50 Years After its First Formal Environmental Policy, IBM is Still Challenging Itself

By | 2 minute read | July 14, 2021

Fifty years ago, IBM’s then-Chairman and CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr. issued the company’s first corporate environmental policy. Characteristically, it was ahead of its time. It placed responsibility explicitly upon line management, not just staff functions. And at a time when pollution control was a major focus, it foreshadowed design-for-the-environment by saying there must be “constant attention not only to the waste incident to producing a product but also to the consequences of the processes established during product development.” Watson’s corporate policy statement ushered in a sustained era of environmental leadership at IBM. And although our policies have been updated since then, our proactive approach and dedication to sustainable operations have endured.

In that spirit, IBM has announced an updated set of 21 comprehensive, voluntary goals that address the ways in which today’s IBM intersects with the environment. Among them are IBM’s goals regarding renewable electricity, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2030.

Here are some examples:

  • Energy and Climate Change: IBM will further improve average data center cooling efficiency and will implement another 3,000+ energy conservation projects by 2025. We will procure 75% of the electricity IBM consumes worldwide from renewable sources by 2025 and 90% by 2030. We will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 65% by 2025 versus 2010.
  • Conservation and Biodiversity: IBM will reduce water withdrawals in water stressed regions, procure paper and paper/wood-based packaging from sustainably managed forests, and plant 50 pollinator gardens by 2023 at our locations globally.
  • Pollution Prevention and Waste Management: IBM will eliminate non-essential, single-use plastic from its product packaging and cafeteria operations globally, and divert 90 percent (by weight) of its non-hazardous waste from landfill and incineration by 2025, through recycling, reuse, composting, and waste-to-energy processes.
  • Supply Chain and Value Chain: Building upon its requirements from 2010 for all first-tier suppliers to maintain an environmental management system, set goals and publicly disclose results, IBM will require 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. We will also begin annual supplier symposiums to celebrate our suppliers’ successes.
  • Management System: IBM will sustain its industry-leading commitment to a global environmental management system. We will retain annual certification of it to the ISO 14001 standard and conformity to the ISO 50001 standard.


Setting voluntary goals has long been an integral part of IBM’s Environmental Management System. While climate change and greenhouse gas emissions have become some of the most broadly reported environmental issues of our times, IBM recognizes that we have a responsibility to manage all of our environmental intersections, and our goals demonstrate our commitment to doing so–just like we began a half a century ago–transparently and authentically.

For more information about IBM’s 21 commitments, please see our 2020 IBM and the Environment Report.