Earth Day: How We’re Helping Our Social and Environmental Systems Heal and Thrive

By Charu Adesnik
Apr 22, 2024 3:10 PM ET
A tree in a field with a blue sky

Earth Day was founded in the United States on April 22, 1970, to mark the emergence of the modern environmental movement, and it inspired more than 20 million Americans to take action. By 2020, Earth Day had grown to become an international movement, with more than 1 billion worldwide participating in Earth Day actions.

More than fifty years later, the world is more connected than ever before, but we’re suffering from new forms of disconnection: from each other, from our health, and from the health of the planet.

As the Executive Director of the Cisco Foundation, I’m proud to lead a team that is focused on enabling our social and environmental systems to thrive. We partner with organizations to create and scale innovative digital solutions that promote a healthy planet and advance the well-being and self-reliance of underserved communities globally.

This social investment strategy is closely aligned with Cisco’s corporate environmental sustainability strategy, the “Plan for Possible,” which includes three main strategic priorities: clean energy transitions, circular transformation, and investing in resilient ecosystems. Cisco and the Cisco Foundation take a holistic approach to addressing environmental and social issues because these issues are closely intertwined. Communities that can adapt to a changing climate have the right skills, infrastructure and economic foundation to build resilient communities that can better withstand the consequences of climate change.

Please continue to read to learn more about these connections and how we’re investing in technology today to make a healthier tomorrow for our people, communities, and the planet.

Clean energy transitions

Clean energy transitions means accelerating clean and renewable energy adoption and global net zero ambitions.

Jaza Energy is revolutionizing clean energy access in Tanzania and Nigeria with its solar hubs. By leveraging digital tools and advanced batteries, Jaza addresses the energy deficit impacting 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, where annual fossil fuel expenditure reaches $27 billion.

In Tanzania, 66% of households still use kerosene for energy needs. Jaza hubs offer a sustainable alternative to those reliant on kerosene and generators, illuminating over 11,500 homes and benefiting 90,000 people.

Jaza’s model provides opportunities to build livelihoods as well. They employ over 250 local women as “Jaza Stars,” employees responsible for sales and community development – further amplifying their impact. One Jaza Star said, “After working with Jaza, I participate in decision-making in my family,” highlighting the economic empowerment brought by these roles.

Jaza Energy exemplifies our dedication to innovative, sustainable solutions, aligning with the Cisco Foundation’s vision of sustainable community development and Cisco’s goal to accelerate clean energy adoption.

Circular transformation

Circular transformation means designing waste out of our business, and transitioning from an economy that extracts resources and eventually wastes them, to a circular one which finds new uses for products and their materials.

Green Wolf Costa Rica (GWCR) evolved from a movement of young environmentalists and technology professionals to support the social challenges that impacted the local community due to environmental actions from surrounding and developed cities. Since 2019, GWCR has removed over 70 tons of beach waste and planted hundreds of trees in collaboration with community and corporate volunteers.

GWCR offers climate education and activation efforts involving a technical approach to address the socio-economic inequality that puts the underserved community of Gaucalillo at greater risk to environmental dangers and social challenges. Gaucalillo is a coastal community located in one of the poorest areas of the country. Its geographical location, close to the mouth of the Rio Grande de Tarcoles, brings with it a significant problem of solid waste arriving on its shores.

In 2023 alone, Green Wolf mobilized over 20,000 volunteer hours across all of their projects, including 120 hours from Cisco Meraki volunteers in Guacalillo. With grant support and matching gift donations from Cisco and the Cisco Foundation, GWCR 1) develops sustainable souvenirs from wood and plastics recovered from the coastline, 2) explores solutions for plastic reuse, such as using it for filling in items such as hacky sacks, 3) collaborates with academics, skilled professionals, and local organizations to educate and raise awareness of waste impact among visitors and volunteers and 4) creates economic opportunities for residents of the community.

Investing in resilient ecosystems

Investing in resilient ecosystems means helping humans and nature navigate a changing climate. Our value chains benefit from resilient ecosystems, both financial and ecological.

Human-I-T is at the forefront of creating resilient ecosystems by bridging the digital divide and combating e-waste. Through innovative solutions and a dedication to digital equity, Human-I-T has made significant strides in connecting students and their households with the technology they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

In recent years, Human-I-T has achieved remarkable growth in its mission to provide equitable access to opportunity for communities on the wrong side of the digital divide – all while supporting a circular economy model. By refurbishing and redistributing tens of thousands of electronic devices, including laptops and computers for students, Human-I-T has empowered young learners with the tools they need to succeed academically and unlock their full potential.

Human-I-T’s commitment to educational digital equity extends beyond device distribution. By providing students and their families with access to internet connectivity, digital skills training, and technical support, Human-I-T ensures that recipients are equipped not just with devices but with the knowledge and resources to navigate the digital world effectively.

In 2023 alone, Human-I-T distributed 60,000 devices to communities across the United States, trained 5,000 people with digital literacy skills, and diverted 3.4 million pounds of e-waste from landfills.

As Human-I-T continues to collaborate with businesses, organizations, and government entities to divert technology from landfills and deliver comprehensive digital inclusion programs, it exemplifies the power of investing in regenerative solutions and technologies to create a more sustainable and equitable future, ensuring that students have the tools they need to thrive in and out of the classroom.

Learn how Cisco and the Cisco Foundation support social and environmental impact:

Cisco ESG Reporting Hub

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