Overview

IBM is committed to doing business with environmentally responsible suppliers. We work with our suppliers globally to enhance their ability to manage environmental responsibilities and encourage them to report transparently on their environmental impacts.

Environmental requirements for suppliers

Since 2010, IBM has required that its first-tier suppliers maintain a management system to address their social and environmental responsibilities. The company's objective is to help its suppliers build their own capability to succeed in this area. In summary, IBM requires suppliers to:

  • Define, deploy and sustain a management system that addresses the intersections of their operations with employees, society and the environment.
  • Measure performance and establish voluntary, quantifiable environmental goals in the areas of waste, energy and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Publicly disclose results associated with these voluntary environmental goals and other environmental aspects of their operations.
  • Conduct self-assessments and audits, as well as management reviews, of their management system.
  • Cascade these requirements to their suppliers who perform work that is material to the products, parts and/or services supplied to IBM.

Supplier environmental goals

In 2021, IBM established three goals to help accelerate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in our supply chain and to encourage suppliers to take ownership and build their capabilities across a broad range of sustainability topics. These goals:

  • Require key suppliers in emissions-intensive business sectors to set an emissions reduction goal by 2022, addressing their Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions, that is aligned with scientific recommendations from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
  • Establish, by year-end 2021, individual baselines for fleet carbon intensity with each key carrier and shipment supplier involved with IBM’s product distribution globally. Starting in 2022, convene with each supplier to set a fleet carbon intensity reduction target covering the services they provide to IBM.
  • Convene an annual Sustainability Leadership Symposium to recognize progress and achievement among suppliers in emissions-intensive business sectors across applicable areas of environmental stewardship.


To learn more about IBM's progress against these goals, see the company's latest IBM ESG Report.

Environmental evaluations of suppliers

In line with IBM's longstanding commitment to doing business with environmentally responsible suppliers, and as part of its global environmental management system, IBM conducts environmental evaluations of suppliers who:

  • Provide services on a non-IBM location with considerable environmental impacts (including but not limited to services where IBM specified chemical use, repair, and remanufacturing services);
  • Provide hazardous waste treatment and/or disposal services;
  • Recycle and/or recover end-of-life IT products; or
  • Provide Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) solutions used by IBM.


These suppliers are evaluated prior to entering into a contract with them, and approximately every three years thereafter, to ensure their operations and sound environmental practices continue to meet IBM's requirements. The scope of the evaluation covers:

  • Facility operational activities, capabilities and services;
  • Established and maintained environmental management system;
  • Permits, licenses, other applicable regulatory requirements and compliance control; and
  • Environmental liability and financial assurance.


Under IBM's waste management program, hazardous wastes are treated, recycled or disposed of at IBM-approved facilities within the country where they are generated, whenever possible. IBM does not export hazardous wastes from the U.S. or any other country where suitable processing facilities are available within the country.

If there are no suppliers in a country that meet IBM's environmental requirements for hazardous waste or product processing, the waste generated by IBM's operations is shipped to facilities in other countries where those requirements can be met. This shipping is done in compliance with country laws and regulations, and in accordance with international treaties such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

Though rare, there are sometimes situations in which local processing of waste is not possible and shipping to IBM-approved suppliers in other countries is not allowed due to legal requirements. In these situations, IBM will store wastes and product end-of-life materials in properly managed storage facilities, as allowed by law, until suitable processing facilities are available.

Supplier Code of Conduct

IBM is a founding member of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), a nonprofit industry group that helps its members support continuous improvement in the social, environmental, and ethical responsibility of their supply chains. We require our first-tier suppliers of hardware, software, and services (and IBM’s own operations) to adhere to the RBA Code of Conduct, which contains provisions on labor, health and safety, environmental requirements, ethics, and management systems.

Key milestones

  • 1972: Established a corporate directive requiring the environmental evaluation of suppliers of hazardous waste services.
  • 1980: Expanded our environmental evaluations of suppliers by establishing a second corporate directive to require the environmental evaluation of certain production-related suppliers.
  • 1991: Further expanded our environmental evaluations of suppliers, adding a requirement that product recycling and product disposal suppliers be evaluated.
  • 1993: Established product environmental compliance specification 46G3772 with environmental requirements for parts and products IBM procures from suppliers.
  • 2002: Added a requirement to assess our suppliers and certain subcontractors they may use to handle recycling and/or disposal operations in countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  • 2004: Established environmental and social requirements for all IBM supplier via IBM's Supplier Conduct Principles and also formed, jointly with other companies, the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (now the Responsible Business Alliance Code of Conduct).
  • 2005: Created a part and product compliance declaration form (referred to as Product Content Declaration or PCD) to facilitate transfer of part and product compliance information from the supply chain to IBM.
  • 2010: Required all suppliers having a direct relationship with IBM to establish a management system that addresses their social and environmental responsibilities and to cascade these requirements to their suppliers who perform work that is material to the products, parts and/or services supplied to IBM.
  • 2013: Incorporated the assessment of product environmental compliance requirements into the supply chain audit process and introduced reviews via a sampling approach of PCD forms for data integrity.
  • 2014: Expanded our supplier evaluation program to include suppliers providing collective solutions for the management of IBM's end-of-life product waste.
  • 2016: Established an environmental goal to have first-tier suppliers providing product end-of-life management, recycling and disposal services in the U.S., Canada and the European Union achieve third-party certification to an acceptable electronic product recycling standard or demonstrate compliance with an IBM approved alternative.
  • 2021: Established three goals to help accelerate greenhouse gas emissions reductions in IBM's supply chain.