing a supply chain of this size carries with it considerable social responsibility. Even so, we are continually expanding the definition of what it means to run a responsible supply chain, challenging ourselves and our suppliers to reach ever higher standards of social and environmental compliance. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of IBM’s supply chain responsibility efforts over the past year.

Ethics and Integrity

Both the size and nature of IBM’s business necessitate that it adhere to the highest standards of conduct. IBM employs more than 400,000 employees, and provides services and technology that support businesses, governments, schools, hospitals and highways. As such, integrity, transparency, privacy and risk management are all crucial parts of our business, and our commitment to making the world work better. In this section of IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, you will find examples of how IBM is setting the modern standard for business ethics.

Our Approach to Corporate Citizenship

Over the 100 years of IBM’s existence, we have developed and refined a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to corporate citizenship that we believe aligns with IBM’s values and maximizes the positive impact of which we, as a global enterprise, are capable. We do this in four ways:

  • We identify and act upon new opportunities to apply our technology and expertise to societal problems (See Smarter Cities Challenge).
  • We scale our existing programs and initiatives to achieve maximum benefit (See World Community Grid).
  • We empower our employees and others to serve their communities (See Service Jam).
  • We integrate corporate citizenship and social responsibility into every aspect of our company.

We focus our community engagement and corporate service programs on specific societal issues, including the environment, community economic development, education, health, literacy, language and culture. These are areas of urgent societal needs where we can apply IBM’s technology and talent to solve problems, rather than simply making cash donations. We believe that direct action and collaboration, not spare change, are the path to real change.

In all of our community service efforts, we aim to provide leadership, and we insist on excellence. Whether it’s using voice recognition technology to help children learn to read or cloud computing to make disaster relief tools available instantly to recovery workers, we expect to effect widespread positive change. And we work closely with highly qualified partners who are deeply committed to the same outcomes. This is our approach to stakeholder engagement: to collaborate with leading organizations to evolve meaningful and sustainable solutions.

This commitment is fostered throughout the company, 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, its committees and our CEO regularly review performance and accountability.

On a day-to-day basis, our citizenship activities are managed by Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs at IBM, which regularly reports to the Board on goals and performance. The vice president for Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs at IBM also serves as the president of the IBM International Foundation, which is chaired by IBM’s chairman and CEO.

It is only logical that responsibility for good corporate citizenship extends to all divisions of the company, because corporate citizenship at IBM consists of far more than community service. IBM is a company of more than 425,000 employees, doing business in nearly 170 countries. We manage a supply chain of more than 27,000 suppliers. We support a vast network of stakeholders — from clients, employees and business partners to community leaders and investors. And the work we do impacts not only other companies’ business success, but the efficiency and innovation of countries, cities, governments, communities and our planet’s critical infrastructure.

For these reasons, IBM’s business is inherently required to pursue 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.