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, that can be upgraded and reused to extend product life, that incorporate recycled content and environmentally preferable materials and finishes, and that 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 applicable IBM offering management processes. Information on product environmental attributes such as energy efficiency, materials content, chemical emissions, design for recycling, end-of-life management and packaging are documented in IBM’s Product Environmental Profile (PEP) application and reviewed at various checkpoints during the development process.

Compliance management tools like the Product Content Declaration (PCD) 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, PCDs 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 processes

Regulatory and legislative requirements affecting electrical and electronic equipment continue to proliferate globally. Integrated within IBM’s global EMS, IBM has programs — underpinned by robust processes and state-of-the-art applications — that ensure our continued compliance with worldwide environmental laws and regulations without impacting business. In 2016, we identified 129 new or modified product-related regulations and acted upon them to meet the requirements of the regulations.

Frequent verification of product data is required to maintain compliance 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 Union Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS, 2011/65/EU). IBM conducts quality audits of PCDs to drive improvements in the content of the declarations and the supporting administrative processes. Improvements in data management regarding the materials contained in IBM’s products ensure that IBM’s technical documentation for products meets the quality requirements described within European Norm 50581: “Technical documentation for the assessment of electrical and electronic products with respect to the restriction of hazardous substances.”

IBM has also deployed analytical applications for managing environmental compliance of products. As an example, one application identifies which IBM part numbers (among thousands) are impacted by expiring exemptions for the European Union RoHS Directive. This information, coupled with other supply chain information, assists engineers and procurement staff with part-number transition management and ensures compliance while avoiding a negative impact on IBM’s business. Prior to the application’s deployment, engineers spent extensive amounts of time analyzing complex bills-of-materials to identify which IBM parts were impacted by changing RoHS requirements.

2016 product stewardship goals and performance

Use of landfills

IBM’s product end-of-life management operations worldwide processed 30,800 metric tons (67.9 million pounds) of end-of-life products and product waste, and sent only 0.6 percent (by weight) of the total to landfills or incineration facilities for treatment, performing better than IBM’s corporate goal of sending 3 percent or less of the total amount processed to landfill or incineration facilities for treatment.

Product energy efficiency

One of IBM’s product energy efficiency goals is to improve the computing power delivered for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used by each new generation of server. In 2016, the IBM OpenPOWER S822LC for high-performance computing (HPC) was released. It improved its Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT) weighted geomean active efficiency metric by 18 percent versus that of the comparable previous generation product. The SERT was created by the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC). The SPECpower Committee designed, implemented, and delivered the SERT suite, a next-generation tool set for measuring and evaluating the energy efficiency of servers. In the future, all comparisons of performance/power efficiency improvements for servers will be performed using the SERT metric.

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 2016, IBM certified selected configurations of the IBM Storwize® V5030 (2078-324 and 2078-12C) storage product to Version 1 of the ENERGY STAR data center storage requirements.

As of May 2017, IBM had nine Power Systems™ servers and six storage machine types certified to the ENERGY STAR requirements. The Power® servers meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) requirements for power-supply efficiency, idle power limits or power management capability, and SPEC SERT metric data reporting. The storage products meet requirements for power-supply efficiency and reporting of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) Emerald Power Efficiency Measurement Specification results.

All ENERGY STAR certified IBM FlashSystem® storage products and certified IBM server products also have 80 PLUS Platinum certified power supplies.

Product energy efficiency

Product energy efficiency 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, with IBM POWER8® and OpenPOWER technologies, provide enterprise-class server capabilities for traditional and cloud applications, with an emphasis on data-centric and highly virtualized operations that require high reliability and availability. IBM Power Systems servers offer a broad range of specialized functional capabilities that may not be available in other servers. From an energy efficiency standpoint, IBM Power Systems servers can deliver the most workload per unit of energy consumed of any server, when the system is configured to enable virtualization of workloads for maximum utilization of up to 80 percent. Power Systems also offer IBM EnergyScale™ power management capabilities that match energy use of the server to its workload levels, minimizing energy use. For selected products, water cooling is available to cool the system more efficiently, reducing required cooling fan speeds to deliver an 8 percent lower energy use.

The IBM OpenPOWER S822LC server has an 80 PLUS Platinum certified power supply, one grade above ENERGY STAR requirements and two grades above requirements established pursuant to European Union Directive 2009/125/EC, which sets ecodesign requirements for computer servers.

To improve the energy efficiency of IBM Power Systems servers, IBM developed a technique, called “resonant clocking,” which reduces the power demands of the processor clock. The processor clock sets the rate of computation and can consume up to 25 percent of the processor power. The innovation reduced clock power by 40 percent and processor power demand by 10 percent. The power savings translates into a 2 to 4 percent higher processor frequency or an 8 percent higher workload throughput, enabling the server to deliver more work for each watt consumed.

IBM Power Systems client efficiency examples

  • IBM Power Systems servers can make material improvements in the efficiency of data center operations. One client implemented an IBM Power Systems S822L server solution to perform complex time- and computational-intensive workloads. Compared to a competing x86-based solution, IBM reduced computing time by 40 hours (40 percent) while reducing energy consumption by 6 MWh/year (40 percent). The reduced energy consumption avoided 3 metric tons (MT) of CO2 emissions for each S822L server deployed.
  • Another client installed two IBM Power Systems E880 servers and six IBM FlashSystem 820 storage products to replace a legacy IT system. The new system delivered up to 90 percent faster production planning through improved computational and storage performance, which enabled the client to speed up deliveries to customers. At the same time, system energy consumption was reduced by over 450 MWh/year, avoiding 210 MT of CO2/year.
  • Energy use reductions and efficiency improvements are also achieved through the improved utilization capabilities of IBM Power Systems servers. A cloud services client selected the IBM Power Systems S812L server because it could host twice the number of virtual environments as a competing x86-based server. Deployment of the Power Systems server reduced the server count by half and energy consumption by approximately 40 percent while offering improved reliability, serviceability and performance. The improved efficiency saves 3 MWh/year and avoids associated CO2 emissions of 1 MT. Similar productivity and energy efficiency improvements are being achieved across the thousands of IBM Power Systems that IBM sells each year.

z Systems mainframes

IBM z Systems® mainframe servers provide a unified, secure infrastructure for cloud, enterprise mobility, and analytics operations and applications. The IBM z13® can support up to 8,000 virtual images and operate at utilizations of 90 percent or better to enable the consolidation of multiple workloads onto a single, highly efficient server platform. With its high utilization rates, the z13 offers one of the most efficient computing platforms when measured by the workload delivered per unit of energy consumed. One client, using a workload management automation tool, consolidated and optimized software from its legacy server and storage systems onto an IBM z13 server, reducing overall energy use in its data center by 40 percent — saving approximately 45 MWh/year of electricity consumption and avoiding 18 MT of associated CO2 emissions.

IBM offers a water-cooled version of the z13, which provides 8 percent more computing capacity per kilowatt consumed when compared to the air-cooled model.

High-performance computing systems

IBM offers a full range of purpose-built and “off the shelf” technical computing (supercomputer) solutions and systems. IBM’s supercomputers are found in both the TOP500 and Green Graph 500 supercomputer lists. As of November 2016, IBM had five BlueGene®/Q supercomputers among the top 30 in the TOP500 list, as well as 19 BlueGene/Q supercomputers in the top 100 of the Green Graph 500. The TOP500 list ranks computers based on their ability to solve a linear set of equations, while the Green Graph 500 compares HPC systems based on a “performance per watt” metric. Technologies developed through IBM’s HPC development efforts are leveraged across the entire IBM product line to improve performance and energy efficiency.

The speed and expandability of IBM’s HPC products and solutions have enabled users — in the business and scientific community, as well as governments — to carry out complex simulations and address a wide range of problems on topics such as life sciences, astronomy, climate and many other applications. OpenPOWER HPC technology is enabling advances in supercomputing. In 2016, the Little Green Machine II HPC cluster was announced by a research institute. The HPC cluster is based on the OpenPOWER architecture and consists of one IBM OpenPOWER S821LC and four IBM OpenPOWER 822LC servers with eight compute nodes, and is small enough to be transported with a carrier bicycle. It uses 1 percent of the electricity of a large supercomputer while enabling the execution of simulations that were run on the 18,688-node Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States.

Storage systems

IBM’s range of storage products — including the IBM FlashSystem 900, the IBM XIV®, the Storwize family, the DS8880 enterprise storage family, and tape systems — offer clients solutions for all their data storage needs. IBM storage products are supported by software-defined storage and capacity optimization methods (COMs) that maximize the utilization of available storage capacity and assign data to the storage tier commensurate with the importance of the data. COM functions include software-based data management capabilities such as Easy Tier®, thin provisioning, data compression and de-duplication, and storage virtualization. These capabilities can reduce the storage hardware and energy footprint as well as the number of terabytes required to accomplish a given storage task.

IBM’s FlashSystem storage devices reduce energy use by 60 percent or more compared to disk drives, and significantly improve server and storage performance by minimizing the latency associated with data transfer within the data center.

IBM’s software-defined Spectrum Scale™ technology enables storage automation and virtualization in both traditional and cloud environments. In addition, it enables the reduction of storage energy consumption and costs through data consolidation and 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.

Storage systems client solutions

  • One client implemented an IBM flash storage solution to replace a large disk storage system. The solution incorporated a new IBM FlashSystem V9000 and storage area network volume controller with existing IBM XIV and Storwize V7000 storage products, using IBM Spectrum Virtualize™ software and VersaStack solutions to integrate the hardware, maximize performance and minimize the system electricity consumption and equipment footprint. The integration of the FlashSystem storage improved system performance by 57 percent while reducing floor space 98 percent, energy use by over 60 MWh/year, and associated CO2 emissions by 23 MT.
  • Another client consolidated six high-end storage racks onto two IBM Storwize V7000 storage products using IBM Spectrum Virtualize software to centralize storage management and optimize capacity use. The consolidation boosted storage capacity by 150 percent and performance by 200 percent, while reducing occupied floor space by 75 percent, energy consumption by 55 percent, and CO2 emissions by 2 MT.

Similar productivity and energy efficiency improvements are being achieved, leveraging IBM storage technologies and capabilities, across the thousands of systems that IBM sells each year.

Development of energy efficiency standards

IBM actively assists regulatory and standards bodies in the development of product energy efficiency standards. In 1992, IBM became a charter member of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR computer program and helped to develop the first ENERGY STAR criteria for personal computers. Since then, we have continued our support for the ENERGY STAR program and assisted in the development of new criteria for certifying server and storage products.

IBM engineers are also working with industry peers and technical associations to support the development of harmonized energy efficiency standards for server and storage products worldwide. As a part of this effort, we are providing technical assistance to government regulatory bodies regarding the assessment of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) Server Efficiency Rating Tool (SERT) and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) Emerald Power Efficiency Measurement Specification. Examples of our activities include:

  • Performing extensive evaluations of SERT test data and other industry metrics in support of creating a single metric that can be used to assess effectively the energy efficiency of server products in terms of minimizing the deployed server power required to deliver a given workload.
  • Working in collaboration with The Green Grid, the Information Technology Industry Council, and DIGITALEUROPE to evaluate the SERT and Emerald results and to advocate for SERT and Emerald as the harmonized energy efficiency test metrics for server and storage products.
  • Assisting the EPA ENERGY STAR program and regulatory bodies in China, the European Union and Japan with the development of server energy efficiency criteria based on the SERT metric.

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 U.S. 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.

IBM’s 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 (by weight) of the total amount processed. In 2016, IBM's global PELM operations sent approximately 0.6 percent by weight of end-of-life products and product waste directly to landfill or incineration as a disposal treatment. The total weight of end-of-life products and product waste processed by these operations was 30,800 metric tons (67.9 million pounds). Of the 30,800 metric tons processed by IBM PELM operations worldwide, 51.3 percent was recycled as materials, 40.8 percent was resold as products, 4.9 percent was product reused by IBM, 2.4 percent was incinerated for energy recovery, and an estimated 0.6 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.

2016 product end-of-life management operations

2016 product end-of-life management operations (% by weight of 30,800 metric tons processed) 51.3% Recycled 40.8% Resold 4.9% Reused 2.4% Waste-to-energy 0.6% Landfill and incineration

From 1995, when we first began including product recovery in our annual corporate environmental report, through the end of 2016, IBM has documented the collection and processing of approximately 1 million metric tons (about 2.2 billion pounds) of product and product waste worldwide.

Product packaging

IBM has had a program focused on the environmental attributes of its product packaging since the late 1980s. Our 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.

Under IBM’s program, packaging engineers design solutions that minimize toxic substances by specifying nontoxic materials and inks. We keep packaging to a minimum while achieving protection of 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 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 been embedded in various engineering specifications and procurement documents, which can be found on IBM’s information for suppliers webpage. This helps to extend the reach of IBM’s environmental packaging program to include our supply chain and business partners.

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 in our requirements are evaluated based on our practical and regulatory experience and customer feedback. Other environmental areas addressed in IBM’s 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 or ship products to customers on behalf of IBM worldwide must submit packaging environmental data to IBM, along with other relevant compliance and performance data. Suppliers with a non-conformance must submit and implement improvement plans to close out the identified issues within an agreed timeframe. Applying this process to packaging suppliers ensures ongoing compliance with IBM’s product packaging requirements.

Packaging reduction and improvements

In 2016, IBM’s global packaging technology team saved an estimated 160 metric tons of packaging materials through the implementation of packaging redesign projects for parts and assemblies shipped to manufacturing locations, and for finished products supplied to clients worldwide. These projects delivered an estimated annual materials and transportation cost savings of $2.1 million.

Following are highlights of two packaging reduction projects implemented:

  • Redesigning packaging for server shipments

    Instead of shipping finished goods to customers in single packages, a redesign allows rack servers to be sent in bulk packaging (e.g., 10 per package). Implementing this redesign results in a 60 percent reduction in packaging materials used and less waste to be disposed of by clients following bulk installation into data centers. In addition, rather than sending 10 printed and media publications packs as was done previously, only one set is now required, providing a 90 percent reduction in paper use. Each bulk packaging shipment is estimated to save 8.4 kilograms of wood, polyethylene foam, corrugated paperboard packaging and paper publications. Corresponding transport and logistical savings are $58 per shipment. There will also be associated reductions in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the increased shipment density. This new packaging project, introduced in late 2016, will allow most IBM Power Systems servers to be shipped this way in the future, providing significant packaging materials savings and transport and logistics cost savings.
  • New hybrid corrugated fiberboard wood pallet

    Some IBM server and storage systems require a pallet for shipping. To reduce weight and materials waste, IBM designed a new hybrid corrugated fiberboard and wood pallet that is lighter in weight and retains the strength of the original wood pallet to withstand the rigors of forklift handling. It has a normal wooden bottom, but IBM replaced the wooden top deck boards with paper edgeboards and a corrugated fiberboard deck. Depending on the size of the pallet, it reduces the weight by 3-6 kilograms and results in savings of $9 per pallet in transport and logistics costs. The environmental benefits also include a reduction of fossil fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

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 required that the paper and paper/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 available to meet business needs.

Continued focus on this objective by IBM and our suppliers over the years has allowed IBM to attain this goal consistently for more than 95 percent of paper and paper/wood based packaging that we directly acquired. In 2016, the goal was enhanced requiring suppliers either to disclose sources for paper/wood to IBM, or provide evidence that sources have been certified to be from sustainably managed forests by an accredited third-party certification scheme. In 2016, 97 percent of the paper and paper/wood-based packaging IBM directly procured worldwide came from suppliers that warranted that the source was derived from forests managed in an ecologically sound and sustainable manner. This figure includes a portion of paper with recycled post-consumer content. Requirements in support of this goal are incorporated into our standard supplier specifications for paper and paper/wood-based packaging.

Download the 2016 report