Investing in a Regenerative and Sustainable Future: Cisco Foundation Adds New Focus on Climate Solutions

Apr 22, 2021 7:30 AM ET
Blog

For 20 years, Cisco and the Cisco Foundation have supported nonprofits that are developing technology-based solutions to help underserved and vulnerable communities. During that time, I have had the privilege to see those innovative solutions give people access to critical needs like food, clean water, and shelter, as well as create more opportunities for people to obtain an education, build skills, or run a business.

Partnerships and investments in both nonprofit and for-profit solutions are key in bringing our collective purpose to life—to power an inclusive future for all. This starts with a livable planet where people and the environment can thrive together.

Yet, climate change has become a climate crisis. Its consequences include extreme weather, drought, crop disruptions, food shortages, air pollution, resource depletion, and population displacement. Since 1970, we’ve seen a 68 percent average drop in wildlife population sizes, according to the World Wildlife Fund. One in five deaths each year are attributable to air pollution, according to recent research from Harvard University.

Even more troublesome, these consequences disproportionately affect people who are most vulnerable to their impacts and have the fewest resources to respond. For instance, between 2008 and 2018, more than 80 percent of drought damage and loss was absorbed by agriculture in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

As one of Cisco’s early employees, I have seen our commitment to environmental sustainability grow and strengthen over the years. Since setting our first public goal to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2007, we’ve continued to set—and make progress against—an expanded list of 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. I am very proud of the progress our teams have made to help ensure a sustainable future. At the same time, we know we can and need to do more.

Supporting innovative climate solutions

In addition to the environmental sustainability work the company and our employees are directly engaged in, the Cisco Foundation is eager to play a larger role. A distinct legal entity established in 1997 by a gift from Cisco, the Foundation supports Cisco’s efforts to team with nonprofit and non-governmental organizations around the world to develop technology-based solutions that harness the power of technology to make a meaningful impact on people, communities, and the planet.

Since its inception, the Foundation has focused its support around our three investment areas (education, economic empowerment, and critical human needs), making strategic grants to programs with long-lasting impact on a local, national, and global scale, and empowering our employees to give more by matching their donations and making cash donations when they volunteer. Today, the Foundation is taking its support a step further.

As a Trustee of the Cisco Foundation, I’m thrilled to announce that the Cisco Foundation is committing $100 million over ten years to fund nonprofit grants and impact investing in climate solutions.

The Cisco Foundation is committing $100 million over ten years to fund nonprofit grants and impact investing in climate solutions.

This new funding portfolio will support two critical areas of focus:

  1. Bold and innovative solutions that draw down the carbon already in the atmosphere or regenerate depleted ecosystems.
  2. Strong initiatives to spur community engagement that can lead to habit change and collective action.

Building on our social investment track record

Our nonprofit grant funding for climate will use the same proven social investment approach that Cisco and the Cisco Foundation have used for years: supporting early-stage, technology-based solutions with the potential to scale and be replicable and sustainable, and to produce measurable outcomes.

Through impact investing, we will join with other funders to help prove that for-profit climate solutions can generate financial return.

Less than two percent of all philanthropic dollars are being spent in the fight against climate change, and many promising climate solutions are not crossing the chasm due to lack of investment. The Cisco Foundation hopes that our investments over the next ten years will help fill this gap and bring bold solutions to bear on the crisis we face.

We will look to invest in solutions that:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions
  • Capture and/or sequester greenhouse gas/carbon
  • Increase access to green jobs and/or green job training
  • Increase community education and activation that leads to measurable behavior changes that reduce carbon footprint, or
  • Increase resilience to climate change, especially within vulnerable communities.

Looking Ahead

It is an understatement to say that we are all excited about this new investment area. The climate crisis cannot be solved by one organization, nation, or community. We must work together to enable a sustainable and regenerative world—a world where people and the planet thrive for many centuries to come.

We look forward to partnering with others and applying our collective resources and expertise to meet this challenge.

Please continue to watch this space for updates on the solutions we are supporting.