Cisco Boosts Sustainability With Partner Programs

This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter.

With three new sustainability programs, Cisco hopes to make good on its promise of having 100% of its equipment returned to be reused or recycled.

Sustainability has been a major societal topic for years, but the pandemic thrust it into the business world. The “Great Reset” that we have been experiencing over the past two years has caused every person, city, country, and company to look at the way they operate, thrusting sustainability to the forefront. Almost all large tech companies now have sustainability programs to make the world a better place today but also for generations to come.

Recently, Cisco announced an expansion of its sustainability initiatives by introducing channel programs. This is important as 90% of Cisco’s business runs through its partner community. By promoting sustainability in its channel, the company’s efforts can be multiplied as its partners can create a far broader reach and impact than Cisco alone.

Cisco is now rewarding its partners for sustainable practices with a program called Environmental Sustainability Specialization, focused on product takeback and reuse. Cisco first announced the Environmental Sustainability Specialization at its Partner Summit in November and officially launched it this month.

Cisco created the specialization around the idea of the circular economy, where used equipment is returned to the vendor to either reuse or recycle. The program recognizes partners for their commitment to sustainability, specifically the circular economy. Earning the specialization requires 15 hours of training and completion of two exams.

The training equips partners with information to educate customers on the benefits of replacing older equipment with new, energy-efficient equipment. Additionally, Cisco wants to drive cloud adoption among partners and their customers. The Sustainability Specialization offers guidance on updating legacy technologies and migrating to the cloud.

Partners that have earned the specialization receive a Takeback Incentive for returning all hardware they take out of their customers’ environments. Cisco provides incremental discounts of up to 7% on new products registered for the incentive, and it offers other deals on refresh or migration opportunities.

The networking giant has pledged to eventually have 100% of its equipment returned. By 2025, Cisco wants to incorporate circular design principles into all its products and packaging. To reach that goal, it’s offering co-branded materials, guides for conversations with customers, and training in various Cisco programs, including Product Takeback and Reuse, Cisco Refresh, and the Circular Economy.

Cisco Refresh, particularly, has become an essential resource for partners. Each year, companies return nearly a million pieces of equipment, which the Cisco Refresh team refurbishes for resale. Despite current supply chain constraints, the program provides partners with the equipment they need in a timely manner, according to Cisco. It also serves companies that may not afford to purchase new equipment due to budgetary limitations.

In 2020, for example, there were approximately 10,000 metric tons of equipment returned to Cisco through its Takeback program. The vendor has been making it easier for partners to facilitate product returns through different tools like the Send IT Back app. Using the app, IT managers can quickly request the pickup of used gear. Send IT Back is currently available to Android and iOS users in the U.S., UK, and the EU and soon will expand to other global markets.

Implementing the circular economy can significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why Cisco created the Green Pay circular payment model to minimize waste and help customers build sustainable IT. Green Pay offers IT solutions that consume fewer resources, such as Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) portfolio called Green Meraki. Customers get a 5% incentive on hardware purchased through Green Pay and predictable payments for five years.

Green Pay, the Environmental Sustainability Specialization, the Takeback Incentive, and the other initiatives are an important step toward Cisco’s vision of “powering a sustainable, circular, and inclusive future.” Cisco is rewarding its partners for helping customers migrate to the latest technologies, while responsibly disposing of used equipment.

In conjunction with this initiative, Cisco launched its inaugural Digital Sustainability Challenge, asking partners across the U.S. to submit their most innovative ideas focused on helping customers tackle climate concerns. Submissions were measured against the following three goals:

  1. Show a Measurable Impact. Propose solutions that measurably cut greenhouse gas emissions, minimize waste, and/or reduce energy consumption.
  2. Accelerate Innovation. Share unique technology strategies and/or enable faster acceptance around customer adoption.
  3. Demonstrate Collaboration. Tap into the power of collaboration to drive scalable sustainability-focused digital transformation and leverage the collective impact of Cisco together with our partners’ unique expertise and perspectives.

The winners are as follows:

  • First place: Schneider Electric for its intelligent building management solution, which uses Cisco DNA Spaces to track sustainable performance indicators in smart buildings. About 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions come from buildings, and over 30% of the energy is wasted, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So, small efficiency improvements can have a big impact.
  • Second place: Rockwell Automation developed a leak detection system using Cisco IoT connectivity and sensors for smart reservoir management, energy consumption prediction, and pressure management in water distribution. The U.S. loses approximately two trillion gallons of water due to leakages annually, which is roughly 15% of treated water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If we cut this number — even by a small amount — we can help drought-affected areas.
  • Third place: Darva and KLA Laboratories for their distributed vehicle to grid energy transfer solution, which leverages Cisco IoT and Webex to support electric vehicle (EV) evolution. The idea is to use the EV as an energy storage device connected to an IoT-enabled bidirectional changing network, reducing the strain on the electrical grid.

Through these programs, Cisco promises partners to generate more opportunities by gaining new business and expanding existing products/services. Customers will buy from companies that practice sustainability if they know a company has services for responsible disposal of hardware. It’s a win-win for Cisco and its partners.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.