The letter from IBM (NYSE: IBM) President and CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometty introducing the company’s newest Corporate Social Responsibility report sets a high standard.
She wrote with full optimism that after meeting with employees, government officials and business leaders that she’s gleaned: “First was the belief that despite the present troubles of the world’s economy, the potential for a bright future, characterized by sustained prosperity and societal progress, is within our grasp. Second, I found a widespread belief that as IBM enters its second century, it possesses unique capabilities—in technology, in business expertise and most importantly, in a deep and systemic understanding of global citizenship—to lead the world in making that potential real.”
She goes onto acknowledge the increasingly critical role of the private sector versus the public sector in making the world a better place for all, as she continues: “Business, in particular, must seize the initiative. We must not wait for government mandates. We must be active in convening all sectors of society to solve problems that none can solve on their own. We must energize our own resources—not just financial, but also human. Most crucially, we must create corporate citizenship and business strategies that are not merely “linked,” but one.”
For a century IBM has been putting its money where its proverbial mouth is, at least when it comes to creating Shared Value. The outcomes are measured against a focused vision on specific societal issues: exploring ways to improve and protect the environment, spurring community economic development, and improving education and healthcare.
For instance, IBM employees are helping to build smarter cities through its Smarter Cities Challenge, providing $50 million in competitive grants that send teams of talented people into 100 cities around the world over a three-year period to help transform these urban centers.
In education, the company helped pioneer a new model for economic development and education by opening Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH, in New York City. It is the first grades 9-14 school, linking high school, college and career in one.
Among its environmental initiatives, IBM saved more than $43 million in electricity expenses and conserved 378,000 megawatt hours of electricity last year, enough to power almost 34,000 average U.S. homes for a year.
These transformative initiatives can seem daunting to small and medium sized business owners, but they shouldn’t be. The basic fundamentals of participating in a global community are the same. So is the responsibility to re-direct business success to others- employees, shareholders, customers and society generally. Small companies like Singlebrook are following IBM’s lead where its entire focus is developing technology designed explicitly for people to make a difference. Something else the two companies share is a passion for succeeding.