Environmental Sustainability Initiatives at International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)

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Case Details:

Case Code : OPER089
Case Length : 28 Pages
Period : 1989-2009
Organization : IBM Corporation
Pub Date : 2009
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries : Global
Industry : Computers, IT and ITeS

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"Perhaps the first of IBM's environmental efforts was industrial wastewater treatment at our plants, back in the 1940s, years before treatment was required by law."1

- John Serino, Director of Corporate Environmental Programs, IBM, in 1989.

"While we are known for being a leading manufacturer of IT equipment, IBM also leads the way in computer disposal….. By returning less to landfills through renewal, refurbishment and recycling; we are doing our part to protect the environment around the world."2

- Wayne Balta, Vice President, Environmental Policy, IBM, in 2007.


In December 2008, Ceres3 released a report on the performance of 63 leading global consumer and technology companies toward mitigating their impact on climate change4. In May 2009, Greenpeace5 released the first report of the Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge on the status/progress of IT companies in meeting the challenges of climate change. IBM Corporation (IBM), the technology major, topped the rankings in both the Ceres report and the Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge. IBM was the first multinational company to get the ISO 140016 certification for all its facilities worldwide.

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1] John Davies, "Big Green: IBM and the ROI of Environmental Leadership," www.amrresearch.com, April 17, 2007.
2] "IBM's Computer Recycling Efforts Significantly Reducing e-Waste Worldwide," http://findarticles.com, April 2007.
3] Ceres - the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible Economies - is a Boston-based not-for-profit association that works with companies and investors to tackle environmental issues such as climate change, hazardous electronic waste, etc. The mission of this organization is to infuse environmental sustainability issues into capital markets and in 2007, it was among a list of '100 Most Influential Players' in corporate governance compiled by Directorship Magazine, a US-based business magazine reporting on corporate governance. As of August 2009, Ceres had over 100 members. Source: www.ceres.org (Accessed on August 17, 2009).
4] Refer to Exhibit I for a glossary of terms related to the IT industry's impact on the environment.
5] Greenpeace is a Netherlands-based nonprofit organization working toward serious environmental concerns such as oceans and forest conservation, encouraging the usage of renewable energy, toxic chemicals expulsion, and nuclear disarmament. It was started in the year 1971 and as of May 2009, it operated in 40 countries. It raised funds only from individuals and foundations, and did not accept contributions from governments and corporations to preserve its autonomy. Source: www.greenpeace.org (Accessed on May 5, 2009).
6] ISO 14001 is the one of the standards developed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that focuses on the management systems the companies have to put in place to guarantee environmentally safe business operations. Released in September 2006, it tries to integrate the environment management systems with that of overall business management processes so that environment issues do not get ignored when business decisions are taken. Source: www.ibm.com (Accessed on April 14, 2009).


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