April 07, 2010
The Responsibility RevolutionIn 2004 the Global Innovation Outlook first began convening groups of thought leaders around the world to collaboratively address some of the most enduring problems society faces. Together with IBMers, these forward thinkers tackled subjects as varied as the provision of affordable and effective healthcare, economic development in Africa, and protecting the availability of global water supplies. And through it all, more than a few innovative ideas were born and acted upon.
But the GIO was never a philanthropic endeavor. If fact, it was not even part of IBM’s community engagement strategy. The GIO was a business program, expected to identify real business opportunities that led to real profit. It just so happens that IBM has always believed that addressing the most pressing needs of society are where opportunity has always been found. As our former CEO, Thomas Watson, Jr. said, “Corporations prosper only to the extent that they satisfy human needs… Profit is only the scoring system… The end is better living for us all.”
While we conducted our deep dive discussions on water in 2008, we were joined by a journalist by the name of Bill Breen. Bill used to be a senior editor at a magazine called Fast Company, and he was working on a book about corporate responsibility with Jeffrey Hollender, the cofounder and executive chairman of Seventh Generation, a maker of green cleaning products. He was curious about IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook program, and wanted to get a first hand look.
I’m happy to announce that the book, The Responsibility Revolution, is now available. It’s a book for forward thinking companies that are looking to shift corporate responsibility's focus from reputation to innovation and leadership. The Responsibility Revolution also unpacks much of the back-story around how the GIO came to be and how IBM thinks about collaboration.
The book challenges business to move beyond the limiting assumptions of corporate responsibility and provide real leadership and innovation, taking on fundamental societal challenges. Using companies like Nike, Novo Nordisk, and Timberland as examples, it makes the case that following a sound blueprint and foundational principles for moving responsibility to the core of a business can simultaneously be good for the balance sheet, company reputation, employee motivation and retention, and the planet.
That’s how IBM approaches its business. And we hope it’s a model that more companies will start to follow.