Protective product packaging

IBM's corporate environmental requirements for product packaging are included in our environmental packaging guidelines, which were first published in 1990 and have been updated as needed over the years. Key elements of IBM's packaging guidelines have been embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents, which extend their reach to include our supply chain and other business partners.

IBM has had a program focused on the environmental attributes of its product packaging since the late 1980s. Under the program, IBM packaging engineers design solutions that minimize toxic substances and packaging waste by specifying nontoxic materials and inks. We keep packaging to a minimum while continuing to provide protection to the product being shipped. We also collaborate with suppliers to use recycled and recyclable materials and promote reuse. The design of rugged products, the efficient use of protective product packaging, and the environmental benefits resulting from improvements in transportation efficiency are addressed and tracked though this program. Key elements of IBM's packaging guidelines have also been embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents which can be found on IBM's information for suppliers webpage.

IBM's environmental packaging requirements incorporate a list of the most commonly used packaging materials. Each is evaluated 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 listed are based on practical and regulatory experience and customer feedback. Other environmental areas addressed in the packaging requirements include:

All product packaging suppliers that pack/ship products to customers on behalf of IBM worldwide must submit required packaging environmental compliance data to IBM, along with other relevant packaging compliance and performance data, through web-enabled tools. Any suppliers with a non-conformance must submit and implement supplier improvement plans to close out the identified issues within an agreed timeframe. Applying this process to packaging suppliers worldwide ensures ongoing compliance with IBM's environmental product packaging requirements.


Packaging reduction and improvements

In 2016, IBM's global packaging technology team saved an estimated 160 metric tons of packaging materials through the implementation of packaging redesign projects for parts and assemblies shipped to manufacturing locations, and for finished products supplied to clients worldwide. These projects delivered an estimated annual materials and transportation cost savings of $2.1 million.

Following are highlights of two packaging reduction projects implemented:

Redesigning packaging for server shipments -- Instead of shipping finished goods to customers in single packages, a redesign allows rack servers to be sent in bulk packaging (e.g., 10 per package). Implementing this redesign results in a 60 percent reduction in packaging materials used and less waste to be disposed of by clients following bulk installation into data centers. In addition, rather than sending 10 printed and media publications packs as was done previously, only one set is now required, providing a 90 percent reduction in paper use. Each bulk packaging shipment is estimated to save 8.4 kilograms of wood, polyethylene foam, corrugated paperboard packaging and paper publications. Corresponding transport and logistical savings are $58 per shipment. There will also be associated reductions in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the increased shipment density. This new packaging project, introduced in late 2016, will allow most IBM Power Systems servers to be shipped this way in the future, providing significant packaging materials savings and transport and logistics cost savings.

New hybrid corrugated fiberboard wood pallet -- Some IBM server and storage systems require a pallet for shipping. To reduce weight and materials waste, IBM designed a new hybrid corrugated fiberboard and wood pallet that is lighter in weight and retains the strength of the original wood pallet to withstand the rigors of forklift handling. It has a normal wooden bottom, but IBM replaced the wooden top deck boards with paper edgeboards and a corrugated fiberboard deck. Depending on the size of the pallet, it reduces the weight by 3-6 kilograms and results in savings of $9 per pallet in transport and logistics costs. The environmental benefits also include a reduction of fossil fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.


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. When this goal was first established, sufficient quantities of sustainably sourced paper and packaging materials were not available to meet business needs.

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 requiring suppliers either to disclose sources for paper/wood to IBM, or provide evidence that sources have been certified to be from sustainably managed forests by an accredited third-party certification scheme. In 2016, 97 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. This figure includes a portion of paper with recycled post-consumer content. Requirements in support of this goal are incorporated into our standard supplier specifications for paper and paper/wood-based packaging.