Aspens in A Changing Climate & IBM Environmental Leadership

Image Credit:  National Geographic Tree Patterns Wallpaper

Image Credit: National Geographic Tree Wallpaper

“Imagine a world of idyll, where a chorus of wavering lime-green leaves creates an ethereal backdrop to columns of bright white trunks.” – Tyler Williams, American Forests

The aspen is a striking tree with it’s silver white bark and golden fall hues.  It’s also a really interesting tree.  Did you know that one of the largest living organisms on earth is actually a 108-acre stand of aspens in Utah called ‘Pando‘?  Groves of aspen trees commonly develop from a single root system, which means that large groups of aspen trees can essentially be a single living organism growing together as a clone.  The aspen tree is often called the ‘quaking aspen’ because aspen leaves will flutter (or ‘quake’) in the slightest breeze, so they can be a loud tree as well.  Legend has it that the Native Americans knew they were approaching aspen trees long before they saw them because they could hear the rustling leaves.  It’s one of the most adaptable tree species, capable of replenishing itself in as little as 50 years, and is the most widely distributed tree in North America with cousins around the world, into the Far East and Africa.  It belongs to a select group of trees dubbed “circumglobal super species,” which means it is capable of spanning continents in strikingly similar forms.

But what’s in store for this beautiful tree as our climate changes?

Aspens have been in decline for the past half century, in large part due to global warming.  Scientists agree that global warming is caused in large part by greenhouse gases that come from fossil fuels in cars, factories, electricity production, landfills, agriculture, etc. – in other words, the growing effect of human urbanization on the planet.

us__none__sustainability__sustainability_icon_2__170x120Did you know that, for more than 40 years, IBM has been ahead of the curve on environmental issues, and is a recognized environmental leader?

“Protecting the environment is in our DNA,” says Wayne Balta, IBM vice president of Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety. “Even before the issuance of our corporate policy commitment to environmental responsibility in 1971, our commitment to being a good corporate citizen was part of the company’s Basic Beliefs and Principles in the mid-1960s.  As stated in those Principles: we understood well that “we serve our own interests best when we serve the public interest” and “we want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.”

Image credit:  World Environment Center

Image credit: World Environment Center

  • Newsweek Votes IBM Greenest Company in America (Newsweek, Oct 2012)
  • The European Union recognized 27 IBM data centers in the EU for their energy efficiency in January 2012 – the largest group of data centers from a single company to receive this award.
  • IBM is the only company to have twice received the Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development in the 28-year history of the World Environment Center’s annual award (in 1990 and 2012).

IBM’s approach to sustainability is twofold:  working to make existing products and processes more efficient, while also developing new innovations that can help the world lessen environmental impact.  As one example of a sustainability project that IBM worked on, check out this video on IBM’s partnership with the city of Dubuque, Iowa to create a replicable model of a sustainable city for communities of 200,000 or less.

Learn more:



–By Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

IBM, Where the Ideal of Corporate Citizenship Thrives

At IBM, concepts of corporate citizenship run deep. Legendary IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson, Sr., made sure of that. Watson understood the deep connection between a company and the communities it operated in. He understood too the positive impact that a company could have on a community. These were lessons he learned early in his business career, when as an executive at National Cash Register, he was a part of the NCR response team that helped the Cash’s hometown of Dayton, Ohio, weather a devastating flood.


IBM Chairman Thomas J. Watson, Sr., receives the Migel Medal from Helen Keller on behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind. Keller was a noted American author and political activist, and reportedly was the first deaf-blind person to receive a bachelor’s degree. The Migel Medal remains today the highest honor in the field of blindness. 1952

Watson took that civic-mindedness with him when he joined IBM in 1914, and he quickly instilled it into the company’s culture. “As citizens of the world, he once said, “we owe an obligation beyond the limits of our own business.” For the next four decades, he drove home this principled position by word and deed. “I know from past experience,” he said, “that the more people do in connection with outside affairs, civic and national affairs, the better job they are able to do in this business or in whatever business they are engaged. If we live just for ourselves, we are never able to get anything worthwhile out of life.”

To that end, it was a point of special pride for Watson that IBMers took to corporate social responsibility like wild ducks to water.  “I would like to pay special tribute to my associates in the IBM as citizens. Wherever I have gone I have found that they stand for good citizenship, every individual endeavoring to contribute something toward helping the country in which he lives.” In fact, Watson saw IBM as a role model for the world. “We [IBM] have organizations in 79 countries, practically all the countries of the world, and when we are able to maintain peace and cooperation among our people, it seems to me that the same thing could be accomplished among nations.”

Watson didn’t just talk the talk – he walked it. “The keynote of Mr. Watson’s life is service,” recollected Frederick Fuller, one of IBM’s leading inventors in the days before computers. “No one who knows him even slightly can doubt that. I don’t think there is a man alive who is more eager to better the common lot of mankind, regardless of race, creed, or color.”

As inspirational as he himself was to those who knew him, Watson himself found inspiration in the words of another. “George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘We must all share in the evils of the world or move to another planet,’” Watson once recalled. “Since I first heard that I have grown to feel that I am a part of all the evils of the world. And I am going to remain a part of them until I have exhausted all my energy, ability and resources in trying to correct them.” The depth of his personal commitment ranged from playing leading roles in organizations like the Red Cross and the NAACP to sending money to old acquaintances that had fallen on hard times. And he never hesitated to throw IBM’s resources behind good causes, like developing prosthetics for wounded veterans to manufacturing pocket-sized Braille printers and selling them at cost to designing and building the world’s first successful heart lung machine for free.

“A long time ago we ceased to think of IBM as a business,” Watson once reflected. “We hope that all IBM people will keep in mind that they have a duty to perform outside of the boundaries of IBM. Some of us must do things outside of our regular vocations, in order to develop this civilization to the point where we believe it ought to be.” He would be happy to know that today’s IBM remains just as committed to corporate citizenship as he was.


by Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist

by Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist

For more on IBM History:

For more on IBM at 100 Years:

For more on IBM’s History of Innovation:

This post is part of The Greater IBM Connection’s July theme of Corporate Citizenship.

IBM SmartCloud Brings Relief to Storm Ravaged Areas

2012 Corporate Citizenship Report details services that help create a Smarter Planet

House destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, Long Beach Island, New Jersey

Hurricane Sandy destroyed this house on Long Beach Island, NJ (photo, Regan Kelly)

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest and most destructive storms to strike the heavily populated East Coast of the US, IBM was there.

The company responded with pro bono consultants; strategies for  disaster relief and recovery; and all of the technology and expertise needed to help establish the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.

Among the solutions donated to the fund and other key agencies in New York and New Jersey coping with the disaster was the SmartCloud for Social Business, which created the infrastructure necessary to launch immediate relief efforts. In addition, it will provide the cloud-based social collaboration tools that will sustain the fund over the long run.

Corporate Responsibility ReportThis was just one of many initiatives described in IBM’s 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report, which outlines corporate social responsibility programs aligned with the company’s Smarter Planet strategy to protect the environment, strengthen education and economic development, enable humanitarian research and improve the quality of life in cities around the world. Read it now.



Virginia Rometty, IBM President & CEO (Photo Credit:  Forbes)

Virginia Rometty (photo, Forbes)

2012 Corporate Responsibility Report Details Service to a Smarter Planet

IBM’s Approach to Corporate Responsibility

Environmental Leadership: IBM’s Commitment

A Letter from Virginia M. Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO

Building A Smarter Planet (Smarter Planet blog)

– Posted by Regan Kelly. Part of The Greater IBM Connection’s July theme on corporate citizenship and responsibility.

IBM Helps Women’s Cooperatives in Tangier Become More Profitable

Casablanca – Morocco: A team of IBM specialists, completing a month-long pro bono consulting assignment, recently presented business management strategies to Tangier-area non governmental organizations that promote economic development, cultural preservation and sustainable development.

IBM CSC promoting entrepreneurship for womenThe 9-person IBM team, from 8 countries, was the fourth group since 2010 to provide assistance to Morocco as part of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, which provides problem-solving support to educational institutions, small businesses, non-governmental organizations, and governmental agencies in the developing world and emerging markets.

IBM CSC team working with women cooperative in Tangier

IBM CSC team working with women cooperative in Tangier

The IBM team worked with Tanger Med Foundation for Human Development (Fondation), which runs women’s cooperatives as part of its mission to promote development through education, vocational training and healthcare initiatives. IBM provided guidance for a Fondation women’s center to become more productive, self-sufficient and profitable by creating a clear business plan.

“The IBM team did a great job providing us with an adaptable business plan for more productive and self-sustainable cooperatives. We wish to replicate this successful experience they had with the women’s community center in El Haouma to many other cooperatives,” said Jamal Mikou, President of Tanger Med Foundation for Human Development. Read the rest of the story.

IBM’s Culture of Service: Finding Time to Participate

Kathy Pham on a project with Orlando fourth grader Tamara

The author with her protégé Tamara, a fourth-grader in Orlando.

In this essay at Citizen IBM, IBMer Kathy Pham shares what she’s learned about finding the time to forge connection and community while spending most of her weekdays traveling as an IBM “road warrior”.

See how Kathy – a Business Analytics and Optimization Senior Consultant with IBM Global Business Services – navigates the mobile lifestyle while still finding the time to be engaged in personally fulfilling projects. She’s happy to be part of a company that provides “so many unique opportunities for service,” said Kathy. Find out how she does it.



IBM: A Culture of Service

Greater IBMers, whether or not you are a current IBMer, how do you participate? Tell us YOUR story in the Leave a Reply field.

– Posted by Regan Kelly

‘Our work is one of service’ leadership in action for Hurricane Sandy victims

Theresa Mohan, IBM Senior Regional Counsel (Photo credit:

Theresa Mohan, IBM Senior Regional Counsel (Photo credit:

Our leadership lesson #3 from Watson was “Our work is one of service.”, and IBMer Theresa Mohan, Senior Regional Counsel is doing just that.  After helping her mother clean out her house after Hurricane Sandy hit, Theresa realized that the residents needed help filing for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) due to lack of clarity to the process.  So Theresa recruited some fellow attorneys, set up a tent with computers and an Internet connection, and spent the next four weekends with her colleagues helping people get through the process.  She continues to work with a network of legal service providers and volunteers in coordinating and tracking assistance for Sandy victims, with the help of software donated by IBM.

Read the full story and more about IBM’s other pro bono legal assistance work below:

–Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection


The January 2013 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ”leadership”, and The Greater IBM Connection will be sharing various tips, tools, and resources on this topic.

IBM Brazil Wins 30th Annual AmCham ECO Award — today on Citizen IBM

IBM Brasil Corporate Citizen team at the ECO Awards ceremony

IBM Brasil Corporate Citizen team at the ECO Awards ceremony

The American Chamber of Commerce in Brazil (AmCham Brasil) has recognized IBM with a 2012 ECO Award for “Strategy, Leadership, Innovation and Sustainability.” AmCham represents about 5,000 companies in Brazil and throughout the Americas, and called out IBM for its integrated Smarter Planet vision in addition to IBM’s global support of citizenship initiatives. Read more about how IBM’s values and practices speak directly to ECO Award’s principles of “company and community.”

Today’s article appears in English and Brazilian Portuguese.

–Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection