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10 Ways Cisco Has Made the World a Better Place

Happy birthday to Cisco – the company turned 35 on December 10. Over the past three and a half decades, Cisco has evolved from a niche router company to one of the biggest IT vendors with a dominant market share in multiple markets. Product names have changed, corporate leaders have come and gone, and the company has transitioned successfully from a predominantly hardware company to a software vendor.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is Cisco’s unwavering commitment to changing the world and making it a better place for today and in the future. Cisco’s long-time CEO, John Chambers, talked extensively about how the great equalizers in the business world were the Internet and education, and he was spot on. Since his retirement, current CEO, Chuck Robbins, has taken what Chambers had started to another level. Since there is more public focus on corporate social responsibility today, I thought it was worth looking at the top 10 things Cisco Corporate Affairs (CSR), a component of corporate affairs, has done to further the company’s mission of changing the world. They include:
  1. 1997: Established Network Academy — This program, more commonly known as NetAcad, provides education, technical training, and career mentoring to students in over 180 countries. The program gives people, often in areas with limited jobs, a fighting chance in the technology world. To date, Cisco has helped develop the skills of more than 10.9 million students. An interesting factoid is that 93% of students that complete the CCNA coursework obtained a job or eductational opportunity. Also, it’s worth noting that 28% of NetAcad students are now female, helping to close the gender gap in pay and technical jobs.
  2. 2000: Least Developed Country Initiative — In July 2000, Cisco expanded the NetAcad programs by forming a strategic partnership with international development organizations, aimed at training students in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) with the skills necessary to compete for jobs in the Internet economy. This partnership has created opportunities for skills development in participating countries, empowering them to accelerate progress, attain sustainable development, and fully integrate into the world economy. Together, Cisco Systems, United Nations Development Program, United States Agency for International Development’s Leland Initiative, and United Nations Volunteers invested in education and technology training for LDCs.
  3. 2002: Partnership with World Economic Forum (WEF) — Established in 1971, WEF is a not-for-profit foundation, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The Forum is independent and impartial and has no direct associations with any special interest groups. WEF engages the globe’s top political, business, cultural, and other leaders in society to shape regional and global agendas. Cisco has been an active participant in the annual WEF event in Davos. Chambers was a regular speaker at the event, and Chuck Robbins now shares his ideas at the event on a wide range of societal issues.
  4. 2005: Established TacOps — Cisco Tactical Operations (TacOps) provides emergency communications in global disaster situations. TacOps has several emergency response vehicles, portable communications units, and small communication kits that can provide emergency network and phone services. This group falls under Cisco CSR, and the aid provided is done free of charge. Cisco TacOps has provided aid in several major disasters, including Puerto Rico in 2017, the Syrian refugee crisis from 2015-2017, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
  5. 2010: Partnership with Water for People — The goal of Water for People is to provide safe water and sanitation for four million people in nine countries. The organization uses technology to create sustainable water programs. Cisco developed a mobile application called Field Level Operations Watch (FLOW) to collect, manage, and analyze data on water distribution points such as wells and pumps.
  6. 2011: Veterans Program — This program raises awareness of the value of hiring veterans and creates IT training and employment opportunities for those that served. Cisco and its partnering companies are committed to hiring a million veterans by 2020.
  7. 2017: Global Problem Solver Challenge — This initiative was driven by the larger Cisco CSR goal of positively impacting one billion people by 2025. The program recognizes new business ideas that leverage technology for social impact from student entrepreneurs around the world. In 2019, Cisco handed out $300,000 in prize money to accelerate the development of technology products or services that drive economic development and solve social and environmental problems.
  8. 2018: Partnership with Destination: Home — The Destination: Home organization is dedicated to ending homelessness in Santa Clara County, which is one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. but has the third-highest rate of chronic homelessness. Cisco provides both funding and technology to support the organization. Over the next five years, Cisco’s support will enable the acquisition of land to build low-income homes, technology to improve services for the homeless and find innovative ways to prevent it.
  9. 2018: Global Citizen Partnership — The Global Citizen organization is dedicated to ending extreme poverty. Cisco is partnering with the group to build a digital future in which everyone can be successful. As part of its activities, Cisco provides prize money to the Youth Leadership Award, which recognizes a young person who is fighting poverty. In 2019, Cisco announced it would be extending the prize money for another three years.
  10. 2018: Barron’s #1 for most sustainable U.S. company — Barron’s measured the 1,000 largest publicly traded companies and measured them in five key stakeholder categories – shareholders, employees, customers, community, and the planet. Cisco has consistently been ranked high in the area of sustainability but reached #1 in 2018. Not being satisfied with the status quo, Cisco plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2022.