The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of IBM, and students, faculty and staff at the Robert H. Smith School of Business heard just what it took for the company to reach its centennial.
On Thursday, April 14, 2011, the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change hosted the BB&T Colloquium on Capitalism, Ethics and Leadership, featuring speaker Stanley S. Litow of IBM. Litow is vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president for IBM’s Foundation. He was also the keynote speaker for 2010's Social Enterprise Symposium, presented by the school’s Center for Social Value Creation.
Under his leadership, IBM has been widely regarded as a global leader in Corporate Social Responsibility and prized for its societal, environmental and civic leadership, as well as its labor practices.
He spoke to the audience gathered in Frank Auditorium about what’s kept IBM going all these years: The ability to understand and embrace change while keeping the core values upon which the company was founded on.
“You look at a company like IBM – it started making clocks. It moved on to tabulating machines. It made electric typewriters, computer technology, and then it was basically a hardware company – which we are not any longer. We moved from hardware into services into software,” Litow said. “The business of IBM changed dramatically and its ability to sustain itself was because of its ability to embrace change and to internalize it and use it to our advantage.”
All of these changes propelled the company forward while remaining true to its core values: “At IBM, the values are about trust, personal responsibility, and innovation – not innovation only for our clients, but innovation for the world. Innovation that matters – and, conducting yourself in your professional career in a way that will make you proud of yourself as an individual. Those values should not change.”
Litow also talked about corporate citizenship and its history within the company: “In the 21st century, IBM created the Corporate Service Corps, which is our version of the Peace Corps, taking the concept that people have the responsibility to do things in the developing world and to make the planet smarter and more effective.”
Each year IBM sends 500 members of its top talent to countries including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Vietnam, and many more, to solve critical social issues on the ground as part of its Corporate Service Corps.
One team created a healthcare program for poor women and children in Nigeria that in one year served 17,500 people free of charge.
Another team went to Vietnam and developed a plan around food and supply chain in Ho Chi Minh City: “It was vital to the local economy and vital to the mayor. The team left behind a strategy and a plan to make Ho Chi Minh a smarter city. That is what the Corporate Service Corps is about,” Litow said.
As he closed, Litow stressed the importance of working for future goals and not being stuck on things that happened in the past: “The thing that is most important about a Centennial is not what took place in the past, it is what can take place in the future.”
The session also included a panel discussion on “Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility” with Dan Waetjen, group president for BB&T's Greater Washington, D.C. area; Charlie Linaburg, Senior Director of North America Social Responsibility & Community Engagement for Marriott International; and Melissa Carrier, executive director of the Center for Social Value Creation at the Smith School.
Jessica Bauer, Writer and Editor, Office of Marketing Communications