#GBCtalksCSR Interview Series – IBM

David Raper
IBM’s Lead, Corporate Citizenship Asia Pacific and Greater China Group

In this high-level interview series, we speak to a handful of corporate leaders to probe how they plan and execute CSR programs and how they are utilizing their core business skills and resources to impact individuals and communities.

1. How do you think IBM’s CSR policies reflect the principles and values of your brand?

There is a very deep alignment. It will take the entire global community to meet the Global Goals, with everyone playing their part. Our Corporate Citizenship focuses on education & skills, health, and community resilience, focii that each support a number of the Goals. For us to play an effective role our Corporate Citizenship cannot be off to the side of our business. It must and it does apply the full power of IBM’s capabilities—our technology and people—to address pressing social needs. That has long been our approach and for that reason Corporate Citizenship at IBM mirrors exactly our company’s purpose and values. Because the same people that operate our business deliver our Corporate Citizenship projects our purpose and values are infused in our Corporate Citizenship work. Our values are: dedication to every client’s success; innovation that matters, for our company and for the world; and, trust and personal responsibility in all relationships. The interplay with our Corporate Citizenship works both ways: in one direction our Corporate Citizenship activities support our purpose and values.  Conversely our purpose and values drive how our Corporate Citizenship programs are designed and operated.

2. Do you see a real future for private sector involvement in international development beyond CSR and, if so, what does that future look like in the SDG era?

Definitely, in fact if private sector involvement is limited to CSR then we’ll miss much of the contribution that the private sector can make. The form of different partnerships and alignments will (hopefully) vary widely, but will have to include:

  • Private sector as vendors/commercial partners: as the goals get reflected into the plans of governments, IGOs and NGOs then the corporate world has a significant role as a vendor, providing solutions on a commercial basis to support government policies. For many plans and projects the delivery capabilities reside with the private sector and the scale is beyond what can be supported through CSR alone. It can be easy to forget that major social programs conceived by government rely on private sector delivery capability. For example, Social Security in the United States would not have been possible without IBM’s punchcard technology.
  • Guiding research and development agenda: Both the public and private sectors invest significantly in research and development, often in partnership. IBM alone registered over 8,000 patents last year—innovations that can be applied to a wide range of challenges. The Global Goals and their reflection in national priorities could send a strong signal to private sector researchers about future priorities and demand.
  • Evolving organizational forms: the last five to ten years has seen substantial innovation and experimentation in organizational forms and new ways of thinking about investing for social good. Some legal and regulatory changes have been put in place to allow innovation. These may make it easier to unlock value for projects and organizations supporting the Global Goals.

What are some obstacles the private sector faces when trying to become a leader in development and how do you see your company breaking down these barriers?

I see two major challenges in this area. First, the technical difficulty of achieving many of the Global Goals. Second is the diversity of stakeholders involved.

What we are doing to overcome these challenges is to focus on bringing our best skills and capabilities to the challenge, and partnering with stakeholders to ensure our actions are what are needed to make progress and our capabilities marry the strengths of others in the ecosystem. Earlier I talked about how our values drive our Corporate Citizenship, which helps us overcome these obstacles.

A great example is IBM’s Corporate Service Corp, now celebrating it’s 10th year. The Corporate Service Corp deploys teams of IBM’s top talent to work with governments and not-for-profit organizations on social and economic challenges they are addressing. Over 10 years the program has sent over 3,000 IBMers to nearly 40 countries around the world, delivering over $70 million in market value consulting on over 1000 projects.  How we do this work matters to its success:

  • The program deploys IBM’s top talent ensuring our best and brightest staff these pro-bono projects.  Thousands of IBMers apply each year and only around 15% are accepted based on their performance and past community work;
  • Team members prepare for 14 weeks and then put aside their day job for a four week deployment in country ensuring they can focus 100% on their partner organization’s challenge and deliver a great results; and
  • We seek to understand the diversity of our partners and ensure our work with them is relevant. We have local staff and longstanding partnerships with local implementation teams who know each country deeply.  We negotiate detailed Scopes of Work for each project to ensure that our effort is meeting the needs of our partners.

The Global Goals provide a clear set of priorities for the different sectors in our society to rally. We’re proud to be working towards them in partnership with governments and not for profits around the world and through joint projects and initiatives like IMPACT 2030 with others in the private sector.

About the interviewee:

David Raper is IBM’s Lead, Corporate Citizenship for Asia Pacific and Greater China Group. In this role, David leads his team to maximize the societal and business impact of IBM’s investment in corporate citizenship in IBM’s focus areas of education, health and community resilience. IBM’s Citizenship seeks to identify and act upon new opportunities to apply its technology and expertise to societal problems, and to scale programs and initiatives to achieve maximum benefit.

Prior to joining IBM, David’s career focused on government reform and not-for-profit performance. David has been the Director, Strategy and Project Delivery for the Department of Premier & Cabinet in New South Wales, Australia working with government agencies to drive performance improvements in urban transport, education, social services, crime prevention and healthcare. From 2011-2016, David was the Senior Vice President for Social Enterprises & Human Resources at Housing Works, a leading healthcare and social justice not for profit based in New York City. 

David has a Bachelor of Arts and of Laws from the University of New South Wales, and a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Alyssa Govindan#GBCtalksCSR Interview Series – IBM