Our new climate goal: Net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030

By | 4 minute read | February 17, 2021

solar panels and wind mills in the desert

IBM has been committed to environmental leadership for decades. Accordingly, IBM has been setting (and achieving) voluntary environmental goals for many years, and the company has consistently reported results in its annual Corporate Environmental Report, currently in its 30th year of publication. Across the decades, the people of IBM have sustained the company’s commitment whether the topic has been popular, or not, and regardless of short term economic or business cycles. For example, IBM set its first goal regarding CO2 emissions in 2000 and has been voluntarily disclosing its CO2 emissions since 1995.

In the spirit of sustaining sustainability, IBM is once again updating its goals to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in a way that is:

  • comprehensive across the breadth of applicable environmental topics
  • global, applying across the world where we do business
  • inclusive of all of IBM’s businesses unless otherwise stated

Wayne Balta, IBM’s Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Product Safety, shares more about this recent update to all of IBM’s environmental goals.

Q: What are these updated goals all about?

Wayne: We’re announcing this week that IBM will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to further its decades-long work to address the global climate crisis. The company will accomplish this goal by prioritizing actual reductions in its emissions, energy efficiency efforts and increased clean energy use across the more than 175 countries where it operates. IBM’s net zero pledge integrates transparency and authenticity since it establishes and updates near-term targets to drive accountability and progress.

Q: And how will IBM specifically work to achieve these new environmental goals?

Wayne: To achieve its net zero goal IBM will:

  • Reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 65% by 2025 against base year 2010. What’s most important in the fight against climate change is to actually reduce emissions. The company’s net zero goal is also accompanied by a specific, numerical target for residual emissions that are likely to remain after IBM has first done all it can across its operations to reduce.
  • Procure 75% of the electricity it consumes worldwide from renewable sources by 2025, and 90% by 2030. We’ve been working towards this for a while. IBM made its first purchase of renewable energy in 2001 and this announcement is the 3rd generation of our renewable energy goal.
  • Use feasible technologies, such as carbon capture (in or by 2030) to remove emissions in an amount which equals or exceeds the level of IBM’s residual emissions.

Q: Why are authenticity and transparency core to achieving this goal?

Wayne: Being transparent isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s the right way to be. If people who are skeptical about climate change conclude they have been misled by opaque representations of achievement, it will make it harder to secure their support. Which is why we’re focused on guiding these new goals with a desire to be authentic and transparent, that means:

  • We establish near-term targets to drive present-day accountability instead of just long-term statements that do not necessarily compel current action.
  • IBM’s goals ensure we are accountable for the operations we control with visibility and clarity.
  • We adjust our reported results for acquisitions and divestitures.
  • We don’t equate performance to the purchase of certificates or offsets.

Q: What do you mean when you say that we don’t equate performance to the purchase of certificates or offsets?

Wayne: This is particularly applicable to goals regarding energy and climate change. In IBM’s case:

  • We do not include the purchase of unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs) to comprise any “percent renewable” if we cannot credibly consume the electricity those certificates represent.
  • We do not equate the purchase of offsets to a reduction of IBM’s emissions.
  • We couple our net zero ambition with a specific numerical target for residual emissions.

Q: How is IBM applying science and technology to help solve sustainability issues?

Wayne: As part of IBM’s commitment to sustainability and its focus on the application of science and technology to solve major societal challenges, IBM Research has launched a Future of Climate initiative designed to accelerate the discovery of solutions to address the impacts of a changing climate. Utilizing a combination of artificial intelligence, hybrid cloud and quantum computing, IBM researchers are working with clients and partners to apply science to complex climate-related problems, such as the growing global carbon footprint of cloud workloads and data centers, methods to accurately model and assess the risk of changing environments and climate patterns, and the development of new polymers, membranes and materials that can capture and absorb carbon at the origin of emission.

Q: Are these IBM’s first environmental goals?

Wayne: No, in fact, IBM has been committed to environmental leadership — including energy and climate change — for decades. IBM Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson, Jr., issued the company’s first corporate policy on environmental responsibility back in 1971. IBM has disclosed its environmental performance in an annual Corporate Environmental Report since 1990. IBM began disclosing its CO2 emissions in 1995. In 2007, IBM publicly stated its position on climate change, saying then that “climate change is a serious concern that warrants meaningful action on a global basis to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.” IBM supported the Paris Agreement in 2015, and in 2017 IBM publicly reiterated its support for the U.S. to remain a party to it. In 2019, IBM became a Founding Member of the Climate Leadership Council, supporting its bipartisan plan for a carbon tax with 100% of the net proceeds returned to citizens as a carbon dividend. Our commitment to minimizing emissions on a pathway to net zero by 2030 is a natural extension of all of these longstanding efforts to protect our planet.

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