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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.

Employee Diversity

In 1899, The Computing Scale Company, one of three companies that would eventually join to form IBM, hired Richard MacGregor, a Black employee, as well as Lilly J. Philp, Nettie A. Moore and Emma K. Manske. This was 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. In 1924, these same four employees helped inaugurate IBM’s first Quarter Century Club.

Throughout its history, IBM has consistently led in workplace diversity, from opening a training center for more than 600 people with disabilities in 1943 to to being the first company to provide domestic partner benefits to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees to becoming the first company to adopt a global genetic nondiscrimination policy in 2005. Diversity, equal opportunity and cultural acceptance are part of IBM’s core values; they are in our DNA. And 100 years of leadership in work force diversity, evidenced here, clearly demonstrates the company’s ongoing commitment.

Policy Letter #4
Policy Letter #4

On September 21, 1953, IBM President Thomas Watson, Jr. published the company’s first equal opportunity policy letter—one year before Brown vs. Board of Education.

Today, IBM continues to push the boundaries of diversity. We believe that promoting diversity is not only the right thing to do, but a competitive advantage as well—a bridge between the workplace and the marketplace. Our current approach to diversity follows a framework we call Diversity 3.0. The goals of this framework are twofold:

  1. To expand the definition of diversity to be ever more inclusive
  2. To advocate for diversity on a global basis, wherever we do business.

Click here for more on IBM’s Diversity 3.0 program.

In 2010, IBM once again challenged the accepted definition of diversity by introducing the concept of “Diversity of Thought.” This important aspect of diversity explores how culture and age impact relationships, and how adaptability and cultural intelligence broaden the capabilities of IBMers to work with each other and our clients. It includes both cultural and generational differences in thought. To foster this, IBM hosted a Cultural Intelligence Summit that generated several different outputs, including a learning roadmap for cultural intelligence and a reverse mentoring program for cultural intelligence.

IBM also promoted diversity around the world in 2010. For example, IBM held its annual Winspiration event in Hyderabad, India, in December, bringing together women employees from around the company and empowering them for success in the workplace. The event is hosted by IBM’s Indian Women’s Leadership Council, and it provides a forum to guide women to best leverage their expertise and hone their leadership skills. This year’s sessions included “Networking with Intent,” “Building Relationships & Influencing Skills” and “Accelerating Your Impact through Risk Taking and Decision Making.”

In addition to expanding the definition and geographical boundaries of diversity, IBM also works to improve upon its existing programs. For example, the company announced a new streamlined process called Accessible Workplace Connection (AWC) for people with disabilities who require accommodations to complete their work. These often simple solutions can include anything from assistive technology solutions—such as screen magnifiers for people with low vision, video relay interpreters for people who are deaf or screen readers for people who are blind—to more practical logistics-related accommodations such as alternative travel arrangements.

Leadership in Workplace Diversity and Employee Privacy

From groundbreaking equal opportunity hiring practices in 1899 to global genetic nondiscrimination policies in 2005, IBM has been a leader in protecting the rights of its workers for more than 100 years.

AWC is a streamlined accommodations process that can be integrated into the workplace through a self-service portal in a Web browser. It is also referred to as a “one-stop shop” for requesting, reviewing and making accommodations for people who have disabilities. The tool enables interactive dialog between employees and the IBM teams responsible for providing accommodations, including expert accommodation specialists. Once a solution is in place, AWC allows individuals to receive ongoing support. It provides a simple way to acquire/support accommodations; tracks whether accommodations are reasonable, comprehensive and effective; helps eliminate process confusion; and offers global consistency.

These are just a few examples of the work IBM did to improve workplace diversity over the course of 2010. Going forward, the company will continue to promote diversity around the world, and provide a fair and accepting workplace.

Icon of Progress: Equal Opportunity Work Force Icon of Progress: Equal Opportunity Work Force

Learn more about IBM’s 100 years of leadership in promoting an Equal Opportunity Work Force.