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Product Stewardship

IBM’s Product Stewardship program was established in 1991 as a proactive and strategic approach to the company’s environmental design and management of products. The program’s mission is to develop, manufacture and market products that are increasingly energy efficient; can be upgraded and reused to extend product life; incorporate recycled content and environmentally preferable materials and finishes; and can be recycled and disposed of safely.


IBM’s product stewardship objectives and requirements are implemented through IBM’s global Environmental Management System (EMS), internal standards, product specifications and other requirements in IBM’s Integrated Product Development process. Product environmental attributes such as energy efficiency, materials content, chemical emissions testing, design for recycling, end-of-life management plans and packaging data must be documented and reviewed in IBM’s Product Environmental Profile (PEP) tool at various checkpoints during the development process. Compliance management tools like the Product Content Declaration for IBM Suppliers support the assessments required for a complete PEP prior to product release. IBM’s design and compliance controls, including a specification for Baseline Environmental Requirements for Supplier Deliverables to IBM, Product Content Declarations, and compliance assessment protocols are managed by an interdisciplinary team with representatives from all IBM organizations that design, manufacture, procure, deliver and service our product offerings. The team’s activities are coordinated by IBM’s Center of Excellence for Product Environmental Compliance.

Enhancing Compliance Processes

Worldwide environmental laws and regulations applicable to information technology products continue to increase, including new and expanded requirements related to product content, energy efficiency, recycling and labeling. In 2011, IBM’s product development and supply chain organizations reviewed 109 new and modified environmental laws and regulations affecting information technology products in the global marketplace. In each case, compliance processes and implementation plans were tracked and executed. In addition, management system tools were enhanced to proactively inform suppliers of emerging requirements and to facilitate data collection and analysis for compliance evaluations. Examples of these tools include IBM’s implementation of a new Product Content Declaration for batteries, and modification of the Product Environmental Profile tool to require transition plans for products containing certain phthalate compounds subject to provisions of the EU REACH Directive.

Development Highlights

Other key activities supporting product development in 2011 illustrate IBM’s proactive efforts in science, engineering and research to advance environmentally conscious product design.

Lead (Pb) elimination: Unlike less complex consumer products, mission critical systems such as high-end server systems sold by IBM require a longer period of time to identify and qualify the non-lead based alternatives to ensure product reliability requirements are met. These uses of lead are still permitted in exemptions under the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive (2011/65/EU).

To achieve elimination of these uses of lead while ensuring product reliability, we developed a systematic phase out program and supplier scorecard to track and implement engineering changes in the specifications and bills of materials for all products containing parts that use lead in compliant pin connector systems other than c-press connectors and lead in dielectric ceramic for capacitors. This effort requires the transition of more than 750 distinct parts used in nearly 250 IBM machine types. These applications will be eliminated by the end of 2012, in accordance with the EU’s Directive.

Investigation of bio-based materials: An interdisciplinary team of materials scientists, procurement engineers and environmental product stewards investigated bio-based plastic materials and technologies for suitable applications for IBM’s products. The project resulted in immediate implementation of a bio-based, open cell polyurethane foam for acoustic applications. The foam is fabricated from bio-based polyols derived from soybean and/or castor bean oil. IBM is continuing to work with suppliers to qualify a bio-based resin formulation with adequate flame retardancy to replace PC/ABS (polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) in thermoplastic housing parts for products.

Analytical testing for product compliance: IBM’s scientists played a critical role in solving technical issues related to analytical testing methods for industry standard compliance testing of electronic products. International test standards organizations, such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), are working to develop test standards that can discern and differentiate between carcinogenic and regulated hexavalent chromium Cr(VI) versus the non-regulated and more stable species of trivalent chromium Cr(III) in plastic matrices.

The test protocol produced low results for Cr(VI) in known samples even when most of the plastics matrix was efficiently dissolved. IBM scientists discovered that antimony trioxide, a synergist often added with flame retardant compounds in these plastic resins, reacts with hexavalent chromium converting Cr(VI) to Cr(III). This interference from antimony in the plastic matrix results in erroneous quantification of hexavalent chromium. The discovery was a significant contribution toward IEC’s progress in establishing a reliable test standard for Cr(VI) in plastics to confirm regulatory compliance.

2011 Product Stewardship Goals and Performance

Recycled Plastics Recycled plastic used in IBM’s products can range from 25 to 100 percent by weight of the commercial resin. In 2011, 35 percent of the total weight of plastic resins procured by IBM and its suppliers through IBM’s corporate contracts for use in IBM’s products were resins that contained between 25 and 100 percent recycled content. Comparing only the weight of the recycled fraction of these resins to the total weight of plastics (virgin and recycled) purchased, 12.4 percent of IBM’s total weight of plastic purchases in 2011 was recycled plastic versus the corporate goal of 5 percent recyclate.
Use of Landfills IBM’s product end-of-life management operations worldwide processed more than 37,950 metric tons of end-of-life products and product waste, and sent only 0.4 percent of the total to landfills or to incineration facilities for treatment, versus IBM’s corporate goal of minimizing its combined landfill and incineration rate to no more than 3 percent of the total amount processed.
Product Energy Efficiency*
Servers IBM System p®: IBM released three models of Power Systems™ servers for which previous models or generations existed. These new servers provide reductions of 7.5 to 54 percent in the typical power consumption per unit of relative performance compared to their previous generation system.

IBM System x®: The seven System x servers announced in 2011 for which comparison models existed provide reductions in watts/MTOPS** (the Japan Energy Saving Law metric) of 97 percent or greater over the previous generation server.
Point-of-Sale Terminals IBM introduced a new Self Checkout System (SCS) in mid-year 2011 that integrates the industry standard power management capabilities of the Point-of-Sale (POS) unit (IBM SurePOSTM 700), which is the heart of the SCS. The SurePOS 700 unit controls all the components of the SCS, powering down the whole system when it is not in use and enabling wake on LAN to be used to power it on for software maintenance as well as normal daily operation. This could save a retailer hours of power-on time for each SCS. IBM did not introduce any new POS systems in 2011.
Storage Subsystems IBM has upgraded the available hard disk drives for the IBM System Storage® DS3524, DS3524EXP, and DS8800, the IBM XIV® Storage System and the IBM Storwize® V7000 Unified Storage increasing the gigabyte/watt capacity metric by 13 to 50 percent. IBM continues to improve storage performance through its use of mixed drive systems with capacity and throughput improvements and optimization driven by software capabilities such as Easy Tier™, thin provisioning and storage virtualization.

Product Energy Efficiency

Product energy efficiency has long been one of IBM’s environmental and climate protection objectives. It was formalized as one of the company’s corporate objectives when IBM’s Product Stewardship program was established in 1991. We have initiated and invested in innovations and integrated solutions through collaboration between IBM’s Research and product development teams. These teams have also combined hardware and software innovations to improve the energy efficiency of IT equipment and data centers.

In addition to its internal focus, IBM continues to actively assist in the development of external product energy efficiency standards. As we did in 1992 when we helped to develop and were a charter member of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR® Computer program, IBM is currently participating in the development of the ENERGY STAR specifications for server and storage devices, providing technical assistance and equipment operating data to assist in the development of criteria.

In 2009, the United States EPA finalized ENERGY STAR program requirements for computer servers. IBM added new product families to its IBM Power 730, 740 and 750 server systems and qualified seven newly released System x server systems during 2011. As of April 2012, IBM had 15 qualified server systems available on the market—four System p and 11 System x enterprise server systems. These servers meet the United States EPA’s requirements for power supply efficiency, idle power limits or power management capability, and data reporting. A list of IBM ENERGY STAR qualified servers may be found on the IBM and ENERGY STAR page.

New Advancements for Increased Product Energy Efficiency Performance

The following are examples of new IBM technologies, software and solutions that have enabled the increased energy efficiency of IBM’s servers and storage products:

  • IBM engineers have utilized power management capabilities provided by the System x x86 server and POWER7® processors and memory and I/O components to reduce the power drawn by the server when no workload is present (idle power) by 25 to 65 percent when compared to the power used by the system at full workload.
  • Storage systems are utilizing various software-based data management capabilities such as Easy Tier, thin provisioning and storage virtualization, which can reduce the number of terabytes required to accomplish a given storage task.
  • Many IBM products are incorporating high efficiency power supplies. The new System x dx360 M4, 3650 M4 and 3550 M4 servers all utilize an 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply, the highest power supply efficiency designation currently achievable under the 80 PLUS program. All System p power supplies achieved the 80 PLUS gold designation.
  • IBM continues to improve server and storage system virtualization capabilities, enabling clients to increase the utilization and delivered workload from hardware investments.
    • The IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller is a virtualization appliance that can increase storage utilization by as much as 30 percent regardless of manufacturer, and the XIV Storage System can operate efficiently at greater than 90 percent utilization.
    • IBM’s System x, System p and System z® servers offer a full range of virtualization capabilities and workload systems optimized for virtualization to improve hardware utilization and increase the amount of work delivered per unit of energy consumed.
  • IBM continues to innovate in semiconductor, hard drive, storage and networking technologies, utilizing virtualization and other software solutions to improve server and storage system performance for each unit of power consumed by the equipment, and to reduce the quantity of equipment required to deliver a specified set of workloads.

Innovations in Semiconductor Manufacturing

IBM’s new 3D manufacturing technology is the foundation for commercial production of a Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) that combines high-performance logic circuitry from IBM with a standard dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). The HMC provides up to 15 times faster memory in a 90 percent smaller package compared to memory products available today. The HMC requires 70 percent less energy to transfer data. Initial applications for the HMC include large-scale networking, high performance computing and industrial automation, followed by consumer products.

In a related effort, IBM is working with another company to jointly develop adhesives that will be used to package semiconductors into a densely stacked silicon package. The goal is to develop the industry’s first “glue” that will make it possible to connect a stack of up to 100 separate chips. The process could enable the packaging of logic, memory and other types of functions into a single “brick” that would be 1,000 times faster than today’s fastest semiconductors while keeping power usage low—which is key for many manufacturers, particularly those producing tablets and smartphones.

70% less energy is required by the Hybrid Memory Cube while providing 15 times faster memory.

Appliance Systems

IBM is increasing our offerings of “appliance” systems which integrate hardware and software components to optimize performance and reduce energy use for the performance of specific workloads such as analytics and web applications. The IBM WebSphere® DataPower® Integration Appliance for zEnterprise® XI50z is a workload-optimized appliance that helps data and applications on different servers to communicate regardless of the type of platform. When integrated, this system can offer up to 23 times better price/performance when compared to competitive systems.

High Performance Computers (HPC)

IBM has a full menu of HPC systems: the Productive, Easy-to-Use, Reliable, Computing System (PERCS), IBM System Blue Gene®, iDataPlex®, and the Roadrunner supercomputer programs. IBM’s supercomputer solutions are prevalent on both the TOP500® and Green500™ supercomputer lists. In the November 2011 Green500 List, the top five spots are held by IBM Blue Gene/Q and 12 of the next 20 spots are held by iDataPlex systems. Technologies developed through IBM’s HPC development efforts are leveraged across the entire IBM Systems and Technology Group product line to improve performance and energy efficiency.

Blue Gene has been identified as a leader in “green” supercomputing for available solutions every year from 2007 through 2011. The Blue Gene/Q utilizes a hydro-air cooled system, delivering a 9 percent savings on total data center power. The relative cooling cost for a Blue Gene/Q system decreased by 50 percent over the previous generation Blue Gene/P.

The IBM iDataPlex system was designed to meet the needs of high performance, large-scale Internet and cloud computing workloads at up to 40 percent lower energy consumption than 1U industry standard servers and BladeCenter® servers. Reduced energy use is achieved due to significantly lower air flow requirements and shared cooling fans, high-efficiency power supplies and a double-wide water cooled IBM Rear Door Heat eXchanger solution that can absorb 100 percent of the heat generated by the rack and virtually eliminate the need for air conditioning. The iDataPlex system was improved with the M4 update in early 2012, which introduced an 80 PLUS platinum power supply, increased the idle to maximum power ratio to 63 percent, and offered increased computing capability.

The speed and expandability of IBM’s High Performance Computing products have enabled business and science to address a wide range of complex problems and make more informed decisions—not just in the life sciences, but also in astronomy, climate, system simulations and modeling and many other applications. The use of HPC systems enable simulations of a wide range of activities, such as crash testing, vehicle or airplane designs and fuel burners, without the need to expend physical resources on prototypes or physical testing. IBM continues its leadership performance in a space-saving, power-efficient High Performance Computing package to address the most demanding performance applications.

Product Recycling and Reuse

As part of our product end-of-life management (PELM) activities, IBM began offering product takeback programs in Europe in 1989, and has extended and enhanced them over the years. IBM’s Global Asset Recovery Services organization offers Asset Recovery Solutions to commercial customers in countries where we do business, including:

  • Management of data security and disk overwrite services
  • Worldwide remarketing network for product resale
  • State-of-the-art refurbishing and recycling capability for IT equipment
  • Optional logistic services such as packing and transportation

In addition, in many countries and individual US states, IBM offers solutions to household consumers for the end-of-life management of computer equipment, either through voluntary IBM initiatives or programs in which we participate.

In 2011, IBM’s PELM operations worldwide processed more than 37,950 metric tons of end-of-life products for reuse or recycling. This represents 60 percent of the estimated 63,400 metric tons of new IBM IT equipment put on the market in 2011.

Product End-of-Life Management Operations

2011: Percentage by Weight

IBM’s voluntary environmental goal is to reuse or recycle end-of-life products such that the amount of product waste sent by our PELM operations to landfills or to incineration facilities for treatment does not exceed a combined 3 percent of the total amount processed. In 2011, IBM’s PELM operations sent only 0.4 percent to landfills or to incineration facilities for treatment.

From 1995, when we first began including product recovery in our annual corporate environmental report, through the end of 2011, IBM has documented the collection and recovery of an estimated 844,900 metric tons (over 1.86 billion pounds) of product and product waste worldwide.


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 to clients, and 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 are addressed within IBM’s Product Stewardship program and associated engineering specifications. Efficient use of product packaging and less tangible environmental benefits associated with improvements in transportation efficiency are tracked though this program.

IBM’s 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 also been embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents, which extend their reach beyond IBM to include our supply chain and other business partners. Find these documents on our Information for Suppliers page.

Protective product packaging:

In 2011, the integrated worldwide packaging engineering team saved approximately 780 metric tons of packaging materials through the implementation of 24 packaging redesign projects for parts and assemblies shipped to manufacturing operations and for packaged products supplied to clients worldwide. These projects delivered an annual materials and transport cost savings of $4.3 million. The following are highlights of a few of the key projects implemented:

  • Storage system products were previously transported to customers in China using outer wooden crates to protect against the harsh nature of the shipping environment. Following a redesign, the primary corrugated cardboard box was strengthened, which allowed the outer wooden crate to be eliminated. Wood packaging materials savings of 65 metric tons per year were achieved with corresponding annual cost savings of $416,100.
  • The central processing unit option package of the IBM System x server was redesigned to eliminate the individual corrugated carton packaging for each part in the option package which consisted of processing chip, heatsink and fan module. Corrugated cardboard packaging savings of 10.8 metric tons per year were achieved with associated cost savings of $88,600 annually.
  • Certain Power Systems server products were packaged individually in a pizza box with four pizza boxes per carton. After the collaborative redesign between IBM and the supplier, four systems were packaged per carton in a bulk format. The redesign provided materials savings and solid waste reductions of 20.5 metric tons and associated cost savings of $462,900 annually.
  • Past Power System server chassis were packaged and shipped by the supplier to the IBM manufacturing location and the final manufactured product was then newly packaged prior to delivery to the customer. After the redesign, the chassis packaging was strengthened so it could be reused for final delivery of the completed product to the customer. The redesign eliminated the need for the use of new packaging resulting in a materials savings of 78 metric tons per year and a corresponding cost savings of $508,000 annually.

When suppliers apply the design improvements achieved through collaboration with IBM to packaging designs for other customers, the environmental benefits and cost savings can be far-reaching.

$4.3 million savings in annual materials and transport costs.

IBM’s Requirement for Sourcing Packaging Materials:

IBM established our requirement for the responsible sourcing of paper and paper-/wood-based packaging in 2002. The requirement states that the paper and wood-based packaging directly acquired by IBM will be procured from suppliers who source from sustainably managed forests where such sources exist.

When this goal was first established, sufficient quantities of sustainable sourced packaging materials were not yet available for much of the company’s needs. With a continued focus on this objective by IBM and our suppliers over the years, in 2011, 99 percent of the paper and paper-/wood-based packaging IBM procured worldwide came from suppliers who contractually warranted that the source was derived from forests managed in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner.

99% of the paper and paper-/wood-based packaging IBM procured worldwide in 2011 came from suppliers who contractually warranted that the source was derived from forests managed in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner.

Product Safety

IBM’s product safety requirements are included in various steps of the product development, test and manufacturing process. Our Integrated Supply Chain organization helps us ensure that our suppliers provide hardware compliant with current international requirements. Required reviews by IBM Product Safety Review Boards ensure that newly announced products comply with applicable standards and national regulations, and that IBM obtains third-party certifications where required.

Programs for continual improvement include internal and third-party assessment of IBM’s product safety design and process implementation. These assessment results are fed back into the evaluation and development cycle. In addition, incident reviews provide effective capture of information and correction of product safety-related incidents.

IBM plays a leading role in the development of national, regional and international product safety standards for information technology products.


IBM offers a variety of software and system solutions that enable companies, governments and other entities to improve the energy efficiency of their operations and systems. IBM has responded to climate protection, energy management and operational efficiency opportunities with a suite of offerings from products to services to help clients plan and develop greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory processes and management strategies to improve the efficiency of their data centers, buildings, core business processes, logistics and other operations. Four examples of our suite of “intelligent” products and services are described below.

Smarter Buildings:

IBM Smarter Building Software is an advanced solution that optimizes the energy and environmental performance of buildings. This system monitors energy-consuming equipment, manages maintenance activities and reports performance using IBM software. The solution applies analytic rules to heating, cooling, lighting and power systems that identify sub-optimal conditions. It automatically identifies savings, takes immediate action to optimize performance and provides a performance dashboard for management.

We are also deploying IBM’s Smarter Building technologies to increase the energy efficiency of our own facilities. We leverage these technologies to uncover opportunities to achieve further efficiency improvements above the results generated from our longstanding, strong energy conservation programs. In 2011, our IBM Intelligent Building Management solution was deployed at 10 locations with plans for deployment at an additional 18 locations in 2012. Early saving results show a reduction of 12 percent or greater of the annual operating cost of the equipment connected to the Smarter Building Solution is possible.

Route Optimization:

IBM offers Cognos® and Sterling Transportation Management Software Solutions to assist companies in optimizing their freight and transportation systems to increase container/truck capacity utilization on each trip, optimize routing and improve on-time delivery. These software products assist our clients in a range of industries to improve their efficiency, and reduce their fuel use and carbon emissions.

Rosenau Transport, a midsized business specializing in regional general freight transport in Canada, equipped its fleet of trucks with on-board technology to optimize routes, reduce fuel consumption and provide clients with up-to-the-minute alerts to keep track of their shipments. A performance analysis of the telemetric information utilizing IBM Cognos software helps determine the optimal load and vehicle configuration, reducing their fuel use and carbon footprint. It enables Rosenau’s customers to make informed supply chain decisions even before shipments arrive.

IBM logistics solutions are being utilized by many clients to achieve logistics efficiency.

Wind Farm Management:

IBM has created a portfolio of solutions that include software, field technologies, analytics and short-range weather forecasting to help wind farm operators optimize the performance of turbines, better predict and balance power output and commercialize wind output as a trading commodity.

We offer a suite of software tools to enable the management of maintenance and operations for wind farm installations. The instrumentation and interconnectedness of the IBM Wind Power Suite generates the data for proactive alerts and work orders. Advanced analytics and insight can enable better asset management decisions in near or real-time. In turn, the whole system becomes more efficient, reliable, adaptive—in a word, smarter.

IBM also provides computing solutions to optimize the electricity generation from wind farms. We are partnering with a commercial wind turbine manufacturer to deliver improved turbine siting capability using a supercomputer to execute an IBM-designed data modeling solution to slice weeks off the analysis of turbine placement decisions. The solution also reduces response time, managing wind forecasting information to improve wind farm electricity generation. These solutions are helping to address the variability of wind resources by better forecasting electricity generation levels to enable renewables to be more efficiently integrated into the grid.

Electrical Vehicles:

IBM is developing solutions to manage electric vehicles within the electricity grid system. We are involved in three levels of system design and integration:

  1. Integration of electric vehicles into the electricity grid to manage demand: Many renewable sources of energy, such as solar or wind power, can be used to augment the traditional generation of electricity, but only if the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. With the introduction of electric cars on a large scale, the power grid will have significant battery storage capacity attached to it. IBM is engaged in the development of the software and systems needed to manage and integrate electric vehicles into the grid infrastructure.
  2. Design of Electric Vehicle Software systems: IBM software tools have been a key contributor to the development of the Chevrolet Volt. GM engineers used IBM products to develop some of the Volt’s critical electronic controls for the vehicle’s innovative battery system, electric drive unit and cabin electronics.
  3. Battery Development: IBM researchers, along with colleagues in other companies and organizations, including national labs, have announced plans to develop a commercially viable lithium-air battery. Such a battery would use lithium, an energy-dense, highly flammable metal, to react with the readily available oxygen in the air to provide a battery with sufficient energy density to expand the range and capabilities of electric vehicles.