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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.

IBMers at Their Best

IBM has long practiced the art and the science of developing the world’s best business and technology professionals. For the last 100 years, IBM has worked to support and foster this distinctive brand of thinker and doer, also known as the “IBMer.”

Last year, IBM used the occasion of its upcoming 100th anniversary as an opportunity to look back and clearly define the unique corporate characteristics that have made IBM so successful over the last century. Through an exhaustive process, we identified five traits that describe IBM at its best, collectively called our Corporate Character. They include: pioneering intellectual capital that creates new value; applying science to the challenges of business and society; being global, in presence, viewpoint and lasting impact; collaborating as experts dedicated to the success of others; and in so doing, making the world work better.

To help make IBMers successful within this framework, we then created a working group and conducted hundreds of interviews with clients and internal leaders to help refresh and redefine the core competencies of IBMers at their best. These nine “IBM Competencies” map closely with our Corporate Character, and include a varied set of capabilities, from continuously transforming to acting with a systemic perspective. We believe that together with our newly codified Corporate Character, these IBM Competencies will help IBMers better understand what is expected of them, by both our company and the world.

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IBM Competencies

Embrace challenge

IBM is in the business of taking on complex situations and challenges. The mission of IBMers is to make the world work better—from daily breakthroughs to world-changing progress. So we focus on the future and embrace the hard challenges facing our teams, our clients and our communities. We see opportunity in complexity, and are skilled at identifying the central issues and charting a path forward. We take personal accountability for transformative outcomes—and our belief in progress inspires others to rise to the challenge with us.

Partner for clients’ success

IBM’s worth depends not just on what we imagine, but what we deliver. IBMers go above and beyond what is expected to achieve our clients’ current and future aspirations. We deliver client value. We act as their partners and derive great pride from their success. We invest the time to understand their situation and unmet needs; seek out market and societal insights; and make connections across the whole of IBM to serve them. We work alongside our clients, co-creating approaches, solutions and ultimately their success—which, in turn, transforms whole industries, economies and society.


Collaborate globally

IBMers are global professionals and global citizens—and must therefore be skilled at collaboration. We think and work shoulder-to-shoulder with others—across the boundaries of teams, disciplines, organizations, countries and cultures—to achieve the right outcome. As the human dimension of a globally integrated enterprise, we build our own networks of experts—and we encourage our colleagues to use the collective intelligence of their network not just to get work done, but to identify what needs to be done and to take collective action. We see our networks of global citizens not just as collections of individuals, but as a collective leadership force creating the full promise of IBM to transform the marketplace, society and the world.

Act with a systemic perspective

IBMers are systems thinkers. We help our clients, our colleagues and the world understand and design the essential dimensions of any system—how it senses, maps and analyzes information, detects underlying patterns, and translates that knowledge into belief and action. We help others see this end-to-end view, synthesizing information from many dimensions—whether the system in question is technological, economic, societal, cultural or natural. This systemic view allows us to frame problems properly, and to take the right action in the right way at the right time. It also lets us anticipate the impact of our actions on others. Knowing all this, we act wisely while boldly taking the right risks.

Build mutual trust

IBM’s business model requires getting different constituents to work together to solve problems and open up opportunity—be that inside IBM, among organizations, within our clients or, in the case of world-changing work, with many communities. IBMers are skilled at building “360 degrees of trust” across this full spectrum of IBM’s constituents—finding common ground for those with different objectives, aspirations, constraints and cultures. We build these kinds of relationships by acting with integrity, assuming positive intent and ensuring that openness and trust are maintained—even when agreement is not achieved. We trust in the skills of others—that they know what to do and how to do it, and are motivated to achieve the result. And if we see trust eroding, we take accountability to remedy that quickly.

Influence through expertise

IBM’s value proposition and business model are grounded in delivering expertise. So we continually deepen our own and our colleagues’ knowledge and eminence—as professionals, as collaborators, as leaders, and as fully realized IBMers. We develop our skills and careers through feedback, coaching, mentoring and challenging assignments—within IBM and in the communities where we and our clients live and work. And we take personal responsibility for developing IBM’s thought leadership, both inside and outside our organizations.

Continuously transform

IBMers are committed to building the future—a better world, and a better IBM. This is what IBM has done for 100 years. Our intellectual curiosity and spirit of restless reinvention, animated by a belief in reason, in science and in progress, infuse the enterprise with energy. Today, in a world where the future is far less predictable, IBMers actively seek what we do not know and haven’t yet imagined. We cultivate an environment of openness to new approaches and experimentation. We rethink assumptions and ask probing questions—to grasp new situations, unearth opportunities and create new markets. We engage others whose background, culture, language or work style is different from our own. This is the heart of an IBM that can learn, adapt and continuously transform.

Communicate for impact

IBMers communicate to find mutual understanding and to build a sense of shared outcomes. That starts with listening; we ensure people’s ideas and concerns are heard. We bring deep expertise and perspective, which are the ingredients to communicating clearly and simply, especially in complex situations. We interpret and synthesize disparate concepts, strategies and intent. We leverage our understanding of others’ perspectives—the ones they can express, and the ones they as yet cannot—to tailor what we say and how we say it. We communicate authentically, in a timely way, in the most effective manner—even when conveying an unpopular opinion.

Help IBMers succeed

The IBM brand is about IBMers, and how we show up in the world—not just client-facing IBMers, but all of us. So we each strive to bring our best selves to our work. And we are in the service of the success of others—ensuring they have resources, ongoing support and clear milestones. We take the time to share insights and discuss the challenge in front of us. We anticipate and remove obstacles and prevailing practices that are holding people back. We acknowledge others’ contributions, champion their ideas and help each IBMer find his or her own motivation. We create an environment in which our colleagues feel a sense of purpose and engagement, and which draws on their own strong desire to act.

Icon of Progress: The Globally Integrated Enterprise Icon of Progress:
The Globally Integrated Enterprise

Explore how IBM transformed from a multi-national corporation to become a globally integrated enterprise.