Environmental evaluations of suppliers

IBM has a longstanding commitment to protect the environment and to pursue environmental leadership across all of our business activities.

As a part of this commitment, IBM does business with suppliers who are environmentally and socially responsible and encourages environmental and social responsibility awareness with these suppliers. Further, IBM must respond to an increased interest from customers and governments for information about the environmental attributes of IBM's products and, in many cases, the source for this type of information is IBM's suppliers.

The objectives of our requirements for suppliers and our supplier evaluation programs include:

Key milestones

Supplier social and environmental management system requirements

In 2010, IBM established a requirement that all first-tier suppliers maintain a management system to address their social and environmental responsibilities. Our objective was to help our suppliers build their own capability to succeed in this area. More information on these requirements may be found on IBM's Management system requirements for suppliers page.

Requirements for suppliers managing chemicals, processing wastes or managing end-of-life equipment

IBM has additional requirements for those suppliers where IBM:

Specific environmental requirements are documented in our contracts with suppliers conducting these types of activities anywhere in the world. These may include requirements related to chemical content, chemical management, waste management, spill prevention, health and safety, and reporting.

For hazardous waste and product end-of-life management suppliers, IBM conducts a supplier evaluation, which may include an on-site review of the supplier facility. We evaluate these suppliers prior to entering into a contract with them and then approximately every three years thereafter, to ensure their operations and commitment to workplace safety and sound environmental practices continues to meet our requirements. The evaluations are conducted by IBM's Corporate Environmental Affairs staff or internal or third-party environmental professionals under the direction of this staff.

IBM's hazardous waste and product end-of-life management supplier evaluations are comprehensive in the scope of the environmental aspects covered, including:

IBM also requires its hazardous waste and product end-of-life management suppliers to track the shipment and processing of any hazardous materials they handle for IBM -- down to the final treatment, recycling or disposal location -- and to report that information to us.

As with all of our environmental programs, IBM manages its hazardous waste and product end-of-life management programs to the same high standards worldwide. Doing so can be particularly challenging in some countries where processing infrastructure (treatment, recycling and/or disposal) that meets IBM's requirements is lacking or not existent.

Under IBM's waste management program, hazardous and nonhazardous special wastes are treated, recycled or disposed at IBM-approved facilities within the country where they are generated, whenever possible. IBM does not export hazardous and nonhazardous special wastes from the United States or any other country where suitable processing facilities are available within the country.

If there are no suppliers in a country that meet IBM's environmental and safety requirements for hazardous waste or product processing, the waste generated by IBM's operations is shipped to facilities in other countries where those requirements can be met. This shipping is done in compliance with country laws and regulations, and in accord with international treaties such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

Though rare, there are sometimes situations in which local processing of waste is not possible and shipping to IBM-approved suppliers in other countries is not allowed due to legal requirements. In these situations, IBM will store wastes and product end-of-life materials in properly contained and managed storage facilities as allowed by law, and until suitable processing facilities are available.

A Case In Point: Lead Acid Battery Recycling

The processing and recycling of lead acid batteries is a concern some interest groups brought to our attention. It had been reported in various media that some companies have been exporting lead acid batteries from the U.S. to Mexico or other countries where the batteries may be recycled in operations that are not properly protective of the workers or the environment.

The uninterruptible power units for our data centers contain lead acid batteries -- but all lead acid batteries disposed of by IBM are covered under IBM's hazardous waste management program and are recycled at IBM approved facilities within the country where they are generated, whenever possible. IBM does not export used lead acid batteries from the U.S. or any other country where suitable recycling facilities are available within the country. As noted above, if there is no IBM-approved supplier within a country and the export of the batteries to a country with approved suppliers is not permitted or feasible, we store the batteries until an approved supplier becomes available.