In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Tech giant Cisco says it has been committed to aligning its core business processes with the SDGs in order to help build a sustainable planet.
Cisco’s 2018 corporate social responsibility report highlights the company’s efforts to lead from the front on many of the SDGs. Here are three areas where the company’s sustainability strategy particularly stands out.
SDG #4 – EducationCisco insists that it is committed to building a digital foundation to improve education across all of society. Programs in the company’s education investment portfolio are designed to increase student engagement in STEM and improve the professional development of teachers worldwide.
To that end, the company has partnered with the New Teacher Center (NTC), the mission of which is to improve student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers, experienced teachers, and school leaders. NTC works with school districts to select and train exemplary teachers, who provide mentorship to new teachers.
In addition to funding and product donations over the last decade, Cisco has helped NTC develop digital assessment and mentoring platforms to extend its program reach. With the company’s support, NTC now serves 14,000 teachers. According to 2018 data, over 1.8 million students across 500 U.S. school districts benefited from this program.
Cisco has also partnered with Science Buddies by providing cash grants and product donations to support STEM-related content targeting girls and underserved populations. The partnership has led to doubling of the program’s reach to 18 million students from 2011 to 2018, which includes 54 percent female students and 38 percent from underrepresented ethnic groups.
SDG #8 – Decent Economic GrowthCisco’s economic empowerment programs are an attempt by the company to connect underserved people to skills, meaningful employment, financial products and services and opportunities they need to develop careers in the digital economy.
For example, Cisco touts its partnership with Living Goods, which empowers a network of women called Community Health Promoters (CHPs). This network strives to improve the health of families in their communities by distributing essential goods and health education to those who need them, all enabled by mobile technology.
The program reached six million people in 2018, and according to Cisco, it has helped reduce child mortality 27 percent at an average cost of just $2 per person per year. The logic is that by supporting healthier families, they can become a vital part of their local economies.
Another partnership with the nonprofit Opportunity International (OI) has also enabled Cisco to provide financial products, services and training to help people become integrated within their local economies. As a result, the company says its cash grants, technology and expertise support have allowed OI to increase its reach and target specific client populations, including women, the elderly and the most marginalized in society. Cisco claims this partnership has resulted in the creation of two million new jobs and boost financial inclusion for 11 million people.
SDG #11 – Sustainable CitiesCisco’s claims that its approach to helping build sustainable and "smart cities" begins with the areas where the company has the greatest potential for impact—reducing energy consumption and improving resource use efficiency. The company’s greenhouse gas reduction goals are focused in the areas of operations, supply chain, products and solutions.
The company recently announced it has completed two off-site solar projects, and is offering technology solutions that help Cisco and its clients become more sustainable while transitioning into the circular economy.
In addition, the company says its alignment with SDG #11 shows in the Cisco Green Team Network (GTN), an employee-led global “green team” with local chapters. The company says it now has 11 GTN chapters worldwide that together have over 1,000 members. For their innovative efforts to promote global sustainability, the Green Team won Cisco’s “Excellence in Environmental Stewardship” award in December 2017.
Summing up the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, Cisco’s Chairman and CEO, Chuck Robbins, said: “As our world grows more complex and interconnected, social responsibility is not only a competitive differentiator or a business imperative—it is simply the right thing to do.”
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Vikas is an MBA with 25 years of managerial and entrepreneurial experience. He is the author of “The Power of Money” (Scholars, 2003), a book that presents a revolutionary monetary economic theory on poverty alleviation in the developing world. Vikas runs a digital content development company, and personally loves to write on global sustainability issues.