With the advent of globalisation, the need to connect the entire world with each other arose. Companies such as Cisco facilitated the same. However, virtual connections are highly relevant today in the COVID and Post-COVID world, where a major chunk of population is and will continue working from home. In absence of seamless communication, the world will go at a standstill. Virtual communications have allowed the world to conduct international relations, education, judicial and legislative functions and many of the other essential functions required in dad to day functioning of countries in a global order.
Cisco has pioneered the technology that connects everything. The company believes that connections have the potential to create opportunity for everyone and to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Therefore, it uses its technology, expertise, and resources not only to provide value for customers, but also to make a positive impact on people, society, and the planet.
1. Approach to Corporate social responsibility (CSR) at Cisco
CSR is core to the purpose, culture, and the investment model of Cisco. The company focuses on the issues that align with its business strategy, and where it can have the greatest potential for global impact, including inclusion and diversity, supporting local community programs, and reducing its environmental impact.
The company’s success is built on a Conscious Culture, where trustworthiness and ethical conduct are expected and supported among employees, suppliers, and business partners. For Cisco, Conscious Culture is an inclusive and diverse environment, moulded by its beliefs, behaviours, rituals, and principles and how employees experience this through their work and teams.
The company believes that in order to create new possibilities for people, society, and the planet, Cisco needs to take a holistic approach where CSR and social impact are integrated across the business. Therefore, the company uses the power of its technology and the expertise of its employees to accelerate global problem solving and advance social and environmental benefits.
2. Culture at Cisco
A company’s culture can be its greatest asset. Cisco aims to help set a new standard, reinforcing the values and behaviours that make it a great place to work. In FY19, the company built upon a solid foundation and started defining culture using a new framework called “Conscious Culture.” It has three components:
Environment – An inclusive, diverse environment that positively impacts people, society, and the planet.
Characteristics – The typical traits of culture, such as unique beliefs, behaviours, and Principles.
Experience – The everyday interactions people have with their leaders and colleagues.
Many companies focus on only one of these three aspects of culture. Bringing all three pieces together is what sets Cisco apart. And this culture is “conscious”—aware and accountable for what’s working, what’s not, and how a company can improve.
2.1 Employee Community Impact
Cisco engages its employees in various environment and social volunteering activities. It offers a number of sustainability-related activities for employees. These include:
Annual shutdown: Cisco requires employees in North America, and encourages other employees worldwide, to take time off at the end of December. The shutdown gives it an opportunity to power down facilities and unused equipment during a time when much of the workforce is already taking time off. Over the 10-day shutdown beginning in December 2018, Cisco avoided approximately $570,000 in energy costs and 3,500 metric tonnes CO2e of emissions. Employees working in buildings in India, Hong Kong, Germany, and Ireland reduced their electricity consumption by at least 40 percent during the shutdown. As the locations avoiding the most emissions, these employees were rewarded with an ice cream social or catered lunch.
Recycle IT Day: Employees at Cisco love Recycle IT Day. Many collect their used electronics year-round and bring them to their local Cisco office on Earth Day in April. Cisco responsibly recycles the equipment using the same vendors it uses to recycle Cisco products. In FY19, Cisco collected 422,108 pounds (191 metric tonnes) of electronic waste from over 160 sites around the world.
Earth Aware: While Earth Day is just one day, Cisco extends the celebration with a two-month employee volunteerism and awareness campaign, Earth Aware. During Earth Aware, the company invites its employees to practice sustainable behaviours like biking to work and properly sorting waste in cafeterias. It also hosts activities like on-campus farmer’s markets and information sessions about Cisco’s species conservation efforts. Earth Aware sparks new ideas and renews dedication to live in more environmentally responsible ways.
Stretch assignments: Cisco groups post stretch assignments for employees to get involved in sustainability-related initiatives. Examples of stretch assignments include managing communications for the Open Conservation program, calculating sustainable solutions for customers, and circular economy projects focused on removing plastic bags from product packaging.
Bike to Work Day: As part of the Earth Aware campaign, Cisco sponsors Bike to Work Day activities. While it is a global opportunity, Cisco employees and contractors in San Jose come out in large numbers. They visit Cisco’s energizer station, grab bagels and fruit, get free chair massages, use the repair station, and visit with fellow cyclists. In partnership with the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, Cisco helps remove thousands of cars from the roads in the Bay Area through this event. Also in the month of May, employees in Bangalore take part in the Zero Emissions Ride.
3. Addressing Mental Health
Over the past year, Cisco has made it a priority to not only end the taboo against talking about mental health, but encourage people to ask for help. It all started with an email. In 2018, in the face of growing concerns about mental health in society, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins sent an email to all Cisco employees. In it, he expressed Cisco’s concern for those who are struggling, sharing that no one needs to go it alone. The response was overwhelming. Robbins received more than 100 replies from employees saying thanks and sharing stories of themselves and their loved ones. Since then, even more people have courageously spoken about personal struggles in company blog posts and the Cisco Beat. This response has awakened the company to an issue that wasn’t being addressed.
About one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental health condition. Yet many people are still uncomfortable talking about these issues. Cisco is breaking the silence. It wants everyone to know that it’s okay to not be okay. By decreasing the stigma and broadening the resources that the company offers, it hopes to encourage people to get the help they need. And change the conversation about mental health across industry.
4. Destination: Home
Every night in America, more than half a million people go to sleep homeless. An even greater number are at risk of becoming homeless— just a missed paycheck or unexpected medical bill away from a night on the street. Cisco has moved to address this serious and growing crisis of inequality in our backyard. In 2018, the company committed to donate $50 million over five years to help Destination: Home catalyse public funding and launch the Supportive Housing & Innovation Fund.
The fund will help build supportive housing, which combines housing with other social services, and expand programs that prevent people from becoming homeless in Santa Clara County, California. In FY19, Cisco announced a commitment of $1 million over four years to support a housing-first pilot in Rome, Italy, where homelessness is on the rise. The Cisco team in Italy will work closely with our two implementation partners, Comunità di Sant’Egidio and fio.PSD, to supply the technology they need to support and scale their operations.
5. The Transparensee Project
Ore extracted from a mine has value because it can be sold, smelted, and made into new products. But what’s also valuable about the ore is the data behind its origin: Where was it mined? Who mined it? Between the mine, smelter, and factory, where did it travel? These are important questions for Cisco, as it uses minerals like tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold in many products.
The company continually conduct due diligence on minerals in our supply chain to ensure their mining and sale is not benefiting armed groups or actors that commit human rights violations. But until now, precise data about the origin of minerals has been lacking. Without this data, it’s much harder for to address human rights and other issues at their source: the mine.
The Transparensee Project aims to change that. The idea was first hatched as a system for combining innovative tagging technologies with a blockchain network to track ore from mine sites to downstream companies like Cisco. From this concept, the company began building prototypes, which it took to mine sites in Rwanda, where it gathered feedback from governments, NGOs, and miners themselves. The field study taught us the importance of designing a solution in collaboration with all stakeholders, including the mine workers. The company is applying these lessons as we continue developing this platform, seeking the right balance between data transparency and security.
6. For the Aid of Farmers
Smallholder farmers produce more than 80 percent of the world’s food. But they also make up 80 percent of the world’s poorest people, which means they often lack the resources to grow their businesses.
Digital Green, a Cisco social investment partner, is using technology to change this equation. The non-profit began in 2008 with a vision of helping smallholder farmers improve agricultural practices and boost their incomes. They began by sharing information with farmers on how to increase their yields, producing thousands of locally relevant videos in more than 50 languages. But they realized that more needed to be done to boost farmer incomes. Just as important as growing food is having a place to sell it. That’s why Digital Green built the Loop app, which helps farmers aggregate their produce and get it to markets. It uses a learning algorithm to optimize vehicle routing so farmers get the best prices for their produce.
7. Movement to end Poverty
As a technology company, Cisco has a powerful opportunity to create an inclusive future by sharing its skills and capabilities with others. Through a new partnership with international antipoverty organization Global Citizen, the company is equipping young people with the tools to make a difference.
Global Citizen encourages people to make positive changes in the world, including working to end extreme poverty. The organization has always been fueled by technology, using an app to log petitions signed, tweets shared, and leaders contacted. Users have taken more than 24.8 million actions to date. Cisco’s technology and expertise will help this platform scale even further.
For the next three years, Cisco will provide the Wi-Fi technology, content, and storytelling platforms at Global Citizen’s festivals and other events. The company will also provide collaboration tools to fuel their business, including connecting Global Citizen with key donors, partners, ambassadors, and festival curators.
8. ESG disclosure, rankings & ratings
Cisco’s CSR reporting is in accordance with the standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): Core Application. As appropriate, the company aligns with frameworks beyond GRI. For example, it is working to follow the guidance of the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Cisco relies on six key rankings to gain insight into how ESG topics are prioritized and to evaluate our sustainability reporting and performance. It has chosen these rankings based on their public visibility, the transparency of the scoring methodology, and its ability to engage consistently with analysts to discuss their priority topics and the areas for reporting and/or performance improvement.
9. Environment Initiatives
Cisco encourages its employees to be global problem solvers related to environmental sustainability. The actions they choose to take often depend on their experiences, their location, their expertise, and issues they care about. Through digital tools, educational activities, and volunteer opportunities, the company helps make employees aware of the many ways to get involved.
Cisco hosts events for employees to learn more about sustainability programs and current opportunities to get involved, such as,
Cisco Green: This is a hub on the company’s internal social media site that enables employees to learn about it’s environmental sustainability activities. It provides links to programs, information, and other tools.
Cisco GreenHouse: In 2016, the company launched an interactive sustainability web platform hosted by WeSpire for employees. Cisco GreenHouse connects passionate employees with likeminded peers all over the world who want to find ways to lead more sustainable lives. By the end of FY19, more than 2,800 employees had joined the site and taken 20,000 actions to learn about or be more sustainable.
10. Inspiring Interest in Technology
Cisco heavily focuses on preparing people for the digital economy. In order to achieve this, the company has launched programs that help youth explore careers in technology. A few examples include:
Girls Power Tech: Every April and May, the company hosts Girls Power Tech in alignment with the UN Girls in ICT Day, a global event organized by the UN International Telecommunication Union. This Cisco-run initiative connects girls and young women ages 13 to 18 with Cisco mentors for a day. The program inspires students to consider STEM education and careers. Through this program, it has shared opportunities in the tech sector with thousands of young women worldwide. Cisco offices in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Americas hold events including office visits, tours, and presentations by female leaders. These employees discuss career opportunities and life in the technology field.
Students also get to use Cisco collaboration technologies to interact with other leading women at Cisco, as well as other girls participating in office visits around the globe. More than 115 Cisco sites participated in Girls Power Tech in FY19. Each site determines what programs to offer. For example, our Research Triangle Park campus hosted 55 students and organized speed mentoring and a breakout session introducing them to the Cisco Networking Academy. An office in North Sydney, Australia, held a workshop on coding and IoT. Students also did a lab tour and met employees in technical and nontechnical roles. A half-day event in Shanghai included a Raspberry Pi programming workshop.
MESA: Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) helps thousands of educationally disadvantaged students become engineers, scientists, and other tech professionals. Cisco has supported the MESA College Mentoring program for the past five years. For the 2018–2019 program, 20 students were paired with Cisco employees. Mentors helped students focus their interest in STEM and guide them toward careers. And since Cisco’s partnership with MESA began, it has reached over 132 students, six of whom are now full-time Cisco employees.
Cristo Rey work study program: Cristo Rey is a national network of college- and career-prep schools throughout the U.S. The network has a work study program through which students complete internships with companies in their communities. The program helps students offset the cost of their tuition and provides valuable connections and skills. In return, we benefit from access to a pipeline of diverse young talent. Cisco has been a partner of Cristo Rey San Jose since 2014. We celebrated our first graduating class of four interns in 2018 and our second in 2019. Now, we’re scaling the program and have 20 interns in Cisco offices. In future years, Cisco will accept even more interns in Silicon Valley. Other Cisco sites are exploring partnerships with their local Cristo Rey schools.
With its arms spread out in multiple directions Cisco with its CSR is working towards building a better connected, safe, secure, sustainable and an inclusive world.
Disclaimer: The contents of this report are largely excerpts of the Cisco 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.