IBM 2017 Corporate Responsibility Report

Innovation, transformation and leadership

More than at any time in recent history, governments, businesses and individuals are examining how companies operate. They are voicing concern over how personal data is being handled and protected, the potential misuse of technology platforms, and the impact of automation and AI on jobs. They are also examining the diversity and inclusion practices of these companies. 


The world, in other words, is deeply in need of organizations that act responsibly. At IBM, for more than a century, we have sought to earn and keep the trust of our clients, partners, employees and with the people in the many thousands of communities where we live and work. Indeed, that trust is why governments around the world choose us to run systems and services that serve their citizens. It also is why 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on IBM to handle their data.

In this report, you will read about our Corporate Responsibility efforts to reform education, protect the environment and advance new models for inclusion and diversity. Yet, crucially, you will also read about an area where there is increasing need for corporate responsibility — our advocacy for trust and transparency in the technology industry — and beyond.

Indeed, as we continue to change the way the world works, we have turned our decades of experience into a formal set of guidelines: IBM’s Principles of Trust and Transparency.

These principles make clear how IBM has earned our reputation as a responsible steward of data, and they provide a guidebook for how all companies can do the same — how they can design and deploy new technologies in a way that advances the march of societal progress.

Our Principles state:

The Purpose of AI is to Augment Human Intelligence: We believe the real value in AI lies in its ability to augment — not replace — human expertise. That belief is reflected in the technologies we build and bring to market. We recognize that AI will change every job in some way. That is why we have been investing in training IBM employees in new, in-demand skills and advocating for new approaches to skills education, including the P-TECH educational model.

Data and Insights Belong to Their Creator: Trust in the promise of the digital economy can only be earned through responsible and transparent data practices. IBM is dedicated to the protection of our clients’ data and to harnessing its power to expand prosperity and opportunity. We firmly believe that a client’s data and the unique insights derived from that data belong to that client.

New Technology, including AI Systems, Must Be Transparent and Explainable: Society will only trust a technology that can be understood. Technology companies must be clear about who trains their AI systems, what data was used in that training and, most importantly, what went into the algorithm’s recommendations. IBM also believes that while bias can never be fully eliminated, and our work to eliminate it will never be complete, we and all companies advancing AI have an obligation to address it proactively.

IBM’s Principles are a reflection of a new era, one where technology increasingly influences every aspect of society, from how government services are delivered, how we shop and entertain ourselves, to how children learn and physicians treat patients. We invite all companies, not just tech companies, to adopt these principles for their own use.

This is not a new endeavor for IBM. From our company’s start, IBM has adopted policies that promote inclusion and treat people with dignity and respect.

That legacy continues today — from our commitment to genetics privacy and LGBTQ equality for our employees to advocating for public policies that reflect our values. For example, in 2017, we took positions against the revocation of DACA and against a discriminatory “bathroom bill” in Texas. We also reaffirmed our support for U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

IBM is consistently recognized as a corporate responsibility leader — from the Just 100 and Fortune Change the World to the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. I am proud to say that in 2018 IBM was once again honored to receive the Catalyst Award for leadership in building a diverse and inclusive workplace — the only tech company honored in the past 20 years and the only company ever to have won the award four times.

We believe that IBM’s policies, practices and programs offer compelling evidence for optimism: As more companies begin to adopt similar approaches, a new era of global prosperity and progress becomes possible.

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Awards, Ratings & Rankings

Forbes and JUST Capital Rank IBM No. 5 in America's Top Corporate Citizens
IBM ranked as the industry leader and number 5 in America's top corporate citizens

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