Product Stewardship

Product Stewardship

IBM’s Product Stewardship program was established in 1991 as a proactive and strategic approach to the environmental design and management of our 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 our 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.

Process efficiency for dynamic requirements

Our supply chain represents a significant aspect of IBM’s product manufacturing. Accordingly, our environmental management system includes programs and processes to monitor and verify supply chain performance against IBM’s environmental requirements as well as legal requirements. These programs and processes must be increasingly dynamic and efficient to keep pace with the changing cadence of environmental requirements globally.

Frequent verification of product data is needed to maintain the accurate status of parts and products relative to both IBM’s product environmental requirements and the latest regulatory requirements such as the expiration schedule for exemptions in the European Directive on the restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS, 2011/65/EU) and disclosure of the regularly amended list of Substances of Very High Concern for the European REACH Directive (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006).

In 2013, IBM developed new processes to automate the revalidation of Product Content Declarations (PCDs) for procured parts. The processes identify a regular refresh cycle for PCDs and use a third-party service provider to contact suppliers to request updated declarations. This system was piloted by 10 engineering commodity teams which worked with the third-party provider to improve the request process with suppliers and the reports generated for affected parts.

At the conclusion of the pilot, all production suppliers were notified of IBM's PCD revalidation requirements and the revalidation program began processing 2,000 PCD updates per month. This process improvement in product data management ensures that IBM's technical documentation for product hardware meets the quality requirements of European Norm 50581, “Technical documentation for the assessment of electrical and electronic products with respect to the restriction of hazardous substances.”

In a parallel project, quality audits of selected PCDs were conducted to identify improvements in administrative and technical content of the declarations. The quality audits resulted in better correlation between declarations and supporting prints and specifications from IBM’s centralized corporate engineering repository for product development, and in focused training for specific suppliers on calculations associated with the data requested for particular regulatory requirements.

Also with respect to improvements in technical documentation, IBM led a team of international experts to develop a set of technical compliance guidelines for hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) in metallic surface coatings. The guideline supports the IEC 62321 standards, which define methods for testing electro-technical products in order to determine the levels of chemical substances regulated by international legal frameworks like the EU RoHS Directive. The guidelines provide interpretation of test results which, according to the international analytical test protocols for the Cr(VI) standard, are measured in different units (grams/surface area) than those specified for legal compliance in the relevant regulation (grams/coating weight).

2013 Product Stewardship Goals and Performance

Recycled Plastics
Recycled plastic used in IBM’s products can range from 50 to 100 percent by weight of the commercial resin. In 2013, 14.8 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 50 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, 10.8 percent of IBM’s total weight of plastic purchases in 2013 was recycled plastic versus the corporate goal of 5 percent recyclate.
Use of Landfills
IBM’s product end-of-life management operations worldwide processed 32,200 metric tons (71 million pounds) of end-of-life products and product waste, and sent only 0.3 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*

IBM Power Systems™ IBM released six models of IBM Power Systems servers, the 710 and 720 one-socket servers, the Power® 730 and 740 two-socket servers and the Power 750 and 760 four-socket servers. All servers use the POWER7+™ processor.

The two servers for which typical power consumption per unit of relative performance as measured by watts per relative performance, are available from the comparable, previous generation system, the 730 and 740, achieved reductions between 50 and 60 percent in this metric. These Power Systems servers continue to use 80 PLUS Platinum certified power supplies, one grade above the ENERGY STAR requirements and two grades above the EU server power supply requirements. Four systems, the Power 730, 740, 750, and 760, are certified to the ENERGY STAR server requirements (Version 2). The two-socket servers reduce idle power 28-50 percent from maximum power, and the four-socket servers 16-30 percent, depending on the configuration.

IBM System x®: The power/performance characteristics as reported in watts/MTOPS** under the Japan Energy Saving Law Metric were compared generation to generation for four System x servers announced in 2013; the metric improved by 16-84 percent. The majority of servers announced in 2013 featured 80 PLUS Platinum certified power supplies. Eleven systems have been certified to the ENERGY STAR server requirements (Version 2). The ENERGY STAR certified servers reduce the power used at idle 23-67 percent, depending on the machine type/model and the configuration of the server.

IBM System z®: IBM announced the new IBM zEnterprise® BC12 entry-level mainframe system which offers the capability to consolidate multiple traditional and cloud-based workloads onto a single platform with superior workload delivered per unit of energy consumed. The new BC12 has the same energy use and cooling footprint as the previous generation model, while supporting 77 percent greater workload with higher availability, improved security, and simplified operation.
Storage Subsystems
IBM continues to innovate in storage products, improving storage performance through the use of mixed-drive systems with capacity and throughput improvements, integration of flash drives and optimization driven by software capabilities such as Easy Tier®, thin provisioning, data compression and deduplication, and storage virtualization. IBM announced new product offerings for XIV® and the Storwize® family of products to incorporate new hardware and software capabilities to store more data more efficiently on a smaller quantity of storage media.

* IBM’s product energy goal is to continually improve the computing power delivered for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used with each new generation or model of a product.

** MTOPS-million theoretical operations per second is a calculation of machine operations based on a specified formula.

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 Research and our product development teams. These teams have combined hardware and software innovations to improve the energy efficiency of IT equipment and data centers.

IBM also actively assists 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 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR Computer program, IBM is currently participating in the development of the ENERGY STAR specifications for server and storage products. We are providing technical assistance regarding the assessment of the new Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT) metrics data, working both inside IBM and in conjunction with industry groups to evaluate the SERT results and assist EPA and various regulatory bodies outside the United States in developing server energy efficiency criteria based on the SERT metric. Similar work is planned to assess the Storage Networking Industry Association Emerald results for storage products.

On December 16, 2013, Version 2 of the ENERGY STAR program requirements for computer servers became effective. Version 2 also creates new product categories for blade servers and resilient servers, and eligible systems can be qualified upon the publication of the Version 2 requirements.

As of May 2014, IBM has certified 11 server machine types to the ENERGY STAR requirements: qualified server systems available on the market—four Power systems and seven System x enterprise server systems. These servers meet the US EPA’s requirements for power supply efficiency, idle power limits or power management capability and data reporting. For a list of IBM ENERGY STAR certified servers, see our ENERGY STAR qualified products webpage. IBM intends to qualify its System p® and System x servers to the ENERGY STAR Version 2 requirements, including the addition of blade and resilient servers.

The ENERGY STAR Data Center Storage Specification Version 1 went into effect on December 2, 2013. IBM intends to certify several of its storage systems to the specification in 2014.

Our IBM technical experts are also participating in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 1680.4 working group that is developing a standard that defines environmental requirements for some server products. It is expected that this standard will be completed in 2015, and that it could be incorporated in the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool process that is used by the US government and other large institutional purchasers of electronic products to define more environmentally preferable products.

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 System x

IBM announced new server solutions designed to expand cloud and analytics capabilities, helping to make Smarter Computing a reality for IBM System x x86 server clients. IBM's new portfolio of x86 computing solutions includes the following:

IBM Power Systems

Power Systems provide enterprise-class server capabilities for traditional and cloud applications, offering superior utilization, security, virtualization, reliability, serviceability and data processing capabilities. Power Systems are optimized for the compute-intensive performance demands of database and analytics applications. From an energy efficiency standpoint, Power Systems can deliver the most workload for unit energy consumed of any server when the system is configured to achieve maximum utilizations of 50-65 percent through workload virtualization, and the use of EnergyScale™ power management capabilities which match energy use to the workload levels on the server. The recently announced POWER8™ builds on and strengthens these capabilities, delivering significant performance increases with minimal change in the power footprint of the server systems. An example of the benefits of a client’s use of a Power Systems solution follows:

IBM PureSystems®

PureSystems combine automated systems management expertise and pre-loaded/pre-tuned application software with open, scalable hardware systems that help maximize system utilization and reduce the total number of servers required in the data center. By eliminating lower utilization servers, PureSystems allow companies to consolidate their IT operations and enable continued application/user growth without significant hardware system additions. Increased utilization leads to a smaller real-estate requirement, lower energy costs, and lower systems management costs.


An IT appliance combines server, storage and network capabilities and optimizes them to execute a specialized task or group of tasks with a significantly smaller IT hardware and energy footprint than would be required if conventional systems were combined. IBM released a new server appliance, named MessageSight, designed to help organizations manage and communicate with the billions of mobile devices and sensors found in systems such as automobiles, traffic management systems, smart buildings and household appliances. The appliance can support up to 1 million machine-to-machine (M2M) or smart and mobile devices in near-real-time, handling up to 13 million messages per second. Previously, achieving connectivity at this level required up to 280 servers; the MessageSight appliance manages the same connectivity with a single 2U rack appliance, reducing the energy use by two orders of magnitude while improving the efficiency of the data collection and access process. Furthermore, it enables management of the "Internet of Things" in ways that are likely to improve the efficiency and reduce the energy use of a whole range of activities and systems.

Storage systems

IBM continues to enhance our portfolio of storage systems, utilizing and improving various software-based data management capabilities such as Easy Tier, thin provisioning, data compression and deduplication, and storage virtualization which can reduce the storage hardware and energy footprint and the number of terabytes required to accomplish a given storage task.

In 2013, IBM introduced a range of flash-based storage systems. The FlashSystem™ 840 offers up to 12 flash cards in 2- and 4-terabyte sizes. Flash storage reduces energy use by 60 percent or more compared to disk drives, and significantly improves server and storage performance by minimizing the latency associated with data transfer within the data center.

In May 2014, IBM announced Elastic Storage, a software-defined storage technology which accelerates access to data storage both locally and globally and enables storage automation and virtualization in both traditional enterprise and cloud environments. Elastic Storage will enable reduction of storage costs through data consolidation and the use of data placement technologies to optimize the use of available storage devices, including tape storage. The ultimate outcome is to maximize the amount of data stored on a minimum number of storage products, in turn minimizing the energy use and hardware deployment of the overall storage system.

High Performance Computers (HPC)

IBM offers a full range of purpose-built and “off-the-shelf” technical computing (supercomputer) solutions. IBM’s supercomputer solutions are prevalent on both the TOP500 and Green500 supercomputer lists. As of November 2013, 16 of the top 25 most energy efficient supercomputers in the world are built on IBM high-performance computing technologies; Blue Gene®/Q and iDataPlex® dx360 M4. IBM HPC systems also occupy five of the top ten spots and nine of the top twenty-five spots on the November 2013 TOP500 list of the world’s top supercomputers. 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.

The speed and expandability of IBM’s HPC products have enabled business and the scientific community to address a wide range of complex problems and make more informed decisions in the life sciences, astronomy, climate, system simulations and modeling, and many other applications. The use of HPC systems also enables simulations 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 HPC package to address the most demanding performance applications.

As an example, IBM is partnering with the National Center for Atmospheric Research on a supercomputer named Yellowstone, which is being used to explore the nature of tornadoes, hurricanes, water shortages, solar patterns, and wind. The supercomputer is also working to study how wind turbines interact with the weather to get a detailed picture of when and why turbines turn, helping to develop predictive programs and siting algorithms to enhance the efficiency and utilization of wind farms.

Product recycling and reuse

As part of our product end-of-life management (PELM) activities, IBM began offering product take-back 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. These solutions include:

In many countries and US states, we offer 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 2013, the total weight of end-of-life products and product waste processed by these operations was 32,200 metric tons (71 million pounds). This represents 67 percent of the estimated 47,800 metric tons of new IBM IT equipment put on the market in 2013.


IBM’s goal is to reuse or recycle end-of-life products such that the amount of product sent by IBM’s PELM operations to landfills or to incineration for treatment does not exceed a combined 3 percent of the total amount processed.


In 2013, these operations sent only 0.3% of the total amount processed to landfills.


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

Of the 32,200 metric tons processed by IBM PELM operations worldwide; approximately 52.9 percent was recycled as materials, 36.3 percent was resold as products, 7.6 percent was product reused by IBM, 2.9 percent was incinerated for energy recovery, and 0.3 percent was sent to landfills or incinerated for final disposal.

IBM’s corporate-wide requirement for the environmental evaluations of the company’s PELM suppliers was established in 1991, an expansion of our supplier environmental evaluation program introduced in 1972. We evaluate these suppliers prior to doing business with them and every three years thereafter. Our objective is to use only those suppliers that have a strong focus on environmental management, including complying with laws and regulations as well as sound management practices. More about IBM’s requirements for our PELM suppliers may be found in the Environmental Requirements in the Supply Chain section of this report.

In 2013, IBM’s PELM program reached another major milestone. From 1995, when we first began including product recovery in our annual corporate environmental reporting, through the end of 2013, IBM has processed over 2 billion pounds (913,000 metric tons) of product and product waste worldwide.

IBM Worldwide PELM Operations:
Total Annual Quantity Processed

(Metric Tons)

Year Total Processed
2009 38,000
2010 36,700
2011 38,000
2012 36,100
2013 32,200
2 billion

pounds (913,000 metric tons) of product and product waste collected and processed for reuse and recycling from 1995 through 2013

Product packaging

IBM has had a program focused on the environmental attributes of our 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 we 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 product-protective packaging are addressed within IBM’s Product Stewardship program and associated engineering specifications. Efficient use of product packaging and improvements in transportation efficiency are tracked through 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 these 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. The following supplier environmental packaging requirements are accessible from the 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 possible 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:

Protective product packaging

In 2013, the integrated worldwide packaging engineering team saved an estimated 452 metric tons of packaging materials through the implementation of 19 packaging redesign projects for parts and assemblies shipped to manufacturing locations, and for packaged finished products supplied to clients worldwide. These projects delivered an annual materials and transport cost savings estimated at $4.74 million.

The following are highlights of two projects implemented:

IBM suppliers are also applying these types of new design specifications across IBM and with their other customers to deliver tangible benefits across the integrated supply chain. Over the last six years, IBM has reported combined environmental savings of over 6,670 metric tons of product packaging materials from redesign projects implemented by the packaging engineering team worldwide. The total materials and transportation cost savings was $65.1 million over the same period, benefiting IBM, parts suppliers and clients globally.

IBM’s requirement for sourcing packaging materials

IBM established its voluntary environmental requirement for the responsible sourcing of paper- and paper/wood-based packaging in 2002. It required that the paper- and 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 yet available for much of the company’s needs. With a continued focus on this objective by IBM and our suppliers over the years, 99.7 percent of the cut sheet paper and paper/wood-based packaging IBM procured worldwide in 2013 came from suppliers that warranted that the source was derived from forests managed in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner. This requirement is now incorporated into our standard supplier specification for paper/wood-based packaging.

Product safety

IBM's product requirements are integrated within various steps of the product development, test, manufacturing and delivery processes as part of a comprehensive product safety management system. Each product completes required product safety and electromagnetic compatibility compliance reviews as part of IBM's Integrated Product Development process to ensure that newly announced products comply with applicable standards, regulations and third-party certification requirements.

Compliance management tools are used by interdisciplinary teams from all IBM organizations that design, manufacture, procure, deliver, and service our product offerings.

IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain organization ensures that the design and certification requirements necessary to ensure compliance are fully incorporated into supply chain functions from procurement through product delivery. Supplier procurement specifications and contracts include design-specific regulatory compliance requirements. Manufacturing controls and product end-of-line tests are implemented in each production facility to ensure compliance with applicable requirements.

Programs for continual improvement include both internal and third-party assessments of IBM’s product safety design, development and product control implementation. These assessment results are fed back into the development and conformity assessment process for future products. In addition, product safety and regulatory compliance incident review programs provide effective capture, investigation and remediation of product safety-related incidents.

IBM also plays a leading role in the development of national and international product safety and electromagnetic compatibility design and conformity assessment standards for IT products and solutions. IBM's subject-matter experts are an integral part of international standards development organizations that are working on “next generation” and state-of-the-art standards that will be used to design and provide safe and compliant products in the future.