While some of you know me as a steward of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, my history with Cisco goes back much further to my first role in business development. How might you ask did my journey take me from business development to where I am today?
Working at one of the world’s leading technology companies, you learn intensely not just about the business, but about the world. You see first-hand how people consume and deliver information, how they use data to make critical decisions. You are exposed to the power of teams that bring together people of diverse cultures, ethnicities, religions, experiences. You also see the impact a company can make when it thoughtfully invests in the communities it operates in.
My business experience coalesced into a moment where technology enabled me to join global problem solvers across our company and direct my skills to address social issues, issues of education, ending poverty, and addressing environmental concerns. I was able to champion a triple bottom line approach to our business — a framework with three parts: social, environmental, and financial. At this moment, I knew this was the path I was meant to take, the journey I was meant to be on.
What may come as a surprise is that I never stopped applying key business skills in my role — rigorous analysis, authentic leadership, disruptive innovation, bold risk-taking, and relationships grounded in integrity and trust. That is because corporate social responsibility is deeply integrated and core to our purpose, our culture, and how we invest our resources. This also means measurement and reporting require the same rigor as our other business functions.
I’m particularly cognizant of this today as we launch our 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. This is a big change from the first CSR Report that I stewarded and co-authored in 2005. Like any first-generation product, there was a great room for improvement. However, every year as we meet a goal and work towards the next, as we expand existing partnerships and establish new ones, as we uncover new ways our technology can be leveraged to benefit our world, we have a stronger story to tell. Here are highlights of where we’ve come, and where we are going:
- Addressing the needs of a digital economy and ensuring access to skills for an evolving workforce. Since 1997, Cisco Networking Academy has transformed the skills of 9.26 million students across 180 countries, 1.87 million in FY18 alone. Our CEO, Chuck Robbins, recently announced our commitment to reach 10 million students in the next five years.
- Supporting thriving communities to effect positive change worldwide. Over the last three years, we have impacted 445 million people, 209 million in FY18 alone, bringing us closer to our ambitious goal to reach 1 billion people by 2025. Our technology is helping to transform humanitarian aid, it is expanding education’s reach, improving outcomes and engaging students in technology, and it is enabling millions to access critical health care and financial services.
- Investing in tomorrow’s entrepreneurs leveraging technology for social impact. Since 2016, we have invested more than $5 million to support entrepreneurship through innovation challenges, sponsorships, and university sponsorships. And in FY18, we launched GPS: The Series, a new animated web series to inspire middle school students with the potential of technology and social entrepreneurship to transform lives.
- Maximizing efficiencies across our business and beyond. In FY18, we continued increasing the energy efficiency of our products, working towards our new product power efficiency goal. We have also joined industry peers committing to 100 percent product return, as well as setting a goal to decrease our use of virgin plastic by 20% by 2025.
- Setting a high standard for transparency and reporting. For 15 years, we have received awards for disclosure, performance, and A-List CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), more than any company, placing us alongside the world leaders in performance and transparency on climate change.
At our core, we have always been about solving problems, connecting people, and striving for positive outcomes. Reflecting on the ongoing journey of CSR at Cisco, it feels like the journey the company was always meant to be on, and the path I was meant to take. Alongside global problem solvers, we have been able to marry technology and business skills to create positive outcomes, to help make the impossible, possible.
Old or young, university graduate or middle school student, digital visionary or technology averse —anyone can use technology to transform your community, your business, or the world. No one path is a perfectly straight line, and we can never predict our unique journey. However, along the way we have an opportunity to dig deep and challenge ourselves to question – what is the path I am meant to take and how can I be a global problem solver?