By Mike Ray
It started 40 years ago, before it was trendy or being taught in business school.
Thomas J. Watson, Jr., IBM Chairman at the time, said: “We accept our responsibilities as a corporate citizen in community, national and world affairs; we serve our interests best when we serve the public interest…We want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.” That was 1969.
IBM’s values shape and define our company and permeate all of our relationships; between our employees and our shareholders, our clients, the communities where our employees live and work, and among our network of suppliers.
We know that IBM’s sizable purchasing power is a unique resource that we must manage responsibly. We have a responsibility to hold ourselves, and our suppliers, to high standards of behavior including taking environmental programs beyond compliance with applicable laws and regulations. It entails a strong commitment to work with suppliers to encourage good practices and develop sound global markets.
Our work in the area of environmental management within the supply chain goes back to that time. In 1972, for example, IBM instituted environmental evaluation of suppliers providing hazardous waste management services. In 1980, we expanded environmental evaluations to cover certain production-related suppliers. Ten years later IBM expanded environmental evaluations to cover suppliers who provided product-recycling and disposal services.
In 1998, IBM began encouraging suppliers to align their environmental management system with the ISO 14001 standard and pursue registration. Then in 2002, we published the first IBM Corporate Responsibility Report and two years later issued IBM’s Supplier Conduct Principles.
In 2008, IBM joined the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Supply Chain program (the date of the program’s inception) and in 2010, we established management system requirements for suppliers regarding corporate responsibility and environmental management, including specific requirements for Greenhouse Gas emissions management.
I personally had the chance recently to join the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at its annual 2013 Climate Leaders Award. There, IBM was honored for its environmental leadership, including its supply chain management that advances sustainability.
And on Thursday, May 9, I was a guest speaker the U.S. EPA Center for Corporate Climate Leadership webinar where I shared our best practices for climate leadership in supply chain management. I was pleased that more than 150 representatives from corporations, government agencies and non-profits attended to learn more.
As we move forward in the 21st century, I’m encouraged by an ever-expanding awareness of the social and environmental responsibility incumbent upon by corporations like ours. It’s a responsibility that IBM with the support of our 20,000+ suppliers in 90 countries has been committed to for many years, and will be for many to come.