Skip to main content

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.

A Century of Shared Value

  • A Century
    of Leadership

    Since its founding in 1911, IBM has strived to do more than simply give back to society. To us, corporate responsibility has always meant expanding the expectations of what companies can and should do for society. On these pages are just a few examples of the groundbreaking ways we have led over the last 100 years.

  • 1911

    IBM Founded

    Even before IBM was officially founded in 1911, The Computing Scale Company, one of three companies that would later form IBM, hired Richard MacGregor, a Black employee, in 1899, as well as three women: Lilly J. Philp, Nettie A. Moore and Emma K. Manske. This occurred 10 years before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded, 36 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and 20 years before women won the right to vote.

  • 1914

    First Disabled Employee

    The company hires its first disabled employee, 59 years before the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and 76 years before the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • 1936

    Social Security System

    IBM installs punched-card equipment to support administration of the U.S. Social Security Act of 1935. The project requires the creation and maintenance of employment records for 26 million Americans. 25 years later, Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945, said, "there would not have been Social Security without IBM."

    Icon of Progress: Social Security System
  • 1941

    Dr. Michael Supa Hired

    IBM hires a legally blind employee, psychologist Dr. Michael Supa, to assist in the hiring of 181 people with disabilities over the following two years. Dr. Supa later helped IBM make its products more adaptable to the needs of the visually impaired. His motto was "No person is handicapped if he has the right job."

    Icon of Progress: The Accessible Workforce
  • 1944

    IBM Supports UNCF

    IBM becomes the first corporation to support the United Negro College Fund, and Thomas Watson Sr. personally solicited other founding corporate supporters. One-half century later, IBM donates $10 million to the Fund's Campaign 2000.

  • 1953

    Policy Letter #4

    IBM President Thomas J. Watson Jr. issues Policy Letter No. 4, which states that IBM will hire people based on their ability, regardless of race, color or creed, one year before the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. the Board of Education and 11 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This letter is the first U.S. corporate mandate on equal employment opportunity. This same year, IBM opens the first racially integrated manufacturing plant in Lexington, Kentucky, which lends momentum to racial integration of schools in the area.

    Icon of Progress: Building an Equal Opportunity Workforce
  • 1971

    Corporate Policy on Environmental Responsibilities Established

    IBM establishes its Corporate Policy on Environmental Responsibilities. The policy calls for IBM to address not only the waste that results from producing its products but also to consider the consequences of processes that are established during product development--what became, decades later, a regulatory focus known as "pollution prevention."

    Icon of Progress: Corporate Leadership in Environmental Responsibility
  • 1985

    The IBM South Africa Projects Fund

    Later expanded and renamed the IBM International Foundation, the South Africa Projects Fund is established to support education, literacy training and economic development in South Africa.

  • 1996

    IBM Leads Education Summits

    After launching Reinventing Education, a new approach to corporate responsibility using innovative technologies to make a difference in K-12 education, a critical issue to communities around the world, IBM designs a range of programs-- including KidSmart, Reading Companion and TryScience--and in 1996 helps organize and run Education Summits on four continents, attended by governors, CEOs, educators, and heads of state.

  • 2004

    World Community Grid

    IBM launches World Community Grid with the objective of establishing the world's largest grid computer network dedicated to humanitarian research. Working in partnership with leading global scientific organizations, IBM has led an effort to contribute the unused computer cycle time of participating computers to medical and scientific research organizations for critical research.

    World Community Grid
  • 2008

    Corporate Service Corps

    IBM launches the Corporate Service Corps, a leadership development program that deploys teams of IBMers to help solve complex problems in developing countries. Since its inception, the Corporate Service Corps has sent 1,000 IBMers to more than 20 different countries, including Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Russia, Kenya, Indonesia, and Morocco.

    Icon of Progress: Corporate Service Corps
  • 2010

    Smarter Cities Challenge

    IBM launches Smarter Cities Challenge, a competitive grant program in which IBM is awarding a total of $50 million worth of technology and services to 100 municipalities worldwide over the next three years.

    Smarter Cities Challenge
  • 2011

    Celebration of Service

    To commemorate its 100th year as a corporation, IBM will host a Celebration of Service, encouraging all 400,000 of its employees to devote at least eight hours to applying their talent and expertise to civic and societal needs. They will find opportunities to do this at IBM's On Demand Community, a unique Web site that enables IBMers to find volunteer activities and identify skills and expertise they can contribute to a cause.

    Celebration of Service