IBM, Nature Conservancy Team Up to Save Amazon Rainforest

IBM is sending its Corporate Services Corps to Brazil on a mission to help save the Amazon rainforest.

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IBM's Corporate Service Corps (CSC) is teaming up with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to help save the Amazon rainforest.

According to IBM, TNC says no other place is more critical to the survival of the human race than the Amazon rainforest. In a post on the Smarter Planet blog, IBM writer Steve Hamm said the Amazon rainforest "harbors one-third of the planet's biodiversity, produces one-fourth of the fresh water and plays a key role in warding off the worst effects of climate change."

However, deforestation has become a problem in the Amazon River basin, an area that covers 2.7 million miles of land and touches eight countries. IBM reports that according to the Brazilian government, nearly 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 40 years. And with the area viewed as having potential as an agricultural region, deforestation is expected to continue.

That's why IBM, through its Corporate Service Corps, is helping TNC "make it easier for municipalities in the Brazilian Amazon to establish land-ownership records, monitor land use and, potentially, stop illegal deforestation in its tracks," Hamm said.

IBM's Corporate Service Corps program is aimed at developing IBM leaders and providing skilled assistance to local governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) in emerging markets. The initiative deploys IBM employees from around the world with expertise in technology, scientific research, marketing, finance, human resources, law and economic development. Issues they address range from economic development, energy and transportation, to education and health care. The program deploys only 500 of IBM's highest performers annually from among thousands of applicants.

IBM is sending 10 employees in the CSC program from around the world to help advance TNC's Municipal Environmental Portal (PAM), which Brazil has been using on a pilot basis to track land ownership. They will be in Belem, Brazil, from Aug. 22 to Sept. 20, working with TNC and others to enhance the PAM's capabilities and extend its use to more than 100 municipalities in Brazil's Amazon region.

"This partnership with The Nature Conservancy provides an opportunity for IBM to exert environmental leadership on the ground that will balance the need for economic growth with the need to provide sustainable performance in the environmental space," Stanley S. Litow, vice president for IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs, said in a statement.

IBM and TNC are asking that anyone with ideas on how to save the rainforest contribute them via a crowdsourcing forum.

"We can't solve these big problems unless we have governments working with business, working with NGOs. It takes all three to be successful," said Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former U.S. Treasury Secretary and co-chairman of the Latin American Conservation Council, which works with TNC to help design and fund its programs, Hamm wrote. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is a member of the Conservation Council.

Since 2008, when the program launched, IBM's CSC has provided more than $70 million worth of skilled, pro bono consulting services and has directly benefited 140,000 people. Over the last six years, the program has sent more than 638 employees on 56 teams to 11 countries in Africa alone, a growing market for IBM.