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.

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

With the divestiture of IBM's semiconductor manufacturing operations, our direct water use has reduced substantially. IBM's remaining water use is primarily associated with cooling at our large facilities and data centers, and with irrigation and domestic water uses at facilities occupied by IBM.

In 2015, IBM set out to better quantify and understand the environmental impacts of our water use after the divestiture of our semiconductor manufacturing operations. In particular, we identified those data centers and other IBM locations in water-stressed regions with the highest potential water consumption. Many of these locations have already undertaken significant projects to reduce their water use. For example, IBM's Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, has implemented a rooftop rainwater harvesting system that captures more than 1 million gallons of water for reuse in the site's cooling towers annually.

In early 2016, IBM established a new goal to achieve ongoing year-to-year reductions in water withdrawals at these locations in water-stressed regions. We are currently collecting baseline water withdrawal information for these facilities, and will begin reporting on our progress against this goal in the next report.

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. Some examples:

  • IBM's requirement for sourcing packaging materials:

    IBM established its voluntary environmental goal for the responsible sourcing of paper and paper/wood-based packaging in 2002. It stated that the paper and paper/wood-based packaging directly acquired by IBM should be procured from suppliers that source from sustainably managed forests, where such sources exist.

    When this goal was first established, sufficient quantities of sustainably sourced paper and packaging materials were not available to meet our needs. In 2015, after a continued focus on this objective by IBM and our suppliers over the years, 97 percent of the paper and paper/wood-based packaging IBM procured worldwide came from suppliers that warranted that the source was derived from forests managed in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner. This figure excludes a portion of supply from recycled content. This requirement is now incorporated into our standard supplier specification for paper/wood-based packaging.