Perhaps no program exemplifies IBM’s integrated approach to corporate citizenship better than the Smarter Cities Challenge. Now in its third year, the Smarter Cities Challenge is a donation of IBMers’ problem-solving expertise to 100 cities around the world, helping city leaders solve critical problems as they collect and analyze data from complex urban systems, to reduce costs, improve infrastructure, and make cities more livable. In 2012—the second full year of the program—173 IBMers were deployed to 31 cities to advise city leaders on strategies to help improve efficiency, spur economic growth, engage citizens, and more.
In 2013, IBM celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Corporate Services Corps (CSC). Through CSC, IBM blends social responsibility and business expertise to produce a triple benefit: premier leadership development for IBM employees, pro bono problem solving for governments and communities, and a greater understanding of new markets for IBM. CSC teams collaborate with government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations in areas where business, technology, and society intersect to develop sustainable economic solutions. A terrific example of the strength of public and private collaboration, in 2012, CSC teams helped improve the management of youth centers and children’s hospitals in Brazil, took strategic action in the fight against cervical cancer by working to solve information management challenges, and helped secure energy resources in Eastern Africa by facilitating data sharing.
The Green Advantage
In 2013, IBM was recognized by the U.S. EPA for the third consecutive year for leadership in climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While its green performance has not improved in all areas across the board, the brand continues to make impressive efforts to conserve resources and minimize environmental impact. Some of its more groundbreaking sustainable solutions tend to emerge through IBM’s Smarter Cities program. Recognizing IBM’s deep expertise in working with thousands of cities of all sizes globally on Smart City initiatives, the Visionary Innovation Research Group at Frost & Sullivan has named IBM the leading Smart City integrator. The 2014 Frost & Sullivan Visionary Leadership Award acknowledges IBM’s accomplishments in helping cities transform their systems and better manage resources through the use of big data and analytics and cloud computing. The sheer size and scale of IBM’s commitment in this area is daunting—so much so that it’s hard to grasp the full scope of what IBM does for cities. With multiple websites, blogs, videos, social media outlets, and Twitter feeds, IBM should consider simplifying and, perhaps, even reducing the flow of information to enhance clarity and understanding. While IBM’s performance slips a bit this year, perception remains high, which makes it all the more important for IBM to improve the way it is communicating its sustainability progress and solutions. As other brands begin to step up their game in this space, it’s no time for a pioneer like IBM to rest on its laurels.
Corporate Responsibility at IBM, includes link to 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report
IBM Smarter Cities Infrastructure (featuring numerous informative videos about IBM projects)
The Future of Employee Engagement: IBM’s Triple-Benefit Programs