Cisco's Continued Journey to Net Zero

By Tae Yoo
Sep 9, 2021 2:10 PM ET
Blog

Today, Cisco made a new commitment to reach net zero across all Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions by 2040 (which includes our product use, operations, and supply chain) with an interim goal to reach net zero across all global Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2025.

As one of Cisco’s early employees, I have seen our commitment to environmental sustainability grow and strengthen over the years. I remember publishing our first annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report in 2005. In it, we reported on many of the same issues we do today: our total greenhouse gas emissions, our use of renewable energy, our efforts to increase the energy efficiency of our products and to design them for multiple lifecycles, and our engagements with suppliers.

The report also includes these words: “While we are making progress in improving our environmental performance, we recognize that there is more we can do.” This sentiment has driven our sustainability efforts from the outset. We have and always will be transparent about our progress (or lack thereof), rigorous in measuring our efforts, and we will always strive to do more.

A few years later in 2008, we set our first public goal to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% absolute. We achieved that goal in 2012 and since then, have been setting and achieving five-year absolute emissions reduction goals.

Our actions to protect the environment and to transparently report on those actions have been recognized by the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project). Cisco has been included on the CDP “A List” since its inception in 2010, among companies from around the world identified as leaders in their reporting and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Out of the 5,800 companies scored by CDP on their climate change, forests, and water security disclosures in 2020, just the top 5% (313) made the A List.

Our growing commitment to sustainability

As Cisco grew, so did our commitment to sustainability.

Convinced by the potential of a circular economy, Cisco became a founding member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) in 2010. Shortly thereafter, we created a team dedicated to integrating circular economy principles across our business. This team is adapting our business models to reduce the resources we consume and the waste we generate, and designing those models to better facilitate repair and remanufacturing – with the goal to reuse products and materials rather than dispose of them.

In 2019, we reached our goal to avoid 1 million metric tonnes of CO2e in our supply chain one year ahead of schedule. We then set a new goal to reduce supply chain-related Scope 3 GHG emissions by 30 percent absolute by FY30 (compared to FY19). In fact, the 2020 CSR Impact Report (see Page 8) describes our progress on ten sustainability goals aimed at reducing the GHG emissions associated with the energy used in our operations, supply chain, and products; and integrating circular economy principles across our business.

The impact of environment on society

Environmental issues like climate change, pollution, and waste often disproportionately affect disadvantaged socio-economic groups who are less resilient to the impact from these issues. In 2020, we looked at how we could integrate sustainability into our social impact programs that focused on critical human needs, access to education, and economic empowerment.

We began awarding our social impact grants to nonprofits that addressed not just those three areas, but also those that focused on environmental sustainability. One example is Solar Sister, which, through a network of entrepreneurs, distributes clean cookstoves that reduce black carbon emissions from cooking. So far, Solar Sister’s solution has avoided 557K metric tons of CO2e emissions while empowering local entrepreneurs to increase their household income.

Also as a result of the climate crisis, the number of natural disasters is increasing in frequency and severity. You don’t need to look too far beyond your front door to find multiple cases in point. At this very moment, the world is dealing with the devastation resulting from the wildfires in Southern Europe and the Western United States, recent floods in China, and Hurricane Ida in the U.S. Gulf Coast. Recognizing that Cisco cannot respond to every crisis, we have increased the scope of our Cisco Crisis Response program to provide technical consulting, remote support, and training to build the capabilities of our emergency response and humanitarian partners.

Most recently, Cisco awarded our first-ever Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize as part of the 2021 Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, which recognizes early-stage start-ups with innovative solutions to social or environmental problems. The winner, Remora, is pioneering technology to capture emissions from long-haul trucks and sell it to concrete producers or other end users, or permanently sequestered in depleted oil wells.

Working together to achieve net zero

This brings us to where we are today: pledging to reach net zero across all Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions by 2040, with an interim goal to reach net zero across all global Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2025.

The threats from climate change have never been greater. In the most recent IPCC report (August 2021), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C … will be beyond reach.”

Our initiatives since 2005 have helped us make continued and important progress in the direction of net zero. Today’s public commitment will motivate and engage teams across Cisco to redouble our efforts and take bolder action together.

As we’ve worked to finalize our net zero commitment and how we will achieve it, I’ve met with leaders from across the company – from Mass Scale Infrastructure to Security and Collaboration, from Enterprise Networking and Cloud to Workplace Resources and Supply Chain. Although the path isn’t a quick and easy one, everyone recognizes that climate change is our generation’s problem to solve, and they are enthusiastic about the role Cisco can play in meeting this moment.

As always, we will approach these new goals with the same focus on transparent reporting and rigorous measurement that we have followed since 2005.

Please watch this space for updates on the actions we are taking, including announcing the interim goals we will meet on our continued journey to net zero.