Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Texan by Nature is excited to recognize International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) as a 2022 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. IBM’s commitment to conservation, their projects, programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Honoree Industry and Size: Technology – Enterprise
Company Overview: IBM is addressing the hybrid cloud and AI opportunity with a platform-centric approach, focused on providing two primary sources of client value – technology and business expertise. We provide integrated solutions and products that leverage data, information technology, deep expertise in industries and business processes, with trust and security and a broad ecosystem of partners and alliances. Our hybrid cloud platform and AI technology and services capabilities support clients’ digital transformations and help them engage with their customers and employees in new ways. These solutions draw from an industry-leading portfolio of capabilities in software, consulting services, and a deep incumbency in mission-critical systems, all bolstered by one of the world’s leading research organizations. The majority of IBM’s business and technology units are represented in Texas, where IBM has had a strong local presence for over 50 years.
IBM Austin, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, is one of 13 IBM locations in Texas using 100% renewable electricity
What is IBM’s conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
IBM’s commitment to environmental sustainability was first formalized over five decades ago under a Corporate Environmental Policy calling for environmental leadership across all of IBM’s business activities. Since that time, we have made significant progress in conserving energy and water, managing waste, using renewable electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping our clients build sustainable futures.
IBM has been a member of the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) since 1991, and four IBM sites have maintained WHC Conservation Certification for their habitat management and conservation education programs for over 17 years. In 2021, IBM set a corporate goal to plant 50 pollinator gardens at IBM locations globally by year-end 2023. As of July 2022, there are 16 completed gardens ranging from gardens in old canoes to large open meadows.
IBM has sustained its commitment to environmental protection regardless of economic cycles, changes in business and technology, and even changes in the topic’s popularity because corporate sustainability leadership is the right thing to pursue for our employees, our clients, our communities, and the world in which we live – for the long term.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of IBM’s business strategy?
IBM has created and sustained the infrastructure necessary to extend its sustainability leadership into the future. IBM has had a global environmental management system (EMS) in place for decades. We are proud to have been the first company to earn a single global registration to the ISO 14001 standard for environmental management systems back in 1997 and to have retained it ever since.
However, IBM’s greatest opportunity to contribute to the environmental sustainability of our planet comes from the innovative technologies and solutions that we deploy to help our clients and society address environmental challenges. One example is IBM’s collaboration with MANA Community, an environmental non-profit organization, to develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled cloud-based platform to help stop deforestation associated with palm oil production. IBM is also using its technologies to enable more sustainable agricultural practices.
IBM also has a growing portfolio of AI-enabled software to help companies assess the impacts of the environment on business and of business on the environment, including its recently acquired Envizi. Using Envizi along with IBM’s
broader software portfolio, companies can now automate the feedback generated between their environmental initiatives and the operational endpoints being used in daily business activities—a crucial step in making sustainability efforts more scalable. For example, Envizi will integrate with IBM Maximo® asset management solutions, IBM Sterling® supply chain solutions, and IBM Environmental Intelligence Suite, which helps companies increase resiliency by assessing and planning for the impact of environmental conditions on their operations. At IBM, our strength and our passion are solving challenging problems. IBMers from a multitude of disciplines come together to research, develop, and implement environmental solutions to benefit our world.
What are IBM’s short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
Setting goals has long been an essential part of IBM’s global environmental management system, with formal goals involving energy conservation (1970s); pollution prevention and recycling (1980s); design for the environment (1991); ISO 14001 (1996); carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction (2000); and elimination of specific perfluorinated compounds, PFOS and PFOA (2007), being characteristic of IBM’s journey. In 2021, IBM announced an updated set of 21 comprehensive, voluntary environmental sustainability goals that address the ways in which today’s IBM intersects with the environment. Collectively, the goals cover energy and climate change, conservation and biodiversity, pollution prevention and waste management, supply chain and value chain, and our global environmental management system . We establish near-term goals that are transparent and authentic to drive real progress and accountability, and we work hard to avoid opaque representations of achievement.
Some of our goals include:
For additional information on IBM’s goals for environmental sustainability, please see “Driving progress with 21
goals for environmental sustainability.”
Who in IBM is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at IBM?
Under the direction of Wayne Balta, IBM’s Vice President, Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety and Chief Sustainability Officer, IBM has established the company’s worldwide environmental affairs strategy and its environmental management system. The company’s environmental programs are implemented by environmental professionals at manufacturing, development, and research locations around the world.
IBM’s environmental programs and performance are overseen by the Directors and Corporate Governance Committee of the IBM Board of Directors. The Vice President of Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety meets with the board committee annually to discuss IBM’s environmental programs, performance, challenges, and emerging issues.
While some IBM employees are assigned work responsibilities that directly involve managing IBM’s intersections with the environment, many more employees are passionate about environmental sustainability and interested in volunteering their time in the pursuit of sustainability projects at IBM. In support of this practice, IBM has established EcoTeams@IBM to engage employees and harness their interests toward contributing to IBM’s environmental goals and programs. Today, IBM has 26 local EcoTeams covering 65 IBM locations across 18 countries, and with more than 1,200 active members. This includes the EcoTeam at IBM’s Austin, Texas, facility which has focused much of its work on creating and maintaining composting programs and educating local employees on how to properly compost and the associated benefits.
In 2022, local EcoTeams have participated in events including tree plantings, beach clean ups, bike to work events, coral restoration, and sea turtle conservation efforts. To date, local EcoTeams have worked with IBM’s Global Real Estate organization to plant 16 new pollinator gardens at IBM locations versus our goal to plant 50 pollinator gardens by year-end 2023.
Further, to increase awareness about the value of biodiversity and the steps that can be taken to preserve it, we have coordinated a number of learning opportunities and events for IBMers globally. In 2021 and 2022, we held five webinars on pollinator gardens with 270+ attendees. In collaboration with the Wildlife Habitat Council, we also developed educational materials on how to create pollinator-friendly habitats. Between April 2021 and July 2022, over 1,000 pollinator toolkits were accessed by IBMers around the world. In addition, IBM supports employees by helping them to access externally organized community events that support biodiversity.
“IBM is committed to environmental leadership across all of its business activities, from its operations to the design of its products and use of its technology, and we are pleased to be recognized in the TxN 20. With more than 50 years of early environmental actions and demonstrable results, IBM continues to treat conservation and environmental protection as a long-term strategic imperative.”
– Wayne S. Balta, IBM Vice President, Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety and Chief Sustainability Officer
IBM’s Sustainability Accelerator partnership with Texas A&M AgriLife formed to deploy and scale a solution to provide “when to water” decision support to farmers.
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does IBM lead and participate in?
Energy conservation and addressing climate change
In 2021, IBM implemented 936 energy conservation projects across more than 190 locations globally, avoiding 90,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy consumption and 26,500 metric tons (MT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and saving $9.9 million. In addition to adjusting schedules for lighting levels, temperature, and other building systems to avoid unnecessary consumption of energy during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also implemented projects in our data centers to improve the energy efficiency of both cooling and IT equipment, retrofitted lighting, and improved the operational efficiency of our building infrastructure.
IBM increased its consumption of renewable electricity to approximately 2,068,000 MWh in 2021, representing 64.2% of its total electricity consumption, up from 59.3% in 2020. Thirteen IBM locations in Texas, including offices and cloud data centers, were supplied with 100% renewable electricity generated in the local grid (ERCOT) during 2021. Overall, 85% of our electricity use in Texas came from renewable sources in 2021.
Pollution prevention and waste management
Reducing the generation of waste at its source has been a basic tenet of IBM’s pollution prevention program since the 1970s. In 2021, our operations generated 20,700 metric tons of nonhazardous waste worldwide. We diverted 94.2% (by weight) of IBM’s total nonhazardous waste from landfill and incineration through reuse, recycling, composting, and waste-to-energy processes.
IBM Sustainability Accelerator
The IBM Sustainability Accelerator is a pro bono social impact program that applies IBM technologies, such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, and an ecosystem of experts to enhance and scale nonprofit and government organization interventions helping populations especially vulnerable to environmental threats, including climate change, extreme weather, and pollution. As a part of the program, Texas A&M AgriLife and IBM will deploy and scale a solution to provide “when to water” decision support to farmers in arid regions of the United States. The solution, called Liquid Prep, is an end-to-end, open-source platform that includes an IoT sensor and a mobile application running on the IBM Cloud that harnesses critical weather data from IBM’s Environmental Intelligence Suite. Beginning with agricultural communities in Texas, farmers will receive insights for water usage, which can increase crop yield increases while decreasing economic and environmental costs.
Farmer Richard Chapin tests “When to Water” support on mobile application
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will IBM play in that progress?
As part of a 2022 IBM Institute of Business Value study, “Own your impact – Practical pathways to transformational sustainability,” IBM collected input from over 3,000 Chief Executive Officers across 28 industries in over 40 countries. In just the past year, 37% more CEOs identified increasing sustainability as a top priority for the next 2-3 years, trailing only “Delivering better customer experience” and “Delivering more innovation in products and services.” Sustainability is clearly top of mind for businesses today. At the same time, CEOs identified unclear return on investment and economic benefits, lack of insights from data, and technological barriers as some of their most significant challenges in achieving their sustainability objectives.
In addition to continuing to manage and minimize our own environmental impacts, IBM will be at the forefront of developing technological solutions to help our clients address their conservation and sustainability challenges, whether it be through monitoring and recording operational data from physical assets and real estate to driving energy savings, optimizing waste management, upgrading IT infrastructure with newer, more energy-efficient equipment to reduce energy consumption, or deploying intelligent workflows and taking advantage of automation opportunities to reduce waste and optimize fulfillment and delivery paths.
How does IBM quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
IBM has long believed that environmental protection and conservation are good for its business. IBM’s studies of its environmental protection expenses and savings have historically shown that we realize savings of 1 ½ to 2 times our expenses when we take proactive measures to conserve resources and protect the environment. For example, IBM established its global energy conservation program in 1973, and it has led to significant energy and cost savings for our business ever since. From 1990, when we first began reporting on our energy conservation results, through the year 2021, IBM conserved 9.9 million MWh of energy—equivalent to more than double IBM’s current annual energy consumption—saving $670 million and avoiding 4.6 million MT of CO2 emissions.
However, even more important than those direct cost savings, integrating conservation and sustainability into IBM’s business has become a differentiator, enabling sales, increasing client and employee satisfaction, and driving greater shareholder value. Conservation and sustainability are now business imperatives for all types of businesses.
What is the one lesson that IBM has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
Conservation and environmental sustainability improvements are more readily realized when environmental responsibilities are embedded into the operational requirements of a business. Much of IBM’s success in conservation and environmental sustainability can be directly attributed to its global environmental management system (EMS). IBM’s EMS ensures internal integration of the environmental imperative into our business practices, wherever in the world they may take place. It engages people whose day-to-day job is not the environment per se (e.g., product development engineers, material scientists, procurement, and operational managers in real estate organization), but whose decisions and work can impact the environment. It institutionalizes environmental responsibility into the fabric of our business and our company’s culture. It has and continues to be an enabler for IBM’s environmental progress.
We have such a strong belief in the benefits of a well-defined and documented EMS that in 2010 we made it a requirement that all IBM suppliers implement such a system, establish environmental objectives and targets, and report on their progress. We believe all businesses, large and small, can implement and benefit from these practices.
In addition, we have found that a powerful way to build a culture of inclusion and belonging is to provide employees with opportunities to shape and participate in causes that matter to them. Environmental sustainability is top of mind for many employees. IBM EcoTeams have provided an avenue by which employees can engage in local environmental initiatives that are meaningful to them. Employees also have enjoyed being able to volunteer in local environmental volunteer events and have utilized IBM’s offer to help identify local opportunities. Since April 2022, more than 370 IBMers and their families from 21 countries have volunteered over 1,530 hours at various planting events.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for IBM?
As one of the fastest growing areas in the United States and an important hub for the high-tech industry, Texas is an important base for IBM’s operations, both for the companies that it hosts as well as for the abundance of top talent eager to apply innovative technologies to advance the sustainability for our clients. IBM has had operations in Texas for over 50 years. We opened our Austin campus in 1967. Today, that site today employs thousands of IBMers across multiple IBM organizations. IBM also operates multiple cloud data centers in Dallas and across the state of Texas. The activities are a key part of IBM’s strategy to be the world’s premier provider of hybrid cloud, AI, and software solutions.
IBM has a strong legacy of environmental leadership in Texas. For example, in 1993, IBM Austin became one of earliest business locations across the United States to receive a Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for voluntarily eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbon compounds in manufacturing. Among its many missions, IBM Austin houses significant software development activities. The work performed by IBM Software contributes to IBM’s core business focus of delivering software products and services to help clients improve business workflow, operational efficiency and meet their sustainability objectives.
Learn more about IBM’s conservation and sustainability efforts here:
For more information on IBM’s conservation and sustainability initiatives, please see our latest ESG Report or visit our environmental website by clicking here.
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IBM has established EcoTeams@IBM to engage employees and harness their interests toward contributing to IBM’s environmental goals and programs. Today, IBM has 26 local EcoTeams covering 65 IBM locations across 18 countries and with more than 1,200 active members. This includes the EcoTeam at IBM’s Austin, Texas, facility, which has focused much of its work on creating and maintaining composting programs and educating local employees on how to properly compost and the associated benefits.
From 1990, when it first began reporting on energy conservation results, through the year 2021, IBM conserved 9.9 million MWh of energy—equivalent to more than double IBM’s current annual energy consumption—saving $670 million and avoiding 4.6 million MT of CO2 emissions.
IBM increased its consumption of renewable electricity to approximately 2,068,000 MWh in 2021, representing 64.2% of its total electricity consumption, up from 59.3% in 2020. Thirteen IBM locations in Texas, including offices and cloud data centers, were supplied with 100% renewable electricity generated in the local grid (ERCOT) during 2021.
DFW Airport, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas