April 11, 2024 By Wayne Balta 4 min read

Upholding a legacy of more than 50 years of environmental responsibility through our company’s actions and commitments, IBM continues to be a leader in driving sustainability for our business, our communities and our clients—including a 34-year history of annual, public environmental reporting, which we continue today.

As a hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) company, we believe that leveraging technology is key to unlocking impact, and it will play a substantial role in how society addresses, adapts to, and overcomes the environmental challenges we face today. In fact, we are utilizing technology internally, such as our AI-powered tool, IBM Envizi ESG Suite, to track environmental data, calculate GHG emissions and implement efficiencies across our operations.

While technology is crucial in turning sustainability ambitions into actions, environmental outcomes and commitments can be challenged by major transformations, like the rise of generative AI. That’s why it’s paramount for companies to adopt and deploy a strong and consistent environmental management system to adapt strategies to address these new challenges. In the case of AI, this includes choosing the most efficient models for the task, being thoughtful about where AI processing happens, and incorporating more sustainable infrastructure wherever possible.

As a part of our environmental management system, we have established 21 goals around energy and climate change, conservation and biodiversity, pollution prevention and waste management areas.

Creating a positive impact in our operations

Three years ago, we launched IBM’s commitment to achieve net zero operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. In addition, we established other shorter-term energy and climate targets in order to support transparency, execution and accountability. Today, we are working towards fulfilling this commitment and have reduced our operational GHG emissions by 68.5% against base year 2010, meeting our 2025 target two years early.

As part of this effort, we reduced our energy use by 6.6% in 2023 from 2022, aided by increased operational efficiencies and a continued focus on energy conservation projects. In addition, we increased our use of renewable energy. This is important, as energy consumption is IBM’s most significant source of operational GHG emissions. Other examples of our progress in 2023 include:

  • Implemented 675 energy conservation projects (accounting for more than 2,100 projects since 2021) across more than 130 locations. These include different initiatives in our data centers, such as upgrades to IT equipment, enhancing the energy efficiency of cooling and IT equipment; retrofitting lighting systems; and projects to optimize operational efficiency.
  • Increased cooling efficiency of our data centers by 16.4% versus 2019.
  • Increased the use of renewable electricity, which now represents 70.6% of the electricity used in IBM operations.

IBM also supports the prevention of pollution, conservation of natural resources, and protection of biodiversity through comprehensive programs and targets. For example:

  • Protecting and enhancing biodiversity is essential to the health of our planet preserving and protecting the huge variety of communities and environments worldwide. To this end, over the last three years, IBM established 70 pollinator gardens at 54 locations across 26 countries, successfully surpassing our goal of planting 50 gardens.
  • In 2023, the return of employees to the office impacted some of our environmental metrics. For example, despite proactive water conservation efforts at many of our sites, we saw an increase in water withdrawals at our larger locations in water-stressed regions. In addition, we saw an increase in the generation of nonhazardous waste, which was also impacted by the generation of construction debris at some IBM locations.  However, despite this increase, we were able to divert 94.2% (by weight) of waste from landfill or incineration worldwide while limiting the amount of waste sent to waste-to-energy processes to 10% (by weight), meeting our goals in this area. We continue to look for opportunities to decrease our use of waste-to-energy processes and are focusing on providing additional education to employees on proper waste segregation.

Beyond IBM: engaging with our stakeholders, clients, partners and suppliers

  • Stakeholders: IBM engages and collaborates on environmental matters with nongovernmental organizations, government agencies, businesses and industry associations, among others. These collaborations include tools and technology, research and development, and support greener economies and industries around the world. Some examples of these partnerships in 2023 include our work with the European Green Digital Coalition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Wildlife Habitat Council.
  • Suppliers: IBM continues to work with its suppliers to reduce their environmental footprint. For example, we have established requirements for suppliers to maintain their own environmental management systems; set and publicly disclosing progress on quantifiable goals for energy management, GHG emissions reduction, and waste management; or for logistics suppliers to establish baselines for fleet carbon intensity. Last year, we also convened our second annual Sustainability Leadership Symposium with the theme of innovative approaches to waste reduction—an area that is key for preventing pollution and reducing the consumption of natural resources.
  • Clients and partners: IBM can help companies achieve their sustainability goals by infusing data with AI into daily operations enabled by expertise to deliver profit and purpose. In 2021, we established a goal to document 100 client engagements or research projects by 2025 in which IBM products, capabilities, and solutions have enabled demonstrable environmental benefits. This helps us track the many ways we enable clients and partners to improve their environmental sustainability, such as by helping them reduce waste, GHG emissions, and associated financial costs. Since 2021, 72 such engagements or projects have been documented.
  • Communities: IBM is also focused on supporting communities exposed to environmental hazards through social impact programs like the IBM Sustainability Accelerator. This pro bono social impact program applies IBM technologies and expertise to help vulnerable populations worldwide. To date, the program supports 4 cohorts with projects around agriculture, energy consumption, water management and resilient cities, working with non-profit and governmental organizations around the world.

We are proud of IBM’s role as a leader in environmental responsibility and the potential we have to make a lasting, scalable impact. To learn more, you can read our IBM Impact Report 2023.

Learn more about this and other initiatives in our 2023 IBM Impact Report

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