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Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics

This is a general discussion regarding corporate social responsibility and its focus on ethics. For the purpose of presenting a corporate example, IBM is spotlighted. Within the pages of this discussion, the different aspects of CSR are discussed as they are managed by IBM, however, these aspects are true and cross compatible to any corporation in any industry. References used within the body of the text are included.

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Corporate Social Responsibility Plan: IBM

I. Introduction
In the recent past (10 to 15 years ago), business ethics were viewed only in terms of administrative compliance efforts in regards to the existing legal standards, following the organizations' self-imposed internal rules and industry-wide regulations and guidelines by many corporate organizations. This view has changed significantly in the past 15 years. Within the modern global business arena, the attention paid to business ethics has been raised to the status of a business imperative without which, success, which relies heavily upon the respect and confidence of customers, simply is not possible. Unlike any period of time before this, corporations are encouraged and even expected to create and maintain business practices that not only display, but emphasize ethical (and legal) behavior. As this expectation of higher business standards, brought about through corporate social responsibility (CSR), grows, accountability for resultant business actions are being placed directly upon the corporations, professional associations and firms, and individuals as well. Although misunderstood by many, CSR is in no way simply charity work performed by corporations. CSR is described as nothing less than a company's obligation of accountability to every stakeholder associated with the company in everything it does.

While creatively balancing the desires of the stakeholders to make a profit, socially responsible corporations take into consideration the full impact upon the environment and the communities they serve in their decision making processes. Consisting of the company's employees, customers, subsidiaries, suppliers, joint venture partnerships, investors, community organizations and government, local neighborhoods, affiliates and shareholders to name a few, a corporation's stakeholders are those individuals and groups with the ability to 'influence' decisions made by the corporation as well as those that are directly 'influenced' by those same decisions both in the local context and the global environment.

IBM's vision and mission statements are as follows:
"Vision Statement - Solutions for a small planet"
"Mission Statement - At IBM, we strive to lead in the invention, development and manufacture of the industry's most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, storage systems and microelectronics.

We translate these advanced technologies into value for our customers through our professional solutions, services and consulting businesses worldwide" (wikianswers.com, 2010).

The vision statement is uniquely directed at the corporation's 'true view' of the world today in that they see the entire plant as completely connected; socially, biologically, technically, environmentally and economically. Proof of this view lies in the undeniable fact that when something of a crisis nature occurs in one part of the world, regardless of its cause or origin, associated problems begin to mount for the rest of the world, i.e. medical epidemics, financial failures and fraudulent, unethical behavior of those we trust to steer the world's ship in the right direction. And, these effects are felt quickly...within days or even hours in some cases.

Because of this global dynamic, IBM has taken the position as a corporation responsible to make the way the world works better and smarter. Intelligence is being bundled into the infrastructures, systems and processes that allow the world to function as a global community; however, technology issues are not the primary challenge; the challenges lie within current "policy, culture collaboration and purpose" (Corporate Responsibility Report, 2008). IBM's systemic view of the world allows them to see the economy, society and the environment as a single, complex global system and it enables new ways to engage and work with stakeholders in meaningful ways.

IBM's approach to corporate social responsibility involves focusing in on the following initiatives:
- Assisting victims of natural disasters
- Addressing the world's food shortages
- Developing more efficient energy sources and grids
- Improving the educational opportunities on a global scale
- Preserve the world's at-risk waterways and prevent regional water shortages
- Create and maintain new methods and models of meaningful community service
- Plan the efficient growth of the world's cities

Some examples of IBM's implementation of their corporate social responsibility plan are demonstrated in their response to Sichuan Province, China earthquake on May 12, 2008. IBM established a technical disaster management system in support of the Zhongmin Charity Information Center after an 8.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged the region leaving 70,000 people dead and another five million homeless. Their efforts helped to manage and expedite the rebuilding and business restructuring plans for the region. Another example comes from the educational sphere of corporate influence. In 2008, an agreement was signed between IBM and the governments of Egypt, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam to develop and implement Service Science Management and Engineering (SSME) into the national education curricula. SSME is an educational program designed to educate students in the combined topics of business, technology and social skills necessary to enter into and operate within their country's workforce. One more example can be found in their commitment to environmental protection policies which were originally developed in 1971. Actions within this program involve water conservation, prevention of pollution, energy conservation, climate protection and the recovery and disposal management of end-of-life electronic equipment.

According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, the stakeholder understanding of customer's CSR concerns and support for the CSR programs is higher than the average for all corporations in aggregate. This response indicates a strong and sustainable CSR plan that is well developed and established throughout the industry. This type of support is also indicative of the type of support to expect when developing future plans and programs.

II. Economic
Although the entire industry is currently experiencing a global economic downturn, IBM is committed to investing in its current and future workforce. The corporation continues to develop and retain employees through skills training, health and ...

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