Responsible Stewardship

Sustaining Corporate Environmental Leadership Every Day, Every Week, Every Year

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As Climate Week begins today, environmental issues are more relevant than ever. IBM has been one of industry’s earliest and staunchest corporate environmental leaders, with environmental programs that extend over 50 years.

The company has sustained its commitment regardless of changes in economic cycles, business or technology. That’s because corporate environmental leadership is the right thing to do for our employees, our clients, our communities and the world in which we live.

To underscore this commitment, IBM has published an annual corporate environmental report for 29 years. That’s as long as any global company we know of. Our most recent one can be found here.

When it comes to energy and climate change, IBM’s leadership goes back about thirty years. Did you know:

  • In 1992, IBM became a charter member of the U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR program when it involved only one type of product (the personal computer), working with the EPA and seven other companies to launch the new program. Today ENERGY STAR involves over 75 types of products. Energy conservation remains crucial for addressing climate change.
  • In 1995, IBM was one of only three manufacturers to voluntarily report greenhouse gas emissions under a new program run by the U.S. Department of Energy pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 1992. IBM has been voluntarily disclosing its greenhouse gas emissions ever since.
  • In 1998, when IBM’s business still included semiconductor manufacturing, IBM led a program with the U.S. EPA for manufacturers to voluntarily disclose emissions of perfluoro-compounds (PFCs) and was first to declare a numerical PFC emissions reduction goal that same year.
  • In 2000, IBM became a charter member of the World Resources Institute’s Green Power Market Development Group. IBM made its first purchase of renewable energy for use in its operations in 2001.
  • In 2007, IBM published a formal position for climate protection, 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.”
  • In 2015, IBM was one of the first 81 companies to support the American Business Act on Climate Pledge which was developed by the Obama Administration. This pledge involved not only actions that companies would take regarding their own operations, but also demonstrated the companies’ support for the conclusion of a UN climate change agreement in Paris that would take a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.
  • And in 2017, IBM expressed its support for the U.S. to remain a party to the UN’s Paris Climate Agreement.

Today, we are pursuing a continual energy conservation goal (which originated in the 1990s), our second renewable energy goal, and our fourth CO2 emissions reduction goal. They are as follows:

  • Conserve energy each year equal to 3% of our annual consumption.
  • Procure 55% of the electricity IBM consumes from renewable sources by 2025.
  • Reduce operational CO2 emissions associated with IBM’s energy consumption 40% by 2025 against base year 2005, adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures.

These goals cover all of IBM’s global operations, whether they take place in real estate managed by IBM or in facilities managed by a third party (such as co-location data centers where a landlord procures the energy).

During 2018, IBM achieved 3.3% energy conservation. 37.9% of the electricity consumed across IBM’s global operations came from renewable sources. CO2 emissions associated with IBM’s consumption of energy were reduced 32.2% versus 2005.

IBM’s work regarding climate change has also been well recognized. Earlier this year, IBM won a 2019 Climate Leadership Award from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry, making IBM the first and only company to earn this recognition seven times in the award program’s eight-year history.

While our commitment to environmental sustainability is nothing new, what’s different today is the extent to which we can apply new information technology tools to vast quantities of data to do things better. Tools including software analytics, internet-of-things, machine learning, natural language processing and blockchain feed off of a world awash in data. As societies generate more data about both the “built” environment and the natural environment, we ought to expect –even demand — that the best information technology tools get applied to help improve and protect how we live, as I recently articulated in a guest blog for the Environmental Law Institute.

IBM is already protecting freshwater, improving plankton populations, providing AI and other tools for farmers, improving “water security” and developing a solar power app for use in Africa). IBM also just launched the largest solar array in Boulder, Colorado, a haven for green advancement.

With innovation like that happening, it’s time that we all act to get the best technologies applied to today’s big environmental problems. Who will demand these changes? Who will issue the “statement of work”? Who will finance them? It will take industry know-how, the financial sector, governmental demand, effective leadership, and sheer will to look at data and IT differently and to expect more from it for our local communities and the world at large.

If we can achieve this, perhaps our children will see a new data-driven world: one that is not just focused on one-click convenience, or a smart device on the kitchen counter, but deeply smarter where data is more routinely used to build a better and cleaner world.

-By Wayne Balta, IBM Vice President of Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety

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