Environmental requirements in the supply chain

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.

Program objectives

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

  • Ensuring that IBM does business with environmentally responsible suppliers who are actively managing and reporting on their environmental intersects and impacts
  • Helping our suppliers build capabilities and expertise in the environmental area
  • Preventing the transfer of responsibility for environmentally sensitive operations to any company lacking the commitment or capability to manage them properly
  • Reducing environmental and workplace health and safety risks of our suppliers
  • Protecting IBM, to the greatest extent possible, from potential long-term environmental liabilities or potential adverse publicity


Established a corporate directive requiring the environment evaluation of suppliers of hazardous waste services


Expanded our environmental evaluations of suppliers by establishing a second corporate directive to require the environmental evaluation of certain production-related suppliers


Further expanded our environmental evaluations of suppliers, adding a requirement that product recycling and product disposal suppliers be evaluated


Added a requirement to assess our suppliers and certain subcontractors they may use to handle recycling and/or disposal operations in non-OECD countries


Established a requirement that all of IBM's first-tier suppliers establish a management system to address their social and environmental responsibilities-and that they cascade this requirement to their suppliers

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. These suppliers are required to:

  • Define, deploy and sustain a management system that addresses their intersections with employees, society and the environment
  • Measure performance and establish voluntary, quantifiable environmental goals in the areas of waste, energy and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Publicly disclose results associated with these voluntary environmental goals and other environmental aspects of their management systems
  • As part of their management system, conduct self-assessments and audits, as well as management reviews of their system
  • Cascade these requirements to any of their suppliers who perform work that is material to the products, parts and/or services supplied to IBM

More information on these requirements may be found on IBM’s supply chain environmental responsibility website.

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

IBM has additional requirements for those suppliers where IBM:

  • Specifies and/or furnishes chemicals or process equipment
  • Procures materials, parts and products for use in hardware applications
  • Procures hazardous waste and nonhazardous special waste treatment and/or disposal services
  • Procures product end-of life management services
  • Uses extended producer responsibility systems

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:

  • Facility operational activities, capabilities, capacities and services:
    • Waste management services, treatment, recycling or final disposal methods, processing capacity and facility construction design (floors, docks, secondary containment)
    • Treatment and recycling methods for the hazardous and nonhazardous special wastes generated by supplier’s operations
    • Environmental, health and industrial safety and hygiene management plans, training programs, emergency response plan and fire and safety equipment, personal protective equipment, chemicals used, safety data sheets and hazards communication program, evacuation plans, first aid, medical screening and monitoring programs, etc.
  • Corporate environmental and social responsibility:
    • Supplier’s compliance to IBM’s social and environmental management requirements — supplier’s social and environmental management system
  • Applicable legal requirements and compliance:
    • Permits, licenses and other applicable regulatory requirements, regulatory agencies and contacts
    • Compliance history (notices of violation, government citations, public complaints and summary of inspections and findings)
  • Environmental programs, including:
    • Air emissions, water (consumption and discharges), chemical management, waste management, supplier evaluations, incident prevention and reporting, energy management, soil and groundwater, etc.
    • Underground storage tanks and piping systems
    • Spill prevention, containment and response
    • Environmental liabilities, closure and post-closure care cost funding and plans and insurance coverage

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.