Water and materials conservation

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

Water conservation

The preservation of water resources and protection of watersheds are important areas of focus for IBM. Through IBM's global environmental management system, IBM continues to improve water-use efficiency and to minimize our operational impact on water resources.

IBM established its first water conservation goal in the year 2000, focusing on the significant use of water in our microelectronics manufacturing operations. From 2000 to 2015, IBM's water conservation efforts avoided the accumulated use of 21.3 million cubic meters of water in those operations.

IBM's current water use is primarily associated with cooling at our large facilities and data centers, and for irrigation and domestic purposes. Following the divestiture of our semiconductor manufacturing operations in 2015, IBM reassessed the environmental impacts of our water use. We did this by using the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Global Water Tool, which highlights regions around the globe where water resources are stressed to meet human and ecological demand for fresh water. We identified 45 data centers and other large IBM locations in regions worldwide that were considered highly or extremely highly water-stressed. IBM established a new goal in 2016 to achieve ongoing year-to-year reductions in water withdrawals at these locations.

In 2017, IBM reduced water withdrawals at these data centers and other large IBM locations in water-stressed regions by 2.9 percent versus 2016. This reduction was primarily associated with enhanced water systems maintenance and efficiency improvements in deionized water purification systems. Water withdrawals equivalent to 5.4 percent of total withdrawals were avoided by on-site water reuse for manufacturing processes (reuse of rejected water from deionized water purification systems) and wastewater recycling activities (mainly used in buildings' cooling tower systems and landscape irrigation).

Water sources for these locations consisted primarily of municipal water supplies (67 percent), fresh surface waters (24 percent) and groundwater (4 percent), accounting for 95 percent of total water use. The remaining 5 percent came from bottled water, on-site process water and treated wastewater. The main uses of water at these locations are for domestic purposes (45 percent), heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems (31 percent), landscape irrigation (19.5 percent), and manufacturing processes (4.5 percent).

IBM also continues to implement water conservation projects at locations that are not in water-stressed regions. For example, IBM's Bromont, Canada, location operates a deionized water purification system for manufacturing use that generates some rejected water that is reused in the same system. This activity avoided the withdrawal of 24,500 cubic meters of water in 2017. The site also further optimized the deionized water purification system to minimize the amount of water rejected, among other measures, reducing water withdrawals by 799 cubic meters per year. The combined 25,299 cubic meters represented 13 percent of the total water withdrawals at the Bromont location in 2017.

Materials conservation and reuse

In addition to its waste 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 wood-based packaging. For more information, visit our Product recycling programs and Protective product packaging webpages.