Water and materials conservation

IBM strives to conserve resources across its operations. Two examples are water and materials conservation.

Water conservation

Preserving water resources and safeguarding watersheds are important environmental protection priorities. IBM's first water conservation goal was established in 2000 and has evolved over time as our company has transformed into a hybrid cloud and AI platform company. Our current water use is primarily associated with cooling and humidity control at offices and data centers, domestic consumption at the workplace, testing of building fire protection systems, and landscape irrigation.

IBM's current water conservation goal is to achieve year-to-year reductions in water withdrawals at larger IBM locations and data centers in water-stressed regions. Using the World Resources Institute's Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, we identify IBM locations in areas of "high" or "extremely high" baseline water-stress and use this, along with site-specific criteria, to determine the locations subject to our water conservation goal.

In 2020, water withdrawals at these IBM locations decreased by 6.7 percent versus 2019. A major factor contributing to this decrease was that many IBM employees worked from home for the majority of the year. However, several projects were implemented, resulting in better management of water used in building cooling tower systems and improved water use by humidification equipment for regulating environmental conditions in data centers. Other projects included the installation of automated water irrigation controls, maintenance of underground water pipelines, and installation of water-saving devices in our kitchenettes, restrooms and shower facilities.

Other actions that avoided water withdrawals included recycling treated wastewater for use in evaporative cooling systems and for landscape irrigation, as well as reusing water discharged from testing fire protection systems for landscape irrigation. In 2020, recycling of treated wastewater and on-site reuse of process water at these locations was equivalent to 3 percent of their total water use.

For more information, please see the "Conservation and biodiversity" section of our latest annual environmental report on our environmental reporting webpage.

Materials conservation and reuse

In addition to its waste avoidance and management programs, IBM has a wide range of initiatives that conserve materials through reuse and recycling in the company's products and in its procurement of paper and paper/wood-based packaging. For more information, visit our Product recycling programs and Protective product packaging webpages.