IBM – Achieving ISO 14001 Certification for IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain Social & Environmental Management System



 CR Category


CR Topic

Sustainable Procurement

Company Description

Established in Ireland in 1956, IBM employs over 3,000 people, with responsibilities for delivering sales, marketing and services across the Irish market.  Our Technology Campus in Mulhuddart (Dublin) delivers services, manufacturing, research and software development together with our laboratories in Cork and Galway for the world market.  Our European Sales and Services Support Centre in Blanchardstown (Dublin) delivers to the European market.

Business Issue

Recognising IBM’s sizable procurement spend, coupled with the collaborative relationships we had with our suppliers, IBM had with a unique opportunity to influence our supply chain regarding ethical, social and environmental matters.

Solution Applied

In 2009 the IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain (ISC) organisation set about constructing a Supply Chain Social and Environmental Management System (S&EMS) to leverage our influence.

The S&EMS is based on IBM’s Corporate Environmental Management System and is the central repository for all the ISC’s social and environmental programs, including product environmental compliance, supply chain social responsibility and the global logistics programs responsible for environmental compliance e.g. hazardous materials transportation. The consolidation of these programs in one place enables our global procurement staff to understand the full scope of what the ISC is doing.

In addition to establishing and communicating this management system to thousands of ISC Global Procurement staff members, in February 2010 a communication from IBM’s Chief Procurement Officer went to all 28,000 suppliers in over 90 countries outlining a set of eight comprehensive requirements.

IBM now requires all suppliers (those firms with which IBM holds a direct commercial relationship) to be compliant with a set of social and environment requirements that can be summarised as:

  • Deploy and sustain a corporate responsibility and environmental management system;
  • Measure performance and establish voluntary environmental goals;
  • Publicly disclose results;
  • Cascade this set of requirements to their supplier’s suppliers who perform work that is material to the products, parts and/or services being supplied to IBM.

Stakeholder Benefit

IBM’s suppliers provide a wide range of services and products to IBM, and their operations range from those working out of their home offices to those with major manufacturing operations. Nevertheless, when defining these eight requirements we took into account that all suppliers, large and small, direct and indirect should be able to develop plans to meet each requirement.

While many of IBM’s suppliers have had such management systems in place for years, for others it represents a new way of doing business, particularly in the growth market countries.  One of ISC’s key objectives is to help our suppliers effectively manage their environmental and corporate responsibility in a way that is long-term, sustainable, and integral to their routine business operations.  By holding each supplier accountable for improving their individual performance and results, the entire supply chain will benefit.

Business Benefit

We believe our approach will result in higher quality goods and service from IBM’s clients.

In 1997, IBM became the world’s first major multinational to have earned a single worldwide registration to the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) standard.   The registration covered IBM’s manufacturing, product design and hardware development operations across its business units worldwide.

Since 1997, IBM has expanded its global ISO 14001 registration to include its chemical-using research locations and several country organizations, covering their non-manufacturing locations.  Additionally, several business functions such as product design and development and Global Asset Recovery Services also have obtained ISO 14001 certification.  In 2012, following an audit to the ISO14001 standard, IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain’s S&EMS and related programs was successfully included as part of IBM’s ISO14001 registration, thus further cementing the management system in the operations of the supply chain.

IBM’s 8 Requirements of Suppliers

IBM asks its suppliers to:

  1. Establish a CSR and EMS that is defined, deployed, and sustainable, that identifies significant aspects of the Supplier’s intersections with these matters including those articulated in IBM’s Supplier Conduct Principles (SCP) and the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) Code of Conduct.  Establish programs (within the management system) to control operations that intersect with these matters and confirm compliance with applicable law, regulation and any particular contractual requirements.
  1. Measure performance associated with supplier’s significant environmental aspects where applicable and include at a minimum each of the following aspects common to virtually all businesses:
  • – Energy conservation
  • – Scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions
  • – Waste management and recycling
  1. Set voluntary environmental goals to achieve positive results associated with significant aspects where applicable and include at a minimum one in each of the three aspects cited in item 3 above.
  1. Publicly disclose results associated with these voluntary environmental goals and other environmental aspects from the management system, including any regulatory fines or penalties that may have occurred.
  1. Train employees who are responsible for performing this work.
  1. Conduct self-assessments and audits as well as management reviews.
  1. Cascade this set of requirements to the supplier’s suppliers who perform work that is material to the products, parts and/or services being supplied to IBM.


Ensure procurement staff are equipped to communicate with suppliers the key aspects and obligations with respect to you’re the SEMS


Senior management support is key the development and continual improvement of the SEMS.  Approach your management system logically, e.g. adopt a PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT approach.

Further Information

Matthew Chalkley, Program Manager, IBM’s Integrated Supply Chain.  Email: