Sound business and social practices at IBM (NYSE: IBM) are a boon to more than just the company’s bottom line; it pays dividends for people and the planet.
According to the company’s Corporate Responsibility Report for 2010, now available at www.ibm.com/ibm/responsibility, socially responsible behavior at IBM last year yielded a range of benefits: reductions in energy use, more women in management roles, and smarter cities. IBM employees were also healthier and safer on the job, received greater skills training, and joined with the company in donating more money and expertise to social causes through community partnerships.
These and other accomplishments were detailed in IBM’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, a year-to-year comparison of the company’s citizenship and philanthropic projects, community partnerships, environmental stewardship, and employment policies and practices. It was prepared according to the highest standards established by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
Good for Planet, Good for Business
IBM achieved strong results in sustainability, energy conservation and environmental responsibility last year. For instance, IBM saved over US$50 million in electricity expenses and conserved 523,000 megawatt hours of electricity since 2008, enough to power 47,000 average U.S. homes for a year. This was the result of an ambitious ongoing program involving 3,100 conservation projects at more than 350 IBM facilities in 49 countries. Building on decades of environmental leadership, IBM will continue these conservation efforts and aim to eliminate 1.1 million megawatt hours of energy consumption by the end of 2012.
IBM is saving energy across its data centers and real estate portfolio through a global strategy that taps into the company’s R&D expertise and technologies. It includes a technology developed by IBM Research that produces real-time, 3D images to pinpoint so-called “heat sinks” and cooling leaks; virtualization technology to ensure that energy-hungry servers are operating at peak efficiency; and analytics software that manages electricity consumption across data centers, much as a conductor tunes up an orchestra. Such innovations make their way into IBM Smarter Buildings technology sold to clients.
Also in 2010, the company recycled 79 percent of the nonhazardous waste it generated; reduced water use in the manufacturing process by nearly two percent; and successfully completed a multi-year program to eliminate perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid compounds from its chip manufacturing processes — winning recognition from the U.S.’ National Pollution Prevention Roundtable.
IBM’s sustainability policies are paying off, literally. Over the years, IBM estimates that its focus on environmental leadership has realized savings and avoided costs at a rate of approximately $1.60 for every $1.00 spent. IBM’s decades-long energy conservation program has avoided 5.4 million megawatt hours in energy use, and nearly $400 million in associated direct energy expense from 1990-2010.
“Saving millions in electricity expenses takes more than turning off lights,” said Wayne Balta, vice president, environmental affairs and product safety, IBM. “It takes the combined efforts of IBM experts working in data center operation, manufacturing, hardware, software, R&D and real estate management. It also includes a combination of analytics technology and integrated management systems to find patterns and trends in energy consumption to improve efficiency. IBM doesn’t support sustainability because it’s trendy or popular — we do it because it makes good business sense and is good for the environment.”
A year of advances in corporate responsibility
The report also details how IBM in 2010:
- Increased corporate donations of cash, technology and services to US$189.2 million, the 10th consecutive year that IBM donations increased
- Set new requirements for all 27,000 of its suppliers to implement a corporate responsibility and environmental management system, set environmental goals, and measure and disclose their performance
- Announced a hot water-cooled supercomputer design that consumes 40 percent less energy than comparable machines
- Began building a free, online community to enable small business compete for contracts at IBM and many large companies simultaneously, boosting jobs and the economy
- Piloted cryptographic technologies in Europe to better protect their privacy and identities
- Convened an online discussion of 15,500 people from 119 countries to share nearly 6,000 ideas for making the world better through community service (ibm.com/2010crreport/servicejam)
- IBM’s remanufacturing and refurbishment operations processed approximately 820,000 units in 2010, or approximately 15,800 units per week. Of these, 88.5% were prepared for reuse and resale. Less than 1% of processed equipment goes to landfills.
By the end of 2010, more than 170,000 IBM employees in more than 84 countries had volunteered 11.5 million hours of community service since 2003 — more than any other company. Community service makes for more motivated, loyal, and skilled employees, and more stable communities, an investment that yields greater productivity and prosperity.
“There is a perception that ethical practices and profitability are mutually exclusive,” said Stanley S. Litow, vice president of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs at IBM and president of IBM’s International Foundation. “In fact, they are dependent on one another. Responsible corporate behavior builds trust. It is an investment like any other sound business practice — and it pays substantial, measurable dividends for our shareholders. Today’s report bears this out. IBM has pioneered many of the voluntary, ethical practices that have become standard operating procedure in the business community, and we couldn’t be more proud of that fact. We intend to continue to be at the forefront of corporate responsibility for years to come.”
The accomplishments detailed in the report are part of a century of progress at IBM. As the company celebrates its Centennial this year, IBM’s environmental leadership is one of 100 milestones in IBM’s history of innovation, which can be found at www.ibm100.com/icons.
IBM’s volunteerism, quantified in the 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report, was a prelude to a massive “Celebration of Service” in 2011, an effort that is helping to mark IBM’s Centennial this year. Given the company’s traditional emphasis on public service, volunteerism was chosen as one of the major ways to celebrate the impact IBM has made on society globally. So far this year, more than 320,000 IBMers around the world — three-quarters of its global workforce –- have committed 2.6 million hours of their time and expertise this year in 5,200 projects in 120 countries, meeting civic challenges and societal challenges, and serving at least 10 million people in need. That is equivalent to approximately 900 years of volunteerism, valued conservatively at $100 million. These numbers continue to grow as 2011 progresses.