At IBM, we take a precautionary approach in selecting materials that we use in our products and processes, endeavoring to select materials that are safe for their intended use and that have the least impact on the environment. 

IBM has a wide range of initiatives that conserve materials including the company's chemical management, product design for the environment, and pollution prevention programs.

Chemicals

Chemicals needed for research, development, manufacturing processes and services are selected and managed, from purchase through storage, use and disposal to avoid release to and contamination of the environment.

Prior to using new chemicals or materials in processes or technologies, IBM requires those chemicals or materials to undergo an extensive environmental, health and safety evaluation called an upstream chemical review. This has been a long-standing practice within IBM to ensure that we are using the least hazardous chemicals possible for a specific application, and it is a key element of IBM's approach to chemical management.

IBM's precautionary approach to materials and process stewardship is informed by our global chemical management staff, industrial hygienists and toxicologists. As a result, IBM has proactively prohibited or restricted the use of many hazardous substances in our products and processes well in advance of potential regulatory actions.

Metrics for chemical use are focused on the selection of more environmentally preferable chemicals, safe and environmentally sound handling, and responsible disposal.

Products

IBM does not procure large amounts of materials for use in the company’s products and operations. The majority of IBM’s materials use comes in the form of components and parts incorporated into IBM’s hardware products. Raw materials that are directly procured by IBM for use in products include metals used in systems enclosures and plastics used for structural parts internal to products as well as for decorative accents on enclosures. Most of our products, based on weight, consist of metals which contain significant amounts of recycled content and are readily recycled at end of life. Metrics IBM focuses on include sourcing of certain critical materials, reuse, recycling and disposition of products at end of life.

IBM products are designed to so that they can be reused, recycled or disposed of properly at the end of their useful lives.

Paper and paper/wood-based packaging

Raw materials used in packaging for IBM hardware products represent one application where the company uses materials. For this application, IBM focuses on the following metrics: reuse, reduction due to improved design, use of more environmentally preferable materials, and incorporation of recycled contents.

IBM also has sustained a voluntary goal for the responsible sourcing of paper and paper/wood-based packaging since 2002, requiring that paper and paper/wood-based packaging directly procured by IBM come from suppliers that source from sustainably managed forests. Suppliers must either disclose their sources for paper and paper/wood-based packaging to IBM or provide evidence that their sources have been certified to be from sustainably managed forests by an accredited third-party certification program such as the Forest Stewardship Council, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or the Canadian Standards Association Group Sustainable Forest Management System standard. In 2021, over 99% (based on spend) of the paper and paper/wood-based packaging IBM directly procured worldwide came from suppliers that warranted that the source was derived from sustainably managed forests.