Process Stewardship

Process Stewardship

Among its objectives, IBM’s Corporate Policy on Environmental Affairs calls for our use of development and manufacturing processes that are protective of the environment.

Environmentally preferable substances and materials

As an integral part of the global EMS through which we support the objectives of our Corporate Policy on Environmental Affairs, we routinely and consistently monitor and manage the substances we use in our manufacturing and development processes and in our products.

Our precautionary approach includes the careful scientific review and assessment of certain substances prior to their use in IBM processes and products. In specific instances, we have chosen to proactively prohibit, restrict or find alternative substances used in our processes and products when the weight of scientific evidence determines a potential adverse effect upon human health or the environment, even when law permits the use of the substance.

We also conduct scientific assessments of existing approved substances when new processes or major modifications to existing processes are being developed. The objective of these scientific assessments is to identify potential substitutes that may be environmentally preferable. We believe that the same scientific rigor is required when investigating the human health and environmental effects of potential substitutes as was applied to the investigation of the substance in use.

IBM has a long history of continually taking proactive steps to evaluate the chemicals used in our processes and products; identifying potential substitutes that may have less impact on the environment, health, and safety; and eliminating, restricting and/or prohibiting the use of substances for which a more preferable alternative is available that is capable of meeting quality and safety requirements of our processes and products.

The following provides a sampling of IBM’s 40-plus years of early leadership in prohibiting or restricting many substances of concern from our processes and products before regulatory requirements were imposed. For a more complete listing, see our Materials use webpage.

The IBM restrictions on specific substances and other environmental requirements for our products are identified in our Engineering Specification: Baseline Environmental Requirements for Supplier Deliverables to IBM.


By definition, nanotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to make and utilize very small things (dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers), creating materials with unique properties and enabling novel and useful applications. It involves an ever-advancing set of tools, techniques and unique applications involving the structure and composition of materials on a nanoscale.

Nanotechnology is already part of a wide variety of products—from cosmetics and sunscreens to paints, clothing and golf equipment. It can make products lighter, stronger, cleaner, less expensive and more precise, more energy efficient, and it has been critical to advancements in the IT industry.

IBM Research became involved in the world of nanoscience in 1981 when Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer invented the scanning tunneling microscope, revolutionizing our ability to manipulate solid surfaces the size of atoms. Since then, IBM has achieved numerous developments in the field—from moving and controlling individual atoms for the first time, to developing logic circuits using carbon nanotubes, to incorporating sub-nanometer material layers into commercially mass-produced hard disk drive recording heads and magnetic disk coatings.

We were also one of the first companies to create safe work practices and health and safety training for our employees working with nanoparticles. IBM, along with the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative and other semiconductor companies, is participating in a collaborative study with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University at Albany, State University of New York, to monitor potential workplace exposure to nanoparticles during chemical mechanical planarization operation and maintenance.

IBM’s current nanotechnology research aims to devise new atom- and molecular-scale structures and methods for enhancing information technologies, as well as discovering and understanding their scientific foundations. We believe these technologies can bring with them significant social and environmental benefits.

Two of our latest nanotechnology research advancements: