Cisco Systems is a company I follow very closely, for its networking, UC and security portfolios, but also for its truly one-of-a-kind corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts worldwide. There are a lot of great, innovative tech leaders in the industry, but none, in my opinion, have demonstrated the same years of commitment towards being a force for positive change in the world as Cisco does. Tae Yoo, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and CSR captures it best when she says, “At our core, we have always been about solving problems, connecting people, and striving for positive outcomes.” This spirit was baked into Cisco from the very beginning, but the CSR program has really flourished in recent years under the tenure of CEO Chuck Robbins (read more here and here for more on Cisco’s CSR efforts). Every year, Cisco issues a wide-ranging progress report on its myriad of CSR efforts over the previous year. Let’s take a closer look at the latest from Cisco and hit some of the highlights.
Jobs training for the digital economy
Cisco’s 20+-year-old Networking Academy is an effort that I’ve covered extensively (see here), and one that could be considered the flagship of the company’s CSR efforts. Through partnerships with schools, governments, and non-profits worldwide, Networking Academy trains students worldwide in cutting edge information and communication technology skills to prepare them for the modern workforce.
Networking Academy had a banner year in 2018, enrolling a record 1.87 million students in 180 countries worldwide. For those who are counting, that brings Networking Academy’s total student tally since 1997 up to 9.26 million. In addition to providing courses and workshops, upon graduation, Networking Academy seeks to connect students with jobs opportunities. To this end, Cisco launched its Talent Bridge Matching Engine, which, by automating the job-matching process, has connected 6,400 students to job opportunities with Cisco channel partners worldwide. In 2018, Cisco also announced the launch of Talent Bridge for Veterans, which combines the Talent Bridge platform with Cisco DevNet machine learning capabilities to translate military roles into civilian jobs.
Partnering to provide humanitarian aid
This past year Cisco Systems and Mercy Corps celebrated the first year of their 5-year partnership to enhance and accelerate humanitarian aid efforts. Together, the two organizations are working to better and more securely manage personal data and information, analyze and make humanitarian aid programs more effective, construct digital communities to connect and provide resources to displaced people, and test new tech solutions in the field. Cisco says that together, it and Mercy Corps reached 1.3 million people in the first year of the initiative. Think about that- 1.3M people.
Tackling homelessness and poverty
Back in March, Cisco made waves with its announcement that it was making a 5-year, $50 million commitment to a San Jose-based public-private partnership called “Destination: Home,” an initiative that seeks to alleviate homelessness in Silicon Valley (read my prior coverage here). Cisco’s contribution to the project helps with land acquisition, construction of affordable, supportive housing, and the pioneering of technologies to improve services for the homeless and prevent homelessness from occurring. Cisco also highlighted its November announcement that it was making a $20 million joint TECH Fund investment in Bay Area affordable housing with LinkedIn and Pure Storage.
On a more global scale, Cisco announced a partnership with Global Citizen in July of 2018. Global Citizen is an organization geared towards the purpose of ending extreme poverty worldwide. Cisco sponsored the organization’s Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100, in addition to the Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership. Cisco’s Networking Academy plays a role in the partnership—in the efforts to end global poverty, Chuck Robbins committed to preparing 10 million people for ICT jobs over the next five years. This highlights what I admire most about Cisco’s CSR programs, and that’s the confidence to make real commitments and grade itself on them. Here we have the CEO committing to prepare 10M people with the tools and education necessary to change their careers and their lives in the next 5 years. I’ve added to my Outlook calendar and will let you know.
When disaster strikes
Another keystone of Cisco’s CSR efforts is its Tactical Operations (TacOps) disaster response team (read more here). In the event of a disaster, TacOps deploys to the frontlines and installs emergency communications—crucial for the coordination of aid efforts. Cisco reported that in 2018 it responded to 12 disasters worldwide, including the California wildfires, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Volcán de Fuego eruption in Guatemala, and others. All told, Cisco’s TacOps team has been deployed to over 50 disaster zones since 2005.
A greener business model
In addition to all the good Cisco Systems is doing worldwide, it is also taking a hard look at its own business processes, and transforming them to be more efficient and sustainable. It says it has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% in absolute terms since 2007, and in 2017 it reached its Scope 1 and 2 reduction goal. Cisco cut out 910,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions from its supply chain, putting the company at 91% of its 2025 goal.
Last year the company set several new goals, including one to reach 85% renewable energy, and one to decrease its use of virgin plastics by 20% by the year 2025. For these efforts, and many others, the company, received industry recognition this past year, including the number 1 position on Barron’s Most Sustainable Companies 2018, and the number 9 place on the Wall Street Journal’s Management Top 250 (which takes into account social responsibility, amongst a variety of other factors).
Back in 2016, Cisco committed to “positively impacting” 1 billion people worldwide by 2025. By the company’s estimate, it is 45% of the way there—way ahead of schedule. Its efforts are only ramping up—in 2018; the company increased its annual impact to 209 million people (an impressive 34% increase over 2017). Cisco CSR program refuses to let its foot off the gas, and, as demonstrated by its 2018 CSR report, continues to find new, innovative ways to make the world a better place. Cisco and CSR are practically synonymous at this point.
I look forward to seeing another year of progress and innovation from the company.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.