Over the last several years, corporate citizenship programs have begun to refocus their efforts from “responsibility” to “opportunity.” In other words, companies now realize that they can affect positive societal results by applying time, talent and technology to the common (and uncommon) challenges faced by people around the world. By intertwining corporate citizenship with business strategy, companies can advance their business goals while bringing about real, sustainable change.
WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) recently bestowed their “Visionary Award for Shared Value” on IBM in recognition of our “outstanding corporate governance and corporate citizenship” efforts. IBM Director and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson accepted the award on our behalf.
The ability of corporations to positively influence the direction of society did not appear overnight. From the late 19th Century through the latter part of the 20th Century, corporate philanthropy grew from the largesse of wealthy individuals into strategic corporate giving and more community-minded business practices in such areas as supply chain sourcing and mitigating impacts on the environment.
Today, as corporations address their citizenship responsibilities in a global context, they need to work with a variety of public and private-sector partners to pursue practical solutions to challenges no single entity can overcome alone. Some guiding principles to consider when implementing citizenship programs that deliver real value include:
- Building broader partnerships that allow participation by stakeholders outside of
- Reaching beyond so-called “checkbook philanthropy” to contribute a company’s
most valued assets – including its top talent and core competencies; and
- Seizing opportunities to develop new relationships and build global leadership skills through programs that enhance the communities in which one serves.
In a changing and interconnected world with increasingly diminished resources, each of us should be committed in making sustainable civic, societal and economic improvements – not just creating short-term goodwill. As we continue to shape the post-philanthropic era, we move beyond the notion of shared value to create real value by helping citizens, governments, nonprofits and other companies build a smarter planet.
Stanley S. Litow is IBM’s Vice President for Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation.
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