by Cary Barbour, IBM
IBMers are a proud lot for many reasons. One of the things that makes me proud to be part of this organization is the impact that we have in our communities, and our company’s overall social responsibility. In fact, citizens in general – and IBM employees in particular – are becoming more and more interested in their communities and societal engagement. A company that’s dedicated to making a difference and being a responsible corporate citizen is a company that more people are interested in working for and staying at.
But IBMers are not the only ones who value these traits – others are impressed by them too, and that’s helping to boost our brand equity. As many of you have seen, IBM was recently selected as #2 in BrandZ’s ranking of the Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands for 2010. Sure, some of the criteria used to rank companies are not surprising: building trust, making a brand personal, using heritage to create authenticity. Those make sense and they’re hugely important. But the things that resonate most with me might not be quite as intuitive when it comes to brand equity – citizenship and corporate social responsibility.
In a tight economy like the one we’ve been in for the past couple of years, corporate giving and philanthropy tend to be some of the first casualties. As companies around the globe have struggled through one of the toughest recessions on record, a lot of them have dialed down or entirely stopped community donations and volunteering programs. But not IBM.
Corporate social responsibility and community engagement are part of IBM’s nearly 100-year history. Our focus has always been on innovation that matters for our communities, helping IBMers feel fulfilled and developing the next bench of leaders. It’s our business culture and our community culture.
The Corporate Service Corps is a perfect example of how IBM employees are engaging in communities, feeling more fulfilled in their jobs and enhancing their leadership development. This program is taking what’s at the heart of our Smarter Planet strategy and enabling groups of highly talented employees from a range of countries to volunteer their time and travel to emerging markets to help improve economic development, government services, and stimulate job growth.
There are three main advantages to programs like this. They benefit the cities in these emerging markets by helping them to leverage intelligence and improve critical systems such as transportation, water, food safety, education and healthcare. They benefit the groups of IBM volunteers by building their teaming abilities, providing a cultural learning experience, and offering a chance to broaden their skills and test them out in emerging markets.
And for IBM, which has created this program to enable this expert volunteerism, it provides an enormous benefit by building bridges between high-talent employees and important urban centers around the world and developing the type of leadership to help the company lead globally in the 21st Century.
With programs like this, we’re not just tossing our spare change back to the community, with the only goal being generosity. But rather we are taking what is most valuable to the IBM company – our innovation technology and the skill and talent of our people – and contributing it into the communities we live and work in. IBM’s overall approach to philanthropy goes beyond simple check writing and harnesses our company’s industry leading technology, the talents and passions of IBM employees, and our Smarter Planet vision. That’s one of the reasons we keep talented employees around, and it’s one of the reasons I’m proud to be an IBMer. It’s also helping to build our brand equity around the world, as more and more people see the value we’re creating in our communities.