Wednesday, February 13, 2013

IBM: Making the earth a cleaner place (2008)

Based on a paper by: Robert Daniels
Blog by: Andrew Drawec

International Business Machines (IBM) was founded in 1911, as a company producing and manufacturing weight scales, time clocks, and coffee brewers. The company has evolved over the years to become a multi-billion dollar company manufacturing the latest computer and technological products. In any company, there are many decisions that can be analyzed to see if they are ethical or not.  Throughout the 21st century there have been calls for companies to become green or to become more environmentally friendly. IBM has decided to go green within their corporation to promote sustainability, and a better ethical standing within the global business community. IBM’s decision to go green will be analyzed by the four major ethical theories, and will show how a company should truly behave environmentally in today’s society. IBM's changes to make the world a better place agrees with all four of the major ethical theories.

In 2008, IBM’s president and chairman of the board, Sam Palmisano introduced the green efforts named “Project Big Green”, which outlined the companies plan to make the earth a cleaner place. Since 2007, IBM has set aside more than 1 billion dollars in funds to continue to invest and research energy saving alternatives in computer technology. Some of the initiatives that the company has outlined were the plans to make the company a greener corporation. Some of the things that the company proposed was the management and creation of new wastewater management sites, cleaner buildings with efficient lighting and recycling programs. Some of the other things that IBM created was smart grids, which use less electricity, and promote hibernation, so that electrical systems were not always working at full power. The company also created new data centers which were must more efficient than their predecessors. More specifically, IBM was able to modify their software code so that the software does not take up a lot of energy to run. On any computer, the amount of memory and RAM, is significantly impacted by what types of software you use. If you use resource intensive software, the amount of power needed to run the computer will increase significantly to be able to run the software. With more efficient software programs, the amount of power needed to run the computer significantly decreases. Thus, all of the companies that use IBM's software, will also be cutting down on the energy demands which will then make the earth a greener place to live.

The first major ethical theory that will analyze IBM’s decision to go green is individualism. IBM's green efforts do not violate the theory of individualism. Individualism is the theory that everyone is subject to their own wants and desires. Whatever an individual may desire, they have the right to do it. In the case of IBM, their green efforts do not violate the ethical theory of Individualism. Under individualism, IBM has the right to do anything they desire in order to increase profits. If IBM wants to turn their factories, office buildings, to a greener form of energy, they have every right to do so. When you start to realize how much money a company can save by switching to green alternatives, it seems that it is the right thing to do. Under the Individualist theory, IBM is a very ethical company, because they are only doing things in their best interest, by switching to green alternatives.

IBM's green efforts also do not violate the utilitarian theory. The utilitarian theory is based on the idea that the decision that an individual or organization is deciding, should make everybody happy. A decision is ethical under the Utilitarian view as long as the everybody involved in the decision is happy, including the people who are directly and indirectly affected by it. When IBM switches to renewable energy or green alternatives, they are making the company shareholders happy, because they are reducing the costs involved with doing business. Also by switching to other green alternatives, they are benefiting the entire planet. If the earth is clean and beautiful, everybody will be happy. IBM’s decision to go green agrees with the Utilitarian ethical theory.

The third and fourth ethical theory that can analyze IBM’s green alternatives is the Kantian theory, and the Virtue theory. IBM's green efforts does not violate either the Kantian or Virtue theory. The Kantian theory is the ethical view that an individual or organization should act rational and respect everybody that is affected either directly or indirectly because of the decision. In any decision, everyone should be respectful of anyone that is affected by the decision. Since IBM’s green efforts would drastically improve the environment as well as in the long-run, save money, their efforts would agree with the Kantian theory, because the company is looking out for individuals and everyone by contributing to making the environment a cleaner place to live. Under the virtue theory there are four main virtues that surround this idea. These four virtues are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. Under this theory, green alternatives for IBM would be fit all of these virtues. Creating a cleaner environment is courageous because there are many organizations that do not want to go green, because of the initial costs. IBM is also showing honesty, because it is at least it is releasing how they recycle, and what types of work they are doing to improve the environment.  IBM’s green efforts also fit under temperance, because it is restraining itself from using other less costly methods to just dump their trash in waterways and not recycling the trash. The green efforts also fit under justice because it is making the earth a better place to live for all.

By using the four ethical theories listed above, one can begin to realize that IBM is a very ethical company in regards to its green efforts. By not violating any of the above theories, it shows that IBM is a leader in making the world a cleaner, and more beautiful place to call home.

These analyses and facts are based upon the original paper by Robert Daniels entitled "IBM: The Big Green Project" (Apr. 25, 2012).

Desjardins, Joseph. (2009). An Introduction to Business Ethics (Ed: 4). New York, NY:
                The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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