Feature Story

Meet the Exec: Chris Dedicoat

by Liza Meak

Meet the Exec: Chris Dedicoat

There's more to Chris Dedicoat, Executive VP of Worldwide Sales, than just closing the deal. We recently talked to him about another one of his passions; protecting the environment and endangered animals.

Want to know how Cisco helps save the rhinos? I did. To find that answer, I went to Chris Dedicoat, Cisco's Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales. Chris' passion for the environment, specifically endangered animals, is immediately evident, but so is his belief of Cisco's responsibility on a global level.

Focus Magazine: As Executive VP of worldwide sales and field operations, some people might not think you would have much input on Cisco's commitment to the environment. Tell me why it's so important for you to be a leader at a company that has supported environmental causes for decades.

Cisco participates and provides leadership because I truly believe that some of the world's biggest problems won't be solved by government in the future, they'll be solved by responsible corporate organizations

Chris Dedicoat: I feel that there are three key constituents. First, employees want to work for companies that take responsibility for the environment for which they operate in around the globe. Cisco participates and provides leadership because I truly believe that some of the world's biggest problems won't be solved by governments in the future. Rather, they'll be solved by responsible corporate organizations doing the right thing for their business and also for the world – in this case, for the environment in particular. Big companies are polluters, so I think it's important to take responsibility and do everything we possibly can.

Second, many of our partners want to see us lead in this area, so they can be part of that initiative as well.

Third, it's about our customers.  Our products produce heat, and our customers want and need to understand the power consumption. They also want to understand what responsibilities we take in our supply chain – how we manage it and ensure that we are as energy efficient as possible and using environmental design principles in products, transportation, and manufacturing. After the product has exceeded its useful life, customers would like to see Cisco achieving 100 percent returns on all products, so we can recycle and extract precious metals and plastics from those products to reduce landfill waste. 

Focus Magazine: What do you think are some of the most exciting opportunities when it comes to tech and the environment in terms of promoting environmental sustainability?

Chris Dedicoat: We all know IoT automates business processes. Technology plays a critical role in developing those business processes and ensuring the environment is a key consideration as companies implement next generation business models. I think governments clearly have a part to play there, because they mandate in certain states and certain parts of the globe, but I also believe the only way to really solve the issues is through the IoT technology.

The next area is what we've been trying to do as a company. For me, it was important as we embarked on our journey many years ago to focus on carbon emissions, which is something we did with the Clinton Global initiative. That morphed into how we looked at the world differently, and we embraced the principles of the circular economy.   I tried to be a leader for the circular economy inside the company with our initial partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.This relationship put Cisco front and center on a global level with many of our key customers. They began to see Cisco as a company that really embraced the principles of the circular economy and demonstrated responsibility across all aspects of the environment. When we first embarked on that, it was clear there was a great opportunity for us to lead. Before Cisco's association with the Clinton Global Initiative and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, I felt frustrated that we weren't as concerned about it as a company as we needed to be. The only person I saw that was really, really embracing it was John Kern, Cisco's SVP of Supply Chain Operations, who was doing so much in the supply chain, where it was very important.

Additionally, we started to see that the environment was an important aspect in our product development, particularly in Rowan Trollope's organization. Our products consume energy and for customers, power consumption is obviously a key consideration – particularly in large service providers and in data centers.

Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation allowed us to participate and demonstrate our committment to the environment at events like the World Economic Forum where the circular economy is a well-known theorem and practice amongst attending companies.  

Focus Magazine: What do you think it was that put Cisco at the forefront of being an environmentally conscious leader?

Chris Dedicoat: John Kern ensured that we were using an environmentally diverse supply chain, and wherever we could, extracting precious metals and plastics from products that exceeded their useful life. That was a pretty leading thing for us to do as a company, and I think it was a great example to illustrate Cisco's commitment to the environment. I think that also encouraged us to look at different projects with our partners –  as an example, the work we are doing with Dimension Data in South Africa to help protect endangered species such as rhinos.

Focus Magazine: Can you tell me how Cisco got involved with helping endangered rhinos?

Chris Dedicoat: One of travesties in the world is the plight of some of the creatures that exist in the major game reserves throughout Africa. In particular, the rhino was under incredible pressure from poaching and the world trade of rhino horn. Our partner, Dimension Data, is based in Johannesburg, South Africa and a number of its employees and leaders are passionate about the rhinos and protecting the game reserves there. Because of that, Dimension Data began exploring how technology could play a role in protecting the rhino in a different way than had been done in the past. Previously people had tried using technologies like electronic tagging. The problem with electronic tagging is that the bad people find out the frequencies the tags emit, and use it unfortunately to track the rhino. Collectively between Cisco and Dimension Data, we came up with a multi-dimensional plan and an alternative approach. It involved sensoring fences, using high definition airborne cameras with drone technologies and active participation by teams in helicopters. Most of the attacks happen at night, so the cameras have infrared imagery capabilities. Now, the rhinos are protected 24 hours a day. After implementing the new technology, the number of rhinos being poached dropped dramatically –to almost zero. Last year, the World Wildlife Foundation shared this project with the wildlife funders as a new concept of protecting the most vulnerable wildlife near extinction.

The second phase of this is going to be a project in Zambia. We're now looking at using the same principles and technologies to protect the elephants, on a much bigger scale.  We'll also have the full support of the World Wildlife Fund. They're able to get governments on board to help put regulations in place. Dimension Data, Cisco and the World Wildlife Fund are using the next generation of technologies to protect the animals that we haven't historically been able to protect.

This project has also allowed many Cisco employees to participate. For example, some of the best minds in Cisco have been applied to this project, and there's a huge amount of enthusiasm.  We have employees that have volunteered to be out there on the ground in the fight against poachers. For me, it's just a proud moment to see the company rallying to apply our technology, our people, our brain power, and our willingness to do good things. I think this action really gives an insight into our culture. 

Focus Magazine: Can you tell me from a personal standpoint, why this is so important to you?

Chris Dedicoat: Having been to the game reserves a few times myself, I think it's tremendous that we're in this position and have the capabilities to help, and most importantly, that we have the willingness of people to be engaged.  I feel passionate that we have to do what we can to help those that can't protect themselves. I put the plight of animals in that category. It makes me feel good that we can do something to help them, and that we're doing the best that we can for this generation and future generations.


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