Powering an Inclusive Future Through Corporate Social Responsibility

By Tae Yoo, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Cisco
Dec 14, 2020 11:50 AM ET
Blog

Cisco’s purpose to power an inclusive future for all is something the company has been committed to for decades. The power of our technology to create positive and inclusive outcomes on a global scale was immediately apparent to Cisco’s founders and has been core to our corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs ever since. We have always focused on providing individuals and communities with access to opportunities—helping people get their basic needs met, obtain relevant skills, and find or create meaningful employment in a digital economy.

Our work in this area has never been as important as it has been during this unprecedented year. Through it all, we have learned a lot. One of the greatest lessons learned is that we can indeed adapt, function, and innovate in this new normal. Although we physically distanced to reduce the spread of COVID-19, we have found creative ways of getting together, getting engaged, and getting things done.

Connecting in a Time of Crisis
From the pandemic’s earliest days, Cisco was deemed an essential business, which offered critical infrastructure and prioritized orders from first responders and essential services. At the same time, we provided – and continue to provide – solutions to help our customers, suppliers, and partners operate effectively in virtual environments around the world. We also increased our focus on the nonprofits and partners, such as Destination: Home, Mercy Corps, Feeding America, and Americares, that serve and support those most vulnerable. Our approach to the pandemic was rooted in our long history of responding to global challenges and will serve as a go-forward framework to guide how we respond to any future crisis, injustice, or global challenge.

Leading a Conscious Culture
Another primary focus of our culture is to support our employees through these unchartered waters and times of change and enable them to be their best. We do this by fostering a Conscious Culture throughout the organization and remaining grounded in our Principles. This requires us to act with dignity, respect, fairness, and equity in each of our interactions with one another, creating a culture that allows each of us to be our best. We also remain attuned to employee wellbeing to ensure that no one goes it alone. By purposefully building and cultivating an inclusive work environment where employees can thrive, we hope to bring about a better world.

Trust and Responsibility
Given the critical nature of the solutions we provide, Cisco holds ourselves to the highest standards of a trustworthy, transparent, and accountable company. This requires us to design solutions with security and privacy embedded from the beginning, and to be vigilant against intrusions and misuse. It also requires applying global principles of human rights to supplier selection; the design, manufacturing, and sale of our solutions; and working to integrate a human rights perspective across Cisco’s global business. As we evolve in response to changing customer needs, we’ll continue to connect everything securely, privately, and responsibly.

Technology for Good
The same technology that we provide our customers can also be used by social entrepreneurs and nonprofits working to solve the world’s greatest challenges, such as hunger, economic inequality, and lack of access to education, including training in digital skills. We’re helping them address these challenges by investing in Internet-enabled, early-phase solutions and forming long-term partnerships that allow organizations to use technology to increase their impact. Cisco set a goal in 2016 to positively impact 1 billion people through these social impact grants and signature programs by 2025. We’re proud that, to date, we’ve positively impacted 527 million people, putting us more than halfway to our goal. In addition, we’re teaching digital skills to over two million students every year through Cisco Networking Academy and investing in entrepreneurs who harness technology for social good through our annual Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. Our 2021 Challenge is currently underway, including our largest prize pool and expanded eligibility criteria, with winners to be announced on June 29, 2021.

Environmental Impact
There are many ways the IT industry can help address the issues raised by climate change. Within Cisco’s direct operations, our main source of emissions is the energy used to operate labs and data centers. We are working toward goals to reduce these Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 60 percent by fiscal 2022 compared to a fiscal 2007 baseline, and to use electricity generated from renewable sources for at least 85 percent of our global electricity by fiscal 2022. As of the end of fiscal 2020, we have reduced emissions by 55 percent, and used electricity generated from renewable sources for 83 percent of our global electricity demand. Our renewable energy purchases, plus over 500 energy efficiency projects completed at our facilities, are putting us well on the path toward achieving these two goals. Cisco is also responding to customer demands for both greater technological capabilities and more energy-efficient products – with products like the Cisco 8201 router, which requires 26 times less power and 202 times less shipping volume than its predecessor, the NCS 6008 – by keeping efficiency considerations in mind as we develop our products.

Circular Economy and Supply Chain Excellence
While addressing our direct operations, Cisco must also address environmental and social impacts across the entire product lifecycle, ensuring we uphold human rights, promote worker health and wellbeing, and minimize negative environmental impacts. A responsible, resilient supply chain is crucial to Cisco’s business success and supports our ability to transition from a linear economy to a circular economy. By designing our products and packaging for reuse, repair, recycling, and resource efficiency, and managing our equipment for multiple lifecycles, we decrease the emissions associated with extracting materials and manufacturing new products. We also expect our manufacturing partners and their suppliers to uphold Cisco’s standards and to play a critical role in identifying and addressing risks to workers’ human rights and health. This work is done in close collaboration with our suppliers, industry groups, customers, partners, and civil society as it requires all of us to take care of our communities and the planet.

Together with our employees and partners in the public and nonprofit sectors, we are proud of the progress we’ve made, especially in a turbulent year. At the same time, we understand that the road forward is not an easy one. To avoid reinforcing prior inequities and vulnerabilities, it is critical that we apply significant effort on rebuilding as we move into a new year. Of course, no single organization can tackle this alone. It’s more important than ever that we work together to help rebuild in a way that ensures positive outcomes and opportunity for all.

At Cisco, we have a deep history of engaging in long-term partnerships and focusing on long-term commitments. Living our purpose means continuing to get everyone involved, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

To learn more about the progress we’re making to power a more inclusive future through CSR, visit our ESG Hub and read our CSR Impact Report.