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Special Project

Special Project
From the 7th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Accelerating sustainable agriculture with the IBM Sustainability Accelerator

Gold Honor in Business to Business

Audience Honor in Business to Business


According to the World Bank, climate-related disasters and natural hazards push 26 million people into poverty each year, putting these populations in need of access to technical, financial and institutional resources to be more resilient in responding to climate change.


For example, agriculture particularly takes a toll on our environment by using resources that impact freshwater, soil, and the air. In order to adapt to and help protect our rapidly changing environment, reduce pollution, and aid farmers around the world, utilizing sustainable agriculture systems is critical.


That’s why our company launched the IBM Sustainability Accelerator: a 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 nonprofit and government organization interventions, helping populations especially vulnerable to environmental threats including climate change, extreme weather, and pollution.


Organizations in the first cohort of the Sustainability Accelerator, focused on sustainable agriculture, include Heifer International, Plan21 Foundation for Sustainable Human Development, The Nature Conservancy India, Deltares, and Texas A&M AgriLife. The projects range from helping smallholder farmers manage their crops more sustainably to detecting nitrate pollution in water.

IBM will work with more organizations addressing other sustainability challenges in the near future including clean energy.


In the end, by uniting experts and technology, IBM wants to find a way to scale and speed up solutions for helping underrepresented communities most affected by environmental threats, aligned with an environmental justice mindset.

Strategy and Execution

The IBM Sustainability Accelerator differs from other industry programs in multiple ways. First, the program has a global scope: it is open to organizations globally, not just a certain country or region. Second, the program duration is two years for each organization, which allows a deep dive on solution and a co-creation process along the way. Next, it is designed to help populations especially vulnerable to environmental threats including climate change, extreme weather, and pollution. Lastly, IBM provides this support at no cost for the participant organizations.


Projects are executed in two phases. Accelerator engagements will kick off with the IBM Garage, IBM’s proven 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 rapidly identify their needs and establish a clear roadmap to design, develop, deploy, and continually improve technology to solve specific public challenges.


In the second phase, IBM experts will configure IBM resources and technology to help participants meet their community and environmental impact goals. The projects will include the deployment of existing technologies or proven methodologies and the development of customized solutions that will help the organizations to scale their operations. IBM experts will then support pilot deployments of Accelerator-supported solutions to facilitate optimal implementation, sustainable use by the organization, and opportunities to further scale impact benefitting communities and society.


Last year, IBM conducted a pilot project with three inaugural participants of the IBM Sustainability Accelerator. After the official launch on February 2022, two more organizations joined the program, creating a total of five organizations in the first cohort:







Wherever possible, projects are delivered with local resources, in local languages and through local IBMers. This brings IBM closer to the needs of organizations and their stakeholders, enabling IBM to provide field-ready assets to support local communities and produce local outcomes.


Metrics of success include social impact in terms of number of people directly benefitting, environmental impact (acres of land where sustainable agriculture practices have been introduced), and other indicators for the products, services, and overall experience we deliver, including NPS scores.


The first three participants of the program already finished the first phase, the ideation part, of the engagement.


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