Feb 17, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Exclusive: Inside IBM's new climate initiative

Illustration of mouse cursors holding up Earth.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

IBM will provide pro bono tech services and expertise to organizations serving communities vulnerable to climate change and other environmental hazards.

Driving the news: The tech giant's new IBM Sustainability Accelerator is live today with a public request for proposals from nonprofit and government organizations. The 2022 awards will focus on clean energy.

  • The accelerator will offer aid like cloud and AI services and access to IBM's partner ecosystem. IBM will work with recipients on strategies for configuring the tech and services to meet their environmental goals.
  • It plans to select five organizations each year and expects to provide $30 million worth of services in the 2021-2023 period (IBM began quietly piloting the program last year).
  • Each recipient will receive technology, expertise and other services with an estimated market value of $2 million, IBM said.

The big picture: It's part of a growing constellation of Big Tech climate initiatives aimed at cutting their own emissions — IBM has a 2030 net-zero target — and aiding outside efforts.

How it works: IBM said for the energy-focused cohort, the goal will be facilitating access to renewables, efficiency, and other clean energy tech and promoting investment.

What they're saying: Jonathan Adashek, a senior IBM exec, said in an interview that one example of assistance could include analysis of clean energy pricing.

  • "I think as you look at the most vulnerable populations, pricing is really key. It's not just about the accessibility, but it's also about the affordability," said Adashek, the senior VP for ESG, marketing and communications.

Catch up fast: IBM's quiet launch of the initiative on a pilot-scale last year selected three organizations working on sustainable agriculture.

  • It gives a sense of how IBM sees its services enhancing on-the-ground sustainability.
  • For instance, they're working with the anti-poverty group Heifer International to help farmer cooperatives in Malawi with weather and crop yield forecasts.
  • The other two initial recipients are the Nature Conservancy India and the Plan21 Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. IBM said two more organizations will join the sustainable agriculture recipients.

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