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Lauren Zanolli headshot

Symantec Pledges to Engage 1M Students in STEM by 2020

STEM education

Symantec last week released its seventh annual Corporate Responsibility Report, shortly after the software and information management firm announced it would be split into two separate publicly-traded businesses. The report, entitled Transforming to Protect the Future, continues the company’s reputation for a proactive CR approach and includes updated performance goals for the next five years.

The California-based company has been an early adopter of responsible business standards and was a signatory to the 2006 U.N. Global Compact, a set of international principles to protect human rights and ethical working conditions, decrease environmental impact and protect against corruption. The company also joined the U.N. Global Compact LEAD Initiative, a platform for corporate sustainability leadership launched in 2011, as one of just five U.S. companies.

Symantec has grown to dominate the security and data management industries, reaching $6.7 billion in revenue in FY 2014 (ending March 30, 2014), and recently announced the company would be separated into two distinct entities -- a data security and information management business. The company has not yet indicated how this change will affect its CR strategy, but its latest CR report added several new performance goals on workplace diversity, education and supply chain impact over the next five years.

Symantec has built a reputation as a high-performer in the field of workplace diversity and has placed diversity and inclusion among its highest CR priorities. While the company’s gender and race ratios remain highly skewed, this is perhaps more reflective the wider lack of minorities and women in the technology sector as a whole. Of the company’s 20,000 employees, 72 percent are male, and whites are the most highly represented race at 61 percent of the overall workforce, followed by Asians at 25 percent. Nevertheless, the company garnered several awards for its diversity efforts this year, including a spot on Minory Engineer Magazine’s list of its top employers, and it was selected by readers as the “Best Diversity Company” by readers of Diversity/Careers. Symantec also received a perfect score on Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the sixth year in a row and was recognized by the HRC as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.” In this year’s report, the company vowed to improve on its existing record, setting a goal of a 15 percent increase over 2014 workplace diversity metrics by 2020.

One way the company is helping to build a stronger employee pipeline for the long-term is through its philanthropic education initiatives. Education accounted for over 40 percent of the its overall donations last year and overall philanthropic giving has steadily increased over the past few years, reaching $28M in FY14, though the bulk of this was in-kind software donations.

In this year’s report, Symantec set a goal to engage one million students in STEM education -- particularly in computer science and cybersecurity -- by 2020 through a $20 million, five-year investment. According to the Symantec, cybersecurity jobs are one of the fastest-growing fields in IT, but there are not enough qualified applicants to fill vacant positions. Earlier this year the firm launched its Cyber Career Connection program, which seeks to train underserved adult populations in the field of cybersecurity and assist them with job placement. The program launches its pilot phase in FY 2015, with an initial group of 45-50 trainees across three cities.

On the environmental front, Symantec appears to be focused on strengthening its responsible sourcing and emissions reductions efforts, though the company has yet to establish and formal greenhouse gas reduction goals. The company has been tracking its GHG emissions since 2008 and has seen minor improvements in the electricity use for its data centers, labs and offices -- the company’s single largest source of GHG emissions.  In FY14 emissions from this source decreased about 3 percent compared to the previous year, a change the company attributes to occupying newer, more energy-efficient buildings (over 80 percent of Symantec’s occupied building space is LEED certified). However emissions related to business travel increased 14 percent compared to FY13, resulting in a 3 percent increase in overall GHG emissions to reach 244,000 metric tons of CO2e.

Data centers are one of the largest sources of power consumption for Symantec and similar technology firms, and the company has stated that it will be consolidating and upgrading the efficiency of these centers over the next few years, but no firm targets hav been set. Symantec has joined forces with HP, Facebook and other data center operators to form the Business for Social Responsibility’s Future of Internet Power, a collaborative effort to encourage adoption of sustainable energy sources for power-hungry data centers. Symantec also announced in this year’s report that it will be pursuing Energy Star certification for 100 percent of its hardware products by the end of 2015.

The company is also pushing to reduce the impacts of its hardware supply chain through its commitment to validate all products manufactured for Symantec as “conflict free” minerals by the end of 2017. In some countries, the mining of raw materials such as tin, tantalum, gold and tungsten has been linked to financing for bloody conflicts, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In late 2013, Symantec issued a conflicts mineral policy and has since been tracing its mineral supply chain to its roots, in accordance with US regulations on conflict minerals. While the company has not yet fully mapped the supply pathways for all of its suppliers, it has stated that if any conflict minerals are discovered, it will force suppliers to change their sourcing.

You can view the full Symantec report here.

Image credit: Nicole Honeywill/Unsplash

Lauren Zanolli headshotLauren Zanolli

Lauren is a freelance writer based in New Orleans. She has covered a wide array of geographies and topics, from economic and business developments in the Arabian Gulf, to arts and culture in Turkey, to social enterprise and the microfinance sector in Southeast Asia. She's also worked on the business side of things, with two years experience in strategy and marketing at a large renewable energy firm. Keep in touch: @laurenzanolli and lauren.zanolli@gmail.com.

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