Feature Story

Powering a low carbon, zero emissions future for all

by Francine Katsoudas

Net Zero Cisco sustainability commitment

Cisco’s Fran Katsoudas is proud to share a major milestone in the journey to power a zero emissions future.

Climate change is an urgent crisis. As experts around the globe sound the alarm and nations build back from unprecedented changes, the climate crisis stamped its mark on 2020 as the hottest ever on record. And in the past few weeks alone we have witnessed the devastating effects of climate disasters ranging from wildfires to hurricanes to floods and the consequences they’ve had on our communities. We are at a critical moment in history – a moment we must seize to create a more inclusive and sustainable world together so that future generations can thrive.

Today, I’m proud to share a major milestone in our journey to power a zero emissions future: we are announcing our commitment to become net zero for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040 and net zero for global Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025.

This announcement also marks a major milestone in Cisco's journey to Power an Inclusive Future for All. Our purpose is not just an inspirational statement; it's how we get to work and how we have real impact on the world. After establishing this purpose in 2019, we began to map our work against it, identifying the central cornerstones, investments, and initiatives under each element of our purpose. You'll continue to hear more about how we plan to set and achieve ambitious targets around all aspects of our purpose, framed around the pillars of:

  • Power - Closing the digital divide and securely powering the world’s connectivity
  • an Inclusive - Advancing social justice and scaling development for fair and equitable access to opportunity
  • Future - Ensuring a sustainable, regenerative future for our planet
  • for All - Building partner ecosystems to be a catalyst and multiplier to scale impact for all

We know sustainability is central to this journey, and for more than 15 years Cisco has been furthering our impact both internally and externally. As one of the world’s largest providers of cloud, networking, hybrid work and security technologies, we are committed to leveraging our scale and innovation to ensure that our increasingly digital future is sustainable and regenerative.

Increase the energy efficiency of the technology that powers the internet

Reaching net zero requires us to think beyond just our Scope 1 and 2 emissions and address the largest share of our greenhouse gas emissions – the use of our products by our customers in their devices, data centers, and offices. Our technologies are the foundation of every major cloud, mobile network, video call, and digital transaction in the world, so a critical component in reaching our net zero goal will be continued innovation to make our products more energy efficient in order to drive down our Scope 3 emissions.

A great example of this is Silicon One, our programmable chip for high performance networking.

With just one chip, the physical size of the system is reduced, which equates to a 62x reduction in shipping weight, 202x reduction in shipping transport volume, and 26x reduction in power consumption. Combined, that’s a huge reduction in carbon emissions and packaging, magnifying the positive environmental impact. We will continue integrate Silicon One into more of our product design to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the performance of our products, and provide value for our customers.

Accelerating the use of renewable energy

Over the past 15 years we have made significant investments and surpassed ambitious targets in our renewable energy use. We’ve achieved 100% renewable electricity in the United States and various European countries, and in India – where the electricity sector is dominated by fossil fuels – we’ve gone from 2% renewables to 60% in just five years. Our corporate cloud acceleration strategy dovetails nicely with our commitment to accelerate use of renewable energy – as more of our customer adopt SaaS, the more we can ensure our customer solutions are power by renewables.

But we know that we must accelerate the use of renewable energy not just for ourselves and our customers, but for the communities we are a part of too. One idea that we are exploring is the possibility of investing renewable energy in the communities where we operate, both reducing our Scope 3 emissions but also greening the electrical grid by working with our public sector partners. We are increasing our use of renewables through a combination of onsite solar installations, green power contracts with local utilities, and power purchase agreements that add renewable energy to the local electricity grid.

Embracing hybrid work

The world of work is going hybrid, and with that comes great opportunity. Over the past year we have learned that the office has changed forever, and we won’t be returning to the office or using the physical space in the same way as before. We anticipate a least a 20 to 30 percent decline in employee commuting compared to pre-COVID levels – a direct impact on our Scope 3 emissions for employee commuting.

But our commitment to hybrid work is about more than just reducing our emissions. It’s about creating a culture of well-being that puts our people first. And we know that our collaboration technology can help our customers and partners do the same, contributing to their own sustainability goals while also taking care of their people. We will continue to lead in this space ensuring a hybrid environment that is flexible, inclusive, and secure, all while empowering employees to make smart travel and commuting decisions that benefit them and the planet.

Investing in innovative carbon removal solutions

If we are to truly address the climate crisis, we can’t just focus on reducing our carbon emissions, but we need to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The public and private sectors must invest in both nature-based and technology-based solutions. Here’s where Cisco’s track record on innovation – and supporting passionate entrepreneurs – will have critical impact.

In April, the Cisco Foundation committed to $100 million over ten years to invest in climate solutions. A key area of investment will be in innovative startups and solutions addressing carbon removal and helping them come to fruition for the world to leverage.

We also invest in innovative solutions through our annual Global Problem Solver Challenge, which this year awarded $1 million to technology-based start-ups addressing social and environmental challenges. As part of this year’s competition we awarded our first ever Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize to Remora, a group of amazing young innovators who have developed an affordable technology that can capture 80 percent of carbon emissions from long-haul trucks.

As we build our net zero strategy, we are committed to keeping innovation at our core, seeking out and investing in other promising solutions that have the potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere at scale.

Partnering to build climate resiliency

As we continue on our purpose journey, we know that we cannot tackle this crisis alone. Our path to net zero must be one of global partnership, because we can only usher in an inclusive future if it is done by all, and for all. Environmental justice has taught us that the most economically marginalized disproportionately bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

Cisco believes that technology has a key role to play in making the twin green and digital transition an inclusive and fair transition too. As part of this, Cisco is launching a new Digital Sustainability framework through our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, which has over 1000 active or completed projects across 43 countries. Investments over the next 3 years will ensure our customers and partners can leverage Cisco’s technology to meet their sustainability goals, address their most pressing challenges, and drive impact in their communities.

In the Americas, CDA is investing in a Sustainability Partner Innovation Challenge to unleash the co-innovation capacity across Cisco’s unmatched partner ecosystem to develop proofs of concept aimed at solving sustainability challenges. In Europe, we have launched a Green & Blue Innovation Challenge, inviting employees to submit and pitch ideas for solutions that can help Cisco, its partners and customers address environmental matters.

This effort is going to take all of us, and I am proud to see the passion and dedication of our teams and people across the world.

Looking ahead to an Inclusive Future for All

This moment in time is a crucial opportunity for reinvention for every organization and every nation to lead a more sustainable future. It matters to our employees, our customers, and our partners, but it must be an imperative for the world. At Cisco, we understand that with our technology, our people, and our global scale we can effectively drive change and help deliver on the promise of a future that is both sustainable and inclusive.

It will take all of us to achieve ambitious climate goals as we continue on our purpose journey. We are committed to doing our part (and more), and we will continue to collaborate with partners, customers, and stakeholders along the way.

If you are a Cisco employee and would like to contribute to one of our Disaster Relief campaigns on Bright Funds, click here. All donations will be matched by Cisco.

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