Protective product packaging

IBM has had a program focused on the environmental attributes of its product packaging since the late 1980s. Our corporate environmental requirements for product packaging are embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents, which extend their reach beyond IBM to include our supply chain and other business partners.

The engineering specifications establish requirements on packaging materials used in protecting, handling or marketing of IBM products, parts and assemblies, including those supplied by Original Equipment Manufacturer or Contract Manufacturer suppliers. They address requirements for restricted heavy metals and other substances of very high concern, packaging material data collection and reporting. IBM packaging engineers design solutions that are intended to minimize packaging waste and specify non-toxic materials and inks for use in packaging. We keep packaging to a minimum while continuing to provide protection to the product being shipped to clients, and we collaborate with suppliers to use recycled and recyclable materials and promote reuse. The design of rugged products and other optimization measures for the efficient use of protective product packaging, and less tangible environmental benefits associated with improvements in transportation efficiency, are addressed and tracked.

IBM's supplier environmental packaging requirements are accessible from the information for suppliers webpage.

IBM has evaluated the most commonly used packaging components and subcomponents on a variety of environmental criteria. When options are available, suppliers are required to choose the material that has the least adverse effect on the environment. The materials are evaluated based on our experience and client feedback. Other environmental areas addressed in IBM's packaging requirements include:

All product packaging suppliers that pack or ship products to customers on behalf of IBM worldwide must submit packaging environmental data to IBM, along with other relevant compliance and performance data. Suppliers that do not conform to an IBM specification or other requirement must submit and implement improvement plans to close out the identified issues within an agreed timeframe. Applying this process to packaging suppliers ensures ongoing compliance with IBM's product packaging requirements.


Packaging reduction and improvements

In 2017, IBM's corporate distribution packaging technology team saved an estimated 141 metric tons of packaging materials through the implementation of packaging redesign projects for parts and assemblies shipped to manufacturing locations, and for packaged finished products supplied to clients worldwide. These projects delivered an estimated annual materials and transportation cost savings of $983,000. Highlights of three packaging reduction projects implemented in 2017:


Sourcing of paper and paper/wood-based packaging material

IBM established its voluntary environmental goal for the responsible sourcing of paper and paper/wood-based packaging in 2002. It required that the paper and paper/ wood-based packaging directly acquired by IBM be procured from suppliers that source from sustainably managed forests, where such sources exist. Continued focus on this objective by IBM and our suppliers over the years has allowed IBM to attain this goal consistently for more than 95 percent of paper and paper/wood-based packaging that we directly acquired. In 2016, the goal was enhanced to require suppliers either to disclose sources for paper/wood to IBM, or to provide evidence that sources have been certified to be from sustainably managed forests by an accredited third-party certification scheme. Requirements in support of this goal are incorporated into our standard supplier specifications for paper and paper/ wood-based packaging.

In 2017, 98 percent of the paper and paper/wood-based packaging IBM directly procured worldwide came from suppliers that warranted that the source was derived from forests managed in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner.