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IBM Service Corps applies core competency to address social problems

Of the many admirable constructive corporate social responsibility/sustainable development programs around the world, why single out IBM’s Corporate Service Corps? Let us count the ways:

Beginning this week, ten members of the IBM Corporate Service Corps from around the world will be stationed at Belem, Brazil for a month, collaborating with The Nature Conservancy staffers and other stakeholders to protect and develop the Amazon rainforest. The team is addressing one of the region’s most critical projects — making it easier, through applied information technology, for municipalities in the Brazilian Amazon to establish land-ownership records, monitor land use and, potentially stop illegal deforestation.

TNC’s Municipal Environmental Portal (PAM), in use by a handful of Brazilian municipalities to assess land use and compliance with Brazil’s revised Forest Code, is being expanded for potential use by more than 100 municipalities in Brazil’s Amazon region.

So the first significant attribute of this IBM sustainable development program is that it applies the company’s core competency in an effective and credible manner to help solve a macro social problem.

“We can’t solve these big problems unless we have governments working with business, working with NGOs. It takes all three to be successful.”, says Henry Paulson Jr., former US Treasury Secretary and co-chairman of the Latin American Conservation Council, which works with TNC to help design and fund its programs. IBM CEO Virginia M. Rometty is a member of the Council.

Second, in its now well-established  Corporate Service Corps, the company has integrated CSR/sustainability with its traditional corporate goals and has articulated these objectives unabashedly:

“Triple Benefit:

Communities have their problems solved.

IBMers receive leadership training and development.

IBM develops new markets and global leaders.”

Stanley S. Litow, vice president for IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, explains:

“This partnership with The Nature Conservancy provides an opportunity to exert environmental leadership on the ground that will balance the need for economic growth with the need to provide sustainable performance in the environmental space.”

And yes, there’s still another aspect of this program that other CSR/sustainable development leaders might well choose to emulate: A creative outreach via a crowdsourcing forum “for better ideas that help improve PAM and make it more useful and compelling for municipalities, land owners, farmers, loggers and environmental groups.”

A CSR/sustainable development trifecta.