Celebrating Three Decades of IBM Leadership on Climate Change

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In March 2018, IBM was awarded its sixth Climate Leadership Award in the program’s seven-year history – the first and only company to achieve such a distinction. At the 2018 Climate Leadership Conference – hosted by The Climate Registry, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and the Bloomberg Philanthropies – IBM Vice President for Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety offered reflections on IBM’s longstanding focus on responsible environmental stewardship.

Below is a digest of Mr. Balta’s remarks.

IBM has been in business since 1911. During our 107 year history, we have reinvented ourselves numerous times – from a company that made cheese slicers and scales, to a vertically integrated computer manufacturer, to a service-led global enterprise, to becoming the world’s leading cognitive solutions and cloud platform company for enterprises. What has not changed across our history is IBM’s commitment to corporate responsibility. Responsibility regarding climate change has been – and continues to be – an essential component of that commitment.

IBM was an early and unambiguous leader regarding climate change. In 1992, IBM became a charter member of a brand new U.S. EPA program that was named ENERGY STAR. IBM stepped up at the very beginning of ENERGY STAR when it only involved one type of product: the personal computer and its monitor. IBM and seven other computer manufacturers worked with the EPA to support the launch of ENERGY STAR.

Today, there are over 75 types of ENERGY STAR products, and over 2,000 manufacturers and 2,600 retailers producing and selling them. Furthermore, ENERGY STAR now involves not only products but also entire commercial buildings, industrial plants, and new homes. IBM continues to be involved with ENERGY STAR in 2018, driving energy efficiency of computer servers and storage equipment, just as we were at the very beginning 26 years ago. It has been one of many voluntary partnerships IBM has had with the EPA.

Three years after we embraced ENERGY STAR, IBM became one of three manufacturers to voluntarily report its greenhouse gas emissions under the U.S Department of Energy’s Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases guidelines. While at the time it was primarily electric utilities that were reporting under this program, the fact that IBM could report its greenhouse gases in 1995 indicates just how early IBM had been paying attention to emissions.

Later in the 1990s, when IBM’s business still included the manufacture of microprocessors, IBM was instrumental in guiding a collaboration between the semiconductor industry and the EPA from which the industry agreed to voluntarily disclose and reduce its emissions of perfluoro-compounds (or PFCs). And in 1998, IBM became the first semiconductor manufacturer in the world to publicly declare a numerical PFC emissions reduction goal.

Skip ahead to today, and IBM has just achieved our latest CO2 emissions reduction goal four years early. That goal has been to reduce CO2 emissions 35 percent by 2020 against a base year of 2005. We reached 38.1% at year-end 2016. All of this and much more is articulated in IBM’s 27th annual voluntary Corporate Environmental Report.

Over the years, IBM has transformed its business from having once been a rather vertically integrated manufacturer into becoming increasingly reliant upon suppliers.  In parallel, we have updated our requirements for suppliers – requiring them to set goals to conserve energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, among other things. These requirements reflect IBM’s belief that addressing climate change requires action by all individual companies, that companies everywhere must build their own capacity to do this, and that accountability and action are best driven by deterministic data – real facts.

At IBM, we understand that it is essential to inculcate a long term, steadfast commitment in the environmental work that we do. It is essential to sustain sustainability, regardless of whether this particular topic is popular, and regardless of the short term ups and downs of business cycles. In the meantime, we continue doing what we always do: we dependably sustain our environmental commitment.

IBMers across the world continue innovating, inventing, collaborating, and finding ways to further reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. And we’re always thinking about what comes next.

Wayne Balta is IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Environmental Affairs & Product Safety.

Related Resources:

IBM Receives 2018 Climate Leadership Award for GHG Management/Goal Achievement

Download the complete text of the speech

Read the Latest IBM and the Environment Report

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