IBM, Dell and what's next for technology emissions

IBM has confirmed it has met emissions reduction and renewable energy targets four years ahead of schedule, as part of wider efforts to deliver on the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

The tech giant announced late last week that has cut emissions associated with its energy consumption by over 38 percent against a 2005 baseline, beating its target to cut emissions 35 percent by 2020 well ahead of schedule.

The company also confirmed the reductions in emissions had been driven in large part by last year meeting its target to source one-fifth of its power from renewables by 2020. It said that as of year-end 2016, it was sourcing 21.5 percent of its power from renewable sources, equivalent to the annual demand of 60,000 U.S. homes. 

The company added that if renewable electricity within the grid mix is also included in its calculations, then 40.1 percent of IBM's electricity supply across its managed spaces came from renewable sources.

Wayne Balta, IBM vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety, said the milestones were "testament to our longstanding commitment to protecting our planet by delivering action and results."

"We know that businesses must play a leadership role in the fight against climate change, and we continue to lead by reducing our own operational impact and by developing innovative solutions to help our clients do the same," he added in a statement.

The company said there was a compelling commercial rationale for investing in curbing its carbon emissions. "Between 1990 and 2016, the company had conserved 7.2 million megawatt-hours of electricity, avoiding 4.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and saving over $600 million," IBM said in its press release. "The emissions avoidance is equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road for a year."

The company also stressed that in recent months it has reiterated its commitment to the Paris Agreement through the #WeAreStillIn initiative, which sprang up in response to President Donald Trump's decision to quit the historic accord.

And it highlighted how it was working on a range of products to help cut emissions across the wider economy, including through its new Utopus Insights joint venture, which provides open source application programming interfaces for improved energy forecasting on the grid.

The update came the same week as rival tech giant Dell published its first corporate social responsibility (CSR) report following its merger with data storage specialist EMC.

The report revealed the enlarged company faces a challenge to meet some of its environmental targets for 2020. For example, it revealed its scope 1 and 2 emissions are 16 percent below its 2011 baseline, meaning significant ground must be make up to meet its 40 percent emission reduction target for 2020.

Similarly, renewables' share of electricity consumption has risen to 24 percent, but progress is still required to meet the 50 percent target for the combined company.

However, the company reported encouraging results from its offsetting program, which has planted more than 1 million trees, and revealed how it was stepping up engagement with suppliers to drive wider action to curb emissions.

It also said it had exceeded the initial 2020 goal of using 50 million pounds of sustainable materials in its products and adjusted the goal to use 100 million pounds of recycled-content plastic and other sustainable materials.

And it confirmed it has recovered 1.8 billion pounds of electronics, putting it 88 percent of the way toward its 2020 goal of recycling 2 billion pounds of used electronics by 2020.

Trisa Thompson, chief responsibility officer at Dell, said the merger with EMC would help the company redouble its efforts to meet an ambitious set of CSR targets.

"Bringing together Dell and EMC in September ... gave us an opportunity to reflect on our progress and establish a core set of commitments that represent the best of both companies," she said. "We have a newfound energy as we think about the opportunity we have to put our combined portfolio, expertise and resources to good work. It's already encouraging tremendous innovation that will benefit our customers and our world."

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