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answer the questions below with good detail


One advantage IBM has in meeting its standards for trust is that it is part of a relatively trusted industry. In the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual survey of public attitudes toward various institutions, people from around the world rated the technology industry as the industry they most often trust to do what is right—mainly because they see tech companies as able to benefit society. Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, periodically highlights the importance of protecting people’s privacy and security.

IBM is tackling this challenge. It has a set of policies aimed at building trust, including a policy for business conduct and ethics and one for protecting data privacy. The ethics policy states, “It is IBM’s policy to conduct itself ethically and lawfully in all matters and to maintain IBM’s high standards of business integrity.” It puts employees on notice that there are consequences for unethical conduct.

IBM’s policies explicitly call for fairness, equity, a commitment to quality, and compliance with laws, including employment and anti-corruption laws. Its data privacy laws call for employees to collect only relevant personal information, keep it as accurate as possible, and take measures to keep it secure, among other requirements.

Compliance with ethical standards is most likely when managers and employees at all levels are committed to the standards. Thus, it should help IBM that its strategy and culture changes under Sam Palmisano started with an all-employee values jam. An outcome of that process was a statement of three values:

  1. Dedication to every client’s success
  2. Innovation that matters, for our company and the world
  3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships

These statements appear on the company’s website, where any employee or concerned citizen can be reminded of what IBM is striving to achieve.

Even with formal statements and consequences for behavior, maintaining ethical conduct is a challenge, especially for a global company because employees encounter differences in standards and practices in other countries. Thus, IBM was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with bribing government officials in South Korea and China over more than 10 years. As part of its settlement, IBM must file monthly reports with the SEC to demonstrate its efforts to avoid future violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Meanwhile Canadian media reported in 2015 that three IBM employees were arrested there on corruption charges. IBM also says it is cooperating with the SEC as regulators look at IBM’s accounting practices in the UK and Ireland, as well as at home in the United States. Living up to its own code of ethics will require continued vigilance at IBM.59

  • Besides the measures described, how else can IBM promote ethical conduct by its employees?
  • In a company operating where bribing government officials is expected, how can employees find the moral courage to forgo bribery at the risk of losing a big sale?

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