IBM does business with suppliers that are environmentally and socially responsible, and encourages environmental leadership among them. IBM also routinely responds to requests from our clients and governments for information about the environmental attributes of our products. In many cases, the source for this information is our suppliers.

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

  • Ensuring that IBM does business with environmentally responsible suppliers that are actively managing and reporting on their environmental impacts
  • Helping our suppliers build capabilities and expertise in the environmental area
  • Avoiding 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 environmental liabilities or adverse publicity

Supplier social and environmental management system requirements

Since 2010, IBM has required that all of its first-tier suppliers maintain a management system to address their social and environmental responsibilities. Our objective is to help our suppliers build their own capability to succeed in this area. With this in mind, the requirements for IBM suppliers are summarized below:

  • Define, deploy and sustain a management system that addresses the intersections of their operations 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 operations
  • Conduct self-assessments and audits, as well as management reviews, of their system
  • Cascade these requirements to their suppliers who perform work that is material to the products, parts and/or services supplied to IBM

The full set of requirements may be found on IBM’s social and environmental management system supplier requirements webpage.


Suppliers managing chemicals, wastes and end-of-life equipment

IBM has additional requirements for those suppliers where IBM:

  • Specifies and/or furnishes chemicals or process equipment
  • Procures hazardous waste treatment and/or disposal services
  • Procures product end-of-life management services
  • Uses extended producer responsibility solutions

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, down-stream supplier management, and reporting.

For suppliers providing hazardous waste management services or product end-of-life management services (including extended producer responsibility solutions), IBM conducts a three-stage supplier environmental evaluation, with increasing levels of required detail, depending on the risks associated with and the potential environmental impacts from the supplier's operations.

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 continue 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
  • Corporate environmental and social responsibility
  • Compliance with IBM’s social and environmental management requirements and supplier’s own social and environmental management system
  • Applicable legal requirements and compliance
  • Permits, licenses and other applicable regulatory requirements
  • Environmental liability insurance and financial assurance

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 that meets IBM’s requirements (for treatment, recycling and/or disposal) is limited or nonexistent.

Under IBM’s waste management program, hazardous wastes are treated, recycled or disposed at IBM-approved facilities within the country where they are generated, whenever possible. IBM does not export hazardous wastes from the U.S. 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 accordance 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 until suitable processing facilities are available.

IBM’s supplier evaluation program was extended in 2014 to cover suppliers providing collective solutions (e.g., consortia) for the management of IBM’s end-of-life product wastes. These suppliers have become more important as new extended producer responsibility regulatory schemes have been implemented in many countries. IBM evaluates the collective solutions we use to fulfill our responsibilities as a manufacturer of products covered by such schemes, as well as collective solutions that we use for the disposal of products purchased for our internal use.

Key IBM milestones for responsibility in the supply chain

1972

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

1980

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

1991

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

1993

Established product environmental compliance specification 46G3772 with environmental requirements for parts and products IBM procures from suppliers

2002

Added a requirement to assess our suppliers and certain subcontractors they may use to handle recycling and/or disposal operations in countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

2005

Created a part and product compliance declaration form (referred to as Product Content Declaration or PCD) to facilitate transfer of part and product compliance information from the supply chain to IBM

2010

Required suppliers having a direct relationship with IBM to establish a management system that addresses their social and environmental responsibilities and to cascade these requirements to their suppliers

2013

Incorporated the assessment of product environmental compliance requirements into the supply chain audit process, and introduced reviews via a sampling approach of PCD forms for data integrity

2014

Expanded our supplier evaluation program to include suppliers providing collective solutions for the management of IBM's end-of-life product wastes

2016

Established an environmental goal to have first-tier suppliers providing product end-of-life management, recycling and disposal services in the U.S., Canada, or the EU achieve third-party certification to an acceptable electronic product recycling standard

1972

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

1980

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

1991

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

1993

Established product environmental compliance specification 46G3772 with environmental requirements for parts and products IBM procures from suppliers

2002

Added a requirement to assess our suppliers and certain subcontractors they may use to handle recycling and/or disposal operations in countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

2005

Created a part and product compliance declaration form (referred to as Product Content Declaration or PCD) to facilitate transfer of part and product compliance information from the supply chain to IBM

2010

Required suppliers having a direct relationship with IBM to establish a management system that addresses their social and environmental responsibilities and to cascade these requirements to their suppliers

2013

Incorporated the assessment of product environmental compliance requirements into the supply chain audit process, and introduced reviews via a sampling approach of PCD forms for data integrity

2014

Expanded our supplier evaluation program to include suppliers providing collective solutions for the management of IBM's end-of-life product wastes

2016

Established an environmental goal to have first-tier suppliers providing product end-of-life management, recycling and disposal services in the U.S., Canada, or the EU achieve third-party certification to an acceptable electronic product recycling standard

Download the 2016 report