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Constructing extra sustainable and resilient communities: An interview with Cisco’s Chief Sustainability Officer

Cisco’s goal is to Energy an Inclusive Future for All, and this consists of making certain a sustainable and regenerative future for our planet. We’re leveraging our scale and innovation to assist be sure that our more and more digital future is sustainable, truthful, and resilient. We’re doing this by decarbonizing our operations, provide chain, and merchandise; transitioning to renewable power; and serving to clients and communities cut back their impacts and adapt to a altering world.

Mary de Wysocki, Cisco’s first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), shares her expertise designing for affect, her goals as she leads Cisco’s sustainability efforts, and the way we are able to work collectively to create extra sustainable and resilient communities.

Earlier than entering into this position, you led Company Social Accountability (CSR), schooling, and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives for Cisco. How did that have present a basis for the work you’re specializing in right now?

Mary de Wysocki
Mary de Wysocki, Cisco’s Chief Sustainability Officer

Mary: The learnings I’ve had on a purely social affect facet during the last 20 years have allowed me to know the philosophy of shared worth, which was first launched in 2011. Shared worth is how an organization can have insurance policies and practices that assist to advance the enterprise whereas additionally serving to people and communities the place it operates thrive. Consider it like an increasing sphere of affect. Our goal builds on and deepens this philosophy. Once we say we’re Powering an Inclusive Future for All, we imply for our enterprise and our communities, our clients, companions, suppliers and different stakeholders. These teams are linked, and we are able to solely obtain an inclusive future for all by all – which means by working in partnership in direction of frequent objectives.

There may be additionally the Concept of Change, which is a technique that explains how taking sure steps can result in particular adjustments. By means of my prior roles, I’ve seen the distinction between concept and what you should do on the bottom to make an affect. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, Cisco wished to assist the affected communities, and we felt that the communities couldn’t get better in the event that they didn’t have colleges up and dealing. So, I went to New Orleans and Mississippi to develop Cisco’s 21st Century Faculties Initiative with native faculty districts. This expertise allowed me to suppose past the preliminary response and focus long-term: how can we create resilient communities?

As I shift into my CSO position, I’m nonetheless fascinated by designing for affect. When making public objectives, similar to positively impacting 1 billion folks by 2025, we have to do the work to outline the outcomes we’re on the lookout for and plan in ways in which enable us to pivot, make shifts, and adjustments. It’s vital to know what it takes to design for affect and find out how to execute that plan to make that affect a actuality.

What are your main goals as CSO?

Mary: First, being Cisco´s CSO is an honor and privilege. There’s a wealthy historical past of a whole bunch of individuals throughout the corporate who’ve labored passionately on this house. There has at all times been a way of neighborhood, and I’m pleased with the community of people that have been setting and reaching objectives, carrying the work ahead, and making an actual affect on this house.

My main goal as CSO is to steward environmental sustainability initiatives throughout Cisco. As we take into consideration our technique, we’re specializing in how we are able to decarbonize our enterprise and embed circularity. Equally vital is taking a look at how we are able to allow sustainable progress and innovation. The best alternative is on serving to our clients, companions, and different stakeholders decarbonize their enterprise and embed circularity. Cisco’s expertise and ecosystem can play a big position within the twin transition to a digital and low-carbon financial system.

We additionally wish to proceed enhancing how we report our progress in an genuine and clear manner. As we take into consideration reaching sustainability objectives, it typically includes a little bit of math. How we measure our actions is underpinned by information, which guides our choices, and it permits us to create extra strong conversations with our stakeholders, to allow them to additionally make knowledgeable choices round their sustainability commitments. Knowledge helps perceive what sustainability methods work for one neighborhood and the way we would shift and adapt for one more.

Sustainability is integral to Cisco’s goal to Energy an Inclusive Future for All. Are you able to inform us extra about why a sustainable future features a extra inclusive one?

Mary: We will’t have inclusive and resilient communities if we don’t have a wholesome planet. As we take a look at local weather change, the communities impacted essentially the most are our most susceptible. Analysis reveals that individuals most affected by local weather catastrophic occasions, like hurricanes or droughts, stay in poverty. Within the Horn of Africa, over 20 million folks’s lives and livelihoods are being threatened by drought, and we’re working with our nonprofit associate, Mercy Corps, on a local weather adaptation and resilience program to help pastoralist farmers in Northeast Kenya, who’ve been severely impacted by the drought.

Once we speak concerning the twin transition to a digital and low-carbon financial system, how can we allow folks to take part? As local weather adjustments, folks with assets are those who can typically higher adapt, transfer to a different location or work from wherever. Nevertheless, that’s solely the case for some. Communities on the forefront of the local weather disaster lack the assets to adapt to, reply to, and get better from an growing variety of crises, similar to excessive climate, meals insecurity, and water shortage, which ends up in mass migration and displacement in addition to social instability and battle.

When you consider the affect of local weather on these communities, it comes right down to resiliency. Communities that may adapt have rigorous infrastructure and the financial functionality to resist it. They’ve a way of neighborhood and a citizenry that may adapt and be higher ready. There’s a possibility to empower folks to assist them construct resilient communities that may higher face up to the implications of local weather change.

Cisco’s purpose to achieve internet zero greenhouse gasoline (GHG) emissions throughout its worth chain (Scopes 1, 2, and three) by 2040 and near-term targets had been authorised by the Science Primarily based Targets initiative (SBTi). Are you able to clarify the importance of this?

Mary: The science tells us that to carry international warming to 1.5 levels Celsius in comparison with pre-industrial occasions requires elevated ambition and adoption of strong emissions discount targets on the tempo and scale required by local weather science. As we take into consideration the position that Cisco can play in decarbonization, we determined to set a public purpose round internet zero with close to time period targets that includes a technique round absolute reductions.

Having exterior validation from SBTi’s new Internet-Zero Normal indicators that we’re dedicated to the deep emissions discount which might be wanted to cut back international warming. To earn SBTi validation, corporations are required to cut back their emissions by not less than 90%. This requirement means we are able to’t depend on carbon offsets for greater than 10% of our emissions discount. This exterior validation demonstrates that our calculations and method align with accepted requirements and creates transparency and belief amongst stakeholders.

In 2021, the Cisco Basis dedicated $100 million over ten years to fund nonprofit grants and affect investing in local weather options. Might you share extra about this technique?

Mary: This technique helps early-stage options with the potential to scale and be replicable. It aligns with the long-standing social affect funding technique that we’ve leveraged from the Cisco Basis in catastrophe response, essential human wants, schooling, and financial empowerment.

When you consider local weather, there’s a distinctive position that Cisco can play. Going again to our internet zero purpose, we all know there’s going to be want for altering practices, similar to a shift to regenerative agriculture. We all know there will likely be a necessity for brand new modern decarbonization applied sciences. Whether or not it’s a nonprofit or an fascinating space of affect investing, the Cisco Basis staff has the flexibility to determine how we are able to nurture them by way of the cycle of innovation.

An instance from our local weather portfolio is Vesta, a hybrid nonprofit/public–profit enterprise. Their resolution is to seize carbon from the ambiance and help coastal resilience by utilizing the mineral olivine. The carbon-capture properties and security of olivine have been confirmed in lab settings. However what occurs outdoors the lab? We’re investing in that analysis and enabling Vesta to check it in real-world circumstances to review its results on wildlife and ecosystems and to see whether it is sequestering carbon on the identical tempo we noticed within the lab. This is a superb instance of designing for affect and the way we are able to foster probably thrilling and efficient options.

We all know we are able to’t do that alone. How is Cisco serving to our clients and the world create a extra sustainable future?

Mary: We wish to present options that assist help sustainability objectives.

Our clients wish to do extra, and our capability to proceed driving options that may enhance power effectivity can help their scope 1 and a pair of GHG discount objectives. Our round design rules can help clients who wish to cut back waste throughout their worth chain. Cisco can play an vital half in our clients´ digital transformation. We may also help them perceive how expertise can change how they run their enterprise, whether or not by way of hybrid work, creating sensible buildings like Cisco’s PENN1, or designing extra modular merchandise which might be simpler to improve, restore, and reuse. We will present them how we are able to use expertise to extend affect whereas lowering their footprint.

A ultimate instance I’ll share is our Nation Digital Acceleration program, the place we collaborate with authorities leaders to construct sustainable, safe, and inclusive communities powered by moral and modern expertise options. For instance, in the UK, we led the E-Flex consortium, an innovation venture to show the potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) expertise, which might enable unused power in electrical automobile batteries to be taken again into the electrical energy grid. If it proves profitable at scale, V2G might turn out to be a essential a part of a lower-carbon future, in addition to assist power managers cut back operational prices.

Once I take into consideration schooling, consciousness and innovation, it’s a journey. A part of the chance of being a CSO is with the ability to harness the inspiration and creativity of our staff, clients, companions and different stakeholders to work in direction of the local weather future we would like.




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