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IBM Launches 2-year Global Pro Bono Environmental Program for Non-Profits

  • Non-profit organizations around the globe can now apply to the 2022 RFP, focused on clean energy

  • The Nature Conservancy India, Heifer International and Plan21 Foundation were part of the pilot project of the program

IBM (NYSE: IBM) on Feb 17 announced the launch of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator, a global pro bono social impact program that applies IBM technologies, such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, and an ecosystem of experts to enhance and scale non-profit and government organization operations, focused on populations vulnerable to environmental threats including climate change, extreme weather, and pollution.

"We believe that the power of science, technology and innovation can help tackle environmental issues while serving vulnerable communities exposed to environmental hazards," said Justina Nixon, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG at IBM. "By pairing expertise and technology with the goal of improving the lives of populations most affected by environmental threats, we have the potential to make lasting, scalable impact."

The program:

The IBM Sustainability Accelerator will provide support to each selected organization for two years following a two-phased approach.

Phase I: Accelerator engagements will kick off with the IBM Garage, IBM's methodology to apply design thinking and agile techniques to fast-track meaningful innovation and drive lasting culture change. During this process, IBM experts will work with the beneficiary organization to identify their needs and establish a clear roadmap to design, develop, deploy, and continually improve technology to help solve specific public challenges.

Phase II: In a second phase, IBM cross-industry experts will configure IBM resources and technology designed to help participants meet their community and environmental impact goals. Some of the technologies that will be applied will include IBM Watson, IBM Cloud, or the Environmental Intelligence Suite, among others. In addition, IBM Sustainability Accelerator beneficiary organizations will receive monthly IBM Cloud credits, weather data credits, mentorship, and access to IBM partner ecosystem. IBM experts will also support pilot deployments of solutions to help facilitate optimal implementation, to scale long-term impact and drive key societal outcomes.

Selection process:

Each year, IBM will define one theme for the RFP and project selection of the organizations that belong to that year's cohort.

Today, with the official launch of the program, we are inviting non-profit organizations to apply to a public RFP for the 2022 cohort's focus on clean energy. Proposals are due by April 30, 2022, and should be submitted through our Submission Portal.

Last year, we conducted a pilot project with three inaugural participants of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator. These organizations have begun their projects focused on sustainable agriculture and successfully finished their phase I last December:

  • The Nature Conservancy India: The Nature Conservancy India is building a public information platform to help eliminate crop residue burning in North India in furtherance of their goal to improve agricultural sustainability, public health, and help reduce climate change impact in India.

  • Heifer International: Heifer International is working with IBM to develop scalable and affordable digital solutions designed to equip farmers' cooperatives in Malawi with weather and crop yield forecasts to help increase their yields and incomes.

  • Plan21 Foundation for Sustainable Human Development:­ Plan21 is helping smallholder farmers in Latin America manage their crops more sustainably — with the goal of increasing their productivity and income, and contributing to consumer awareness and the development of more responsible markets.

"Cloud, AI, 5G, quantum computing can all be put to work to drive a positive impact on big social issues such as climate change. Yet populations with the biggest needs are often those with the least access to technology," said Carolina Milanesi, Founder, Heart of Tech. "It is the responsibility of technology companies like IBM to make sure they are prioritized rather than left behind."

“The Nature Conservancy India is looking forward to continuing to work with IBM to tap its impressive network of subject matter experts and cutting-edge technology coupled with our project implementation and research expertise to help address the important issue of crop residue burning in North India. Our collaboration is another stride towards a no burn agriculture system that will ensure that nature and people thrive. We are excited about the impact of this important work together.” Manoj Singh, Project Head – Crop Residue Management, The Nature Conservancy India

“Through collaborations in Malawi and Honduras, Heifer International and IBM are supporting smallholder farmers to bridge the digital divide. We look forward to working with IBM through the Sustainability Accelerator initiative, supporting smallholder farmers as they leverage digital tools to reach sustainable living income. Our work will increase productivity, market access and livelihoods for the farmers and rural communities who feed the world.” - Elizabeth Magombo-Kabaghe, Innovations and New Initiatives Lead, Heifer Malawi

“We at Plan21 are very enthusiastic to be one of the first partners selected to participate in the IBM Sustainability Accelerator and are excited to embark on this journey with them on sustainable agriculture. We appreciate IBM’s user-centered design thinking approach through the IBM Garage that considers the realities of our program beneficiaries on the ground. That means designing and building user-friendly technological tools that farmers can use, considering their own realities, work contexts and needs.” Fabián Román, President of Plan21 Foundation

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