07/02/2012 05:44 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2012

Corporate Responsibility Must Be Integral to Corporate Culture

Every day, a child is born to an urban family, joining the more than 50 percent of the world's population that now lives in cities. But the challenges in cities are daunting. The quality of this child's life -- from the cleanliness of her food and water, to the safety of her streets, and the quality of her education -- depends less on invention and innovation than on the effectiveness with which her city's government leaders, community members, and area employers are able to work together.

The owner of a small business is ready to expand -- bringing the innovations and cost-effective advantages of his products or services to a broader market as he grows his business and creates new jobs. But to succeed, this small business must gain access to the spending of large-enterprise supply chains. Such access is perhaps even more critical than financing.

A young generation hungers for the dignity and security of self-sufficiency, and for the opportunity to contribute to society as productive adults. By working together, their school system, their local colleges, a corporate partner, and volunteer mentors can help them connect the dots between education, workplace skills, and a well-paying career.

These are just three examples of how a corporation's culture of service can help transform the communities in which it does business. We know that smarter cities are the keys to building a smarter global society. We know that small businesses grow revenue by 250 percent and increase hiring by 100 percent within only two years of landing a contract with a large company. We know that we can break the cycle of poverty by making quality public education accessible, relevant, and focused -- not just for some, but for all -- to prepare graduates for real jobs. And we know that volunteering our skills -- instead of just writing checks -- enriches the ecosystem of our society as it cultivates the next generation of global leaders.

With the potential for sustained prosperity and societal progress within our grasp, corporate responsibility must become an integral part of business strategy. Responsible citizenship isn't an add-on or afterthought; it's smart business. Each of us must practice global citizenship by working together to solve problems that none of us can solve alone. Through direct action and collaboration, we have the power to affect meaningful and sustainable change.

Download IBM's 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report to read about how IBM's longstanding commitment to service is helping to build a smarter planet.

Then read my article "Giving Time, Talent and Expertise" -- about how IBM interweaves citizenship and business strategy into an integrated approach to making the world a better place.