Sometime in 2002, a colleague from IBM’s communications team asked me if I would be willing to talk to some people that were doing a documentary on corporations and social responsibility. I was told that the request had come to us from the CEO of Burson Marsteller , a global public relations firm, who himself had been interviewed for the documentary. He contacted a friend in IBM and recommended that someone from the company should also participate, given IBM’s strong interest and long history in social responsibility. Moreover, we were told that the highly respected Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was somehow involved in producing the documentary, presumably to be broadcast over the CBC sometime in the future.
It all seemed quite reasonable at the time. My IBM colleagues felt I was the right person to do this interview given my interest in the subject as well as my personal involvement in the kinds of activities we would likely cover. They contacted the people involved with the documentary, and asked them what kinds of issues they wanted to focus on, so I could be as well prepared as possible to answer their questions. We got back a very good set of questions, mostly asking about the kinds of initiatives IBM was engaged in that we felt would benefit societies around the world.
It was not difficult to come up with such a list given the many relevant projects IBM has been involved in, from the use of advanced supercomputing in personalized medicine and pharmaceutical research, to the use of IT and the Internet in particular to improve education around the world. I was also prepared to talk about another important aspect of social responsibility, namely IBM’s exemplary record in support of diversity in its work force.
So, sometime in 2002 I went with my colleague to a suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City were the interview was being filmed, and after some friendly chatter, proceeded to do the interview. Mark Achbar, one of the directors of the documentary was asking the questions.