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 2015, our global packaging engineering team saved an estimated 790 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 $4.3 million.

The following are highlights of two projects implemented:

Supplier packaging redesign for IBM Storwize® V7000 hybrid storage systems -- The IBM Storwize V7000 hybrid storage system was originally sent from the supplier in individually packaged units on a pallet. IBM's packaging team worked with the supplier to design and validate a bulk package that could hold 10 units per single package on a pallet, which resulted in a 60 percent reduction in packaging materials (eliminating corrugated and plastic cushioning) and a 55 percent reduction in pallet size, which significantly reduced shipping costs. In total, the project will save an estimated 520 metric tons of packaging materials and $3.8 million in cost.

IBM z13TM shipping and packaging improvements -- The industry standard for shipping large high-end products such as mainframes normally requires the product to be palletized in a wooden crate to protect the product during transit. Although a successful method, this results in a very large and heavy (280 kilograms) solution that uses large amounts of wood, metal, neoprene rubber, and plastic (cushions). In order to reduce environmental impact and cost, the packaging team designed a process to ship the product on its casters (no pallet or crate) using a "white glove" shipping process (i.e., dedicated padded van) for U.S. domestic shipments. The shipping process utilizes less material -- only a plastic bag to keep off moisture and dust during shipping, and a cushioned endcap made using a new compostable mushroom-based material called Restore Mushroom Packaging. Overall, the shipping and packaging design improvements saved an estimated 150 metric tons of packaging materials and $690,000 in cost per year compared to traditional palletized rack crate packaging methods. This package design also received a 2016 AmeriStar Award in the electronics category from the Institute of Packaging Professionals.

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 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.