2014 Corporate Responsibility Report

Product stewardship

IBM established its product stewardship program 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 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.

Product environmental compliance process

Regulatory and legislative requirements affecting electrical and electronic equipment continue to proliferate globally. Integrated within IBM’s global environmental management system, IBM has programs — underpinned by robust processes and state-of-the-art tools — that ensure IBM’s continued compliance with worldwide environmental laws and regulations without impacting business. In 2014, we identified 120 new or modified product-related regulations and acted on 64 of those regulations to meet the milestones defined by the regulations.

Frequent verification of product data is required 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) or the disclosure of the regularly amended list of Substances of Very High Concern developed for the European Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation (REACH, Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006). In 2013, IBM developed a new process to automate the revalidation of Product Content Declarations (PCDs) for procured parts. The process includes a regular refresh cycle for PCDs whereby we request suppliers to update their declarations. In 2014, this process was further enhanced by the deployment of an automated validation tool that checks submitted PCDs against a series of rules to help ensure quality.

IBM conducts quality audits of selected PCDs to identify improvements in the administrative and technical content of the declarations. These process improvements in product data management ensure 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.”

IBM also has deployed analytical tools for managing RoHS exemptions that are due to expire in July 2016. One tool identifies, in real-time, which IBM part numbers (among thousands) are impacted by the expiring exemptions. The tool’s speed helps engineers ensure compliance while avoiding a negative impact on the business. Prior to the tool’s deployment, engineers spent extensive time analyzing complex bills-of-materials to identify which IBM parts were impacted by changing RoHS exemptions.

2014 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 2014, 17.1 percent of the plastic resins procured by IBM and its suppliers through IBM's corporate contracts for use in IBM's products were resins that contained 50-100 percent recycled content. Comparing only the weight of the recycled fraction of these resins to the total weight of plastics (virgin and recycled) purchased, 12.1 percent of IBM's total plastic purchases in 2014 were recycled plastic versus the corporate goal of 5 percent.
Use of landfills IBM's product end-of-life management operations worldwide processed approximately 32,000 metric tons (70.5 million pounds) of end-of-life products and product waste, and sent only 0.5 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 One of IBM's product energy efficiency goals is to continually improve the computing power delivered for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used with each new generation of server. In 2014, the IBM Power Systems™ S822, S824, and E880 — the three servers for which typical watts consumed per relative performance are available from the comparable, previous-generation systems — achieved reductions between 4 and 38 percent on this metric. The IBM z13™, announced in January 2015, increases the available capacity per kilowatt over the IBM zEnterprise™ EC12 system by 46 percent for the air-cooled and 58 percent for the water-cooled model.

IBM also has a goal to qualify its new server and storage products to the ENERGY STAR program criteria where practical, and where criteria have been developed for the specific server or storage product type. In 2014 the IBM Power Systems S822, S822L, and S824 were certified to the ENERGY STAR server requirements (Version 2). The IBM FlashSystem™ 840, IBM XIV® storage system, and V3700 storage products had some of their available configurations ENERGY STAR certified against Version 1 of the storage requirements.

As of May 2015, IBM had certified seven Power server and three storage machine types to the ENERGY STAR requirements. The Power servers meet the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) requirements for power-supply efficiency, idle power limits or power management capability, and Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT) metric data reporting. The storage products meet requirements for power-supply efficiency and reporting of the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) Emerald Power Efficiency Measurement Specification results.

For links to the data sheets for IBM ENERGY STAR certified servers and storage products, see our ENERGY STAR certified products webpage.

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. Through collaboration of IBM Research and our product development teams, we have combined hardware and software technologies to improve the energy efficiency of IT equipment and data centers.

Following are some examples of new products IBM has developed with increased performance and improved energy efficiency. Additional information about these products, and how they are being used by clients to improve their operations, reduce energy use and costs, and lower the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their operations, can be found on IBM’s energy efficient products, services, and solutions webpage.

IBM Power Systems

IBM's Power Systems provide enterprise-class server capabilities for traditional and cloud applications, with an emphasis on data-centric and highly virtualized operations requiring high reliability and availability. IBM POWER8® servers offer a broad range of specialized functional capabilities that may not be available in other servers. They offer 6-12 cores per processor with eight threads per core and large on-processor memory caches, delivering significant performance increases with minimal change in the power footprint of the server systems. From an energy-efficiency standpoint, Power Systems servers can deliver the most workload for unit of 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 matches energy use to the workload levels on the server.

IBM released six models of IBM Power Systems servers in 2014: the one-socket S812 and S814, the two-socket S822 and S824, and the enterprise E870 and E880 systems. These Power Systems servers continue to use 80 PLUS Platinum certified power supplies, one grade above the ENERGY STAR requirements and two grades above requirements established by Directive 2009/125/EC of the Ecodesign Requirements for computers and computer servers. Seven systems, the IBM Power® 730, 740, 750, and 760, and the IBM Power Systems S822, S822L, and S824 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

z Systems mainframes

IBM z Systems™ mainframe servers provide the computing infrastructure for the new “app economy”. In January 2015, IBM announced the new IBM z13. One of the most sophisticated computer systems ever built, it delivers scale and economics for computing needs together with real-time encryption and analytics to handle workloads that help meet the demands of today’s mobile economy, all while transforming the efficiency and economics of IT. The air- and water-cooled z13s offer 46 percent and 58 percent more capacity per kilowatt, respectively, compared to the air-cooled zEnterprise EC12. With its high utilization rates, the z13 offers one of the most efficient computing platforms when measuring the workload delivered per unit of energy consumed.

High-performance computers

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 2014, 24 of the top 50 most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world, as rated on the Green500 List, were built on the IBM Blue Gene®/Q high-performance computing (HPC) platform. IBM Blue Gene/Q systems also occupy 4 of the top 10 spots and 9 of the top 50 spots on the November 2014 TOP500 list of the world’s top supercomputers. An IBM Power 775 system is also in the top 50 of the TOP500 list. Technologies developed through IBM’s HPC development efforts are leveraged across the entire IBM Systems product line to improve performance and energy efficiency.

The speed and expandability of IBM’s HPC products and solutions have enabled business and the scientific community to address a wide range of complex problems and simulations and make more informed decisions in the life sciences, astronomy, climate, system simulations and modeling, and many other applications. IBM continues its leadership performance in a space-saving, power-efficient HPC package to address the most demanding performance applications, having recently been selected by the US Department of Energy to develop two IBM OpenPOWER™ supercomputers based on IBM’s Data Centric computing architecture. The “Sierra” supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore and “Summit” at Oak Ridge will be offered to researchers to solve scientific and research projects in the areas of energy, national defense, healthcare, genomics, economics, financial systems, social behavior, and visualization of large and complex datasets.

Storage systems

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

IBM expanded its range of flash-based storage systems, announcing the FlashSystem 900 in March 2015. The FlashSystem 900 provides a 40 percent performance/power improvement as measured by the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) Emerald Power Efficiency Measurement Specification when compared to the FlashSystem 840. 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.

IBM’s other storage product offerings provide clients efficiency improvements for their IT operations. The IBM XIV high-end, grid-scale disk storage system offers excellent economics, achieving an 80 percent reduction in space footprint and power consumption over previous-generation technologies configured to handle and store comparable amounts of data. Its grid-scale architecture automatically enables 95 percent utilization of storage capacity with no performance degradation.

The IBM Storwize® family of disk storage systems include built-in functions such as Real-time Compression™ and Easy Tier technology combining flash and hard-disk drives to deliver extraordinary levels of efficiency and high performance. Similar to the IBM XIV storage product, these capabilities enable the Storwize hardware to manage more data than previous-generation systems, decreasing the hardware and energy consumption footprint required to manage a given amount of data by 20-80 percent, depending on the application.

IBM has continued to expand its software-defined Elastic Storage offerings, which enable storage automation and virtualization in both traditional and cloud environments. Elastic Storage enables the reduction of storage energy consumption and 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 energy use.


IT appliances combine server, storage and network capabilities, and then optimize them to execute a specialized task or group of tasks with a significantly smaller IT hardware and energy footprint than would be required if individual systems were deployed in a conventional manner.

IBM MessageSight, a server appliance, is 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. Previously, achieving connectivity at this level required hundreds of servers. The MessageSight appliance manages the same connectivity with a single server appliance, reducing the energy use by two orders of magnitude. IBM also offers appliances for data warehousing, storage data compression, data security and masking, and other specialty activities to offer optimized capabilities with a minimal energy footprint.

SoftLayer Cloud and Cloud Managed Services IT offerings

IBM has increased both its public SoftLayer Cloud and private or hybrid Cloud Managed Services offerings, with 37 cloud data center locations around the globe. Cloud computing offers an on-demand, more efficient way to deploy and run IT applications and systems. As an example of the benefits of the cloud, a banking client transferred its IT infrastructure to an IBM hybrid cloud solution, placing the bank’s online and mobile workloads on the public cloud and its large-scale transaction workloads on a private cloud. This reduced the server infrastructure by 60 percent, achieving significant reductions in energy consumption and other operations and maintenance costs.

Development of energy efficiency standards

IBM actively assists in the development of external product energy efficiency standards. As in 1992 when we helped to develop and were a charter member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR computer program, IBM staff are actively participating in the development of updates to the ENERGY STAR requirements for server and storage products.

We are providing technical assistance regarding the assessment of the Standard Performance Evaluation Committee (SPEC) Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT) and the SNIA Emerald Power Efficiency Measurement Specification, working both inside IBM and in conjunction with industry groups to evaluate the SERT and Emerald results. We are also assisting the EPA and various regulatory bodies outside the United States in developing server energy efficiency criteria based on the SERT metric. Our activities have expanded to include providing extensive comments and technical data to the European Union Energy-related Products (ErP) Lot 9 Study on Server and Storage products and to the China National Institute of Standardization’s server energy efficiency requirements effort.

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. These solutions include:

  • 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 many countries and US states, we offer solutions for the end-of-life management of computer equipment, either through voluntary IBM initiatives or programs in which we participate.

In 2014, the total weight of end-of-life products and product waste processed by these operations was approximately 32,000 metric tons (70.5 million pounds). This represents 76 percent of the estimated 42,000 metric tons of new IBM IT equipment put on the market in 2014.

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.

IBM's global PELM operations sent approximately 0.5 percent by weight of end-of-life products and product waste directly to landfill or incineration as a disposal treatment in 2014, versus a target of not exceeding 3 percent. IBM has sent less than 1 percent of the PELM processed annually to landfill or incineration as a final treatment since 2006.

2014 product end-of-life management operations

Total processed: 32,000 metric tons (% by weight)


Of the 32,000 metric tons processed by IBM PELM operations worldwide, 54.9 percent was recycled as materials, 34.9 percent was resold as products, 6.8 percent was product reused by IBM, 2.9 percent was incinerated for energy recovery, and an estimated 0.5 percent was sent to landfills or incinerated for final disposal.

In 1991, IBM expanded our supplier environmental evaluation program — first introduced in 1972 — to include a corporation-wide requirement to evaluate the company’s PELM suppliers. 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.

From 1995, when we first began including product recovery in our annual corporate environmental report, through the end of 2014, IBM has documented the collection and processing of approximately 945,000 metric tons (about 2.1 billion pounds) of product and product waste worldwide.


In 2014, IBM’s PELM operations sent 0.5 percent of product waste directly to landfill or incineration facilities — surpassing our goal of 3 percent maximum.

Product packaging

IBM’s corporate 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 been embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents, which extend their reach to include our supply chain and other business partners.

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. We also collaborate with suppliers to use recycled and recyclable materials and promote reuse. The design of rugged products, the efficient use of protective product packaging, and the environmental benefits resulting from improvements in transportation efficiency are addressed and tracked though this program. Key elements of IBM’s packaging guidelines have also been embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents which can be found on IBM's 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 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:

  • Ozone-depleting substances
  • Restricted heavy metals and other materials of concern
  • Source reduction
  • Reusable packaging systems
  • Recyclable packaging
  • Conserving natural resources

All product packaging suppliers that pack/ship products to customers on behalf of IBM worldwide must submit required packaging environmental compliance data to IBM, along with other relevant packaging compliance and performance data, through web-enabled tools. Any suppliers with a non-conformance must submit and implement supplier improvement plans to close out the identified issues within an agreed timeframe. Applying this process to packaging suppliers worldwide ensures ongoing compliance with IBM's environmental product packaging requirements.

Packaging reduction and improvements

In 2014, the global packaging engineering team saved an estimated 101.6 metric tons of packaging materials through the implementation of two significant packaging redesign projects for parts and assemblies shipped from suppliers to IBM fulfillment locations. These projects delivered an annual materials and transportation cost savings estimated at $2 million.

IBM packaging engineers in the United States and China worked in conjunction with several IBM suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging used to ship parts into IBM fulfillment sites. They designed and tested packaging that reduced packaging materials by as much as two-thirds and decreased the packaging size. This also improved space utilization in transit, and lowered the per-unit fossil-fuel consumption and emissions.

IBM also implemented a new packaging material called RESTORE Mushroom Packaging, to protect our large mainframe computers during domestic US shipping. This material is made from mushroom mycelium (roots) combined with agricultural waste (corn stalks). This mixture is placed in a mold and allowed to grow under ambient temperatures. The product is then removed from the mold and heat-treated. IBM attaches these mushroom cushions to a corrugate end cap, which is then placed on the outside of the mainframe for product protection.

Sourcing of paper and paper/wood-based packaging materials

IBM established its voluntary environmental goal for the responsible sourcing of paper and paper/wood-based packaging in 2002. It stated that the paper and paper/wood-based packaging directly acquired by IBM should 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 available to meet our needs. In 2014, after a continued focus on this objective by IBM and our suppliers over the years, 99 percent of the paper and paper/wood-based packaging IBM procured worldwide 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.