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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.

HR ThinkFuture

At the start of 2010, members of IBM’s HR senior leadership team faced a critical juncture in the history of their business and the trajectory of their profession due to the advancement of globalization, the need for businesses to be more flexible and changing attitudes among young people in the work force. In addition, IBM’s upcoming centennial inspired them to envision changes that will come decades from now, to help IBM endure and thrive for another 100 years.

Traditionally, when facing such a strategic opportunity, the HR team would have convened an in-person meeting at headquarters, with top executives, to examine trends, brainstorm ideas and debate the future. But that approach was becoming insufficient for a function that spans the globe, with more than 3,000 HR professionals in the business.

Instead, the leadership team sought a more inclusive venue. Members of their teams proposed an intriguing option: Adapt some of the technologies IBM’s own Learning team uses in its virtual classrooms, combined with IBM’s successful “Jam” technology, and convene a worldwide, virtual dialogue that could touch every HR professional. The result became IBM HR ThinkFuture, a new approach to strategy development that will ultimately shape the next generation of HR innovation at IBM.

Key Elements

Collaborative preparation

Leadership brainstorming sessions, with internal and external thinkers, to shape key themes and trends. Work teams, consisting of professionals from multiple countries, were commissioned to develop details around key themes.

Follow-the-sun workshops

During a 24-hour period in June, workshops were held in four cities—Brussels, Beijing, Bangalore and Yorktown Heights, New York, with each session devoted to a single macro-topic relating to work and the future. Speakers came from academia, business, journalism and other industries, along with thought-leaders from IBM. Nearly 800 people attended the live events, more than 1,000 viewed the live Webcast and another 2,000 watched video replays.

ThinkFuture Jam

Following the educational deep-dives, ThinkFuture Jam opened a 72-hour virtual dialogue using IBM’s own technology. In addition to the worldwide HR function, IBM executives, including CEO Sam Palmisano, joined the Jam periodically to share ideas about how HR could evolve and post questions of their own. There were nearly 2,700 registered participants for the Jam, generating more than 3,500 posts. Global participants averaged five hours jamming over the three days, with more than 1,800 unique log-ons.


people took part in IBM’s
follow-the-sun workshops.

Results and Outcomes

Data analytics specialists and an IBM-patented analysis tool combed through the Jam data for important themes and ideas. Initial analytics resulted in 95 ideas with 75 percent of team participation coming from outside the U.S.

With results in hand, Randy MacDonald, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, commissioned five teams to explore the most important ideas for possible development and implementation—Innovative Work Force Models, Leadership for the Next Era, Instrumented Work Force, New Approaches to Performance and Recognition, and Measuring Future Greatness. Teams consisted of high-achieving global HR professionals, working together collaboratively with seasoned HR mentors in a dual-purpose process, to both deepen the thinking and develop leadership skills. Teams worked together in September–October 2010, with results presented to IBM leadership in November 2010.

“I see ThinkFuture as a real competitive advantage for the function,” MacDonald said in a post-event interview. He sees these results as the first step in a multi-stage strategic planning and implementation process that will unfold over the next decade.