Cisco VP Denise Lee discusses how the company has built sustainability into all aspects of its operations.
Companies and governments around the world are coming together to develop sustainability policies, goals, and commitments. According to a 2022 Gartner survey, 87 percent of business leaders are expected to invest more in sustainability over the next two years. Business leaders see sustainability as an investment that protects their organization from disruption, while also creating new values and business growth opportunities.
For Cisco, sustainability is a huge part of the company’s strategy. Cisco’s engineering teams came together to create the Engineering Sustainability Office, which focuses on developing better products that help customers meet their sustainability goals.
I recently chatted with Denise Lee, Vice President of the Engineering Sustainability Office, about Cisco’s efforts to build better products and why all companies should be thinking about sustainability. Highlights of the ZKast interview, done in conjunction with eWEEK eSPEAKS, are below.
- Cisco has set a goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, which would include scope metrics 1, 2, and 3. Companies use scope 1 and 2 metrics to measure emissions that they own or control, whereas scope 3 emissions are a result of a company’s activities but come from outside sources.
- In July 2022, Cisco’s 2040 net zero goal was approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) under its Net-Zero Standard. SBTi defines best practices for corporate net zero target setting based on climate science. In order to earn SBTi validation, companies must reduce their emissions by at least 90%. Cisco is among the first hardware and equipment companies to be validated under the SBTi standard.
- In the near term, Cisco has set two other sustainability goals. The first one is 90 percent reduction in scope 1 and 2 global emissions by 2025. The second one is 30 percent reduction in scope 3 emissions from purchased goods and services, upstream transportation and distribution, and use of sold products by 2030. Additionally, by 2025, Cisco wants to incorporate circular design into all its products and packaging.
- Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) are farther ahead when it comes to sustainability practices and their understanding of scopes 1,2, and 3. In EMEA, sustainability-related policies and regulations have already taken effect, such as banning certain materials from being used in products. Cisco plans to do the same across the entire supply chain, so it’s not a bespoke model for every global region.
- Data plays a key role in sustainability. When companies understand the science and the data behind the products, they can adjust their thinking and practices. Within every organization, IT deals with droves of data. Organizations can bring IT into the sustainability conversation and make IT part of the solution, while also creating designated sustainability roles/offices. It’s about getting a diverse set of people together across the company to solve this problem.
- Earlier this year, Cisco launched an Environmental Sustainability Specialization, which includes everything from training to incentives for returning used equipment to Cisco. The program recognizes partners for their commitment to sustainability, specifically the circular economy.
- There are three actions companies can take today to become sustainable in the future. First, get started no matter where you are in your journey. Second, have a baseline understanding of where you are right now and what needs to be prioritized. Third, think long-term and embed sustainability into the business.