Taking Ambition on Climate Change to the Next Level

Sep 27, 2018 10:25 AM ET

As published on the Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility blog

This blog was guest written by Kathy Mulvany, Vice President, Corporate Sustainability, Cisco

Our world is in the early stages of a sustainability revolution…with the magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution. 

– Al Gore, 2018 Global Climate Action Summit

This is just one of the many thoughtful and inspiring takeaways I heard at the recent Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco.

I had the opportunity to join some of the most passionate and committed advocates for environmental sustainability – primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall; government leaders representing countries, states, and cities around the globe; business leaders from top companies including Apple, Bank of America, L’Oreal, Nike, Starbucks, and Salesforce; as well as representatives from the entertainment industry such as Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin.

It was extremely inspiring to see the level of commitment — across individuals, corporations, civil society, and governments — to working together to change the current trajectory of our planet.

As impressive were the consistent messages echoed by many – that we must take ambition to the next level on climate change, that we must ensure it is a just transition to a low carbon economy, and that environmental sustainability is a competitive differentiator and a tremendous business opportunity.

This week, I look forward to watching this critical conversation continue and new commitments arise at the 10thanniversary of Climate Week NYC, where many of the same leaders will reconvene.

#StepUp2020: Businesses Step Up on Climate Action

Addressing greenhouse gas emissions continues to be a top priority for Cisco. As of FY2017, our GHG emissions are down more than 40% in absolute terms since 2007 — in spite of our business growing more than 37% over that time.

At the Global Climate Action Summit, Cisco joined 20 other companies as part of the Step Up Declaration, a new alliance dedicated to harnessing the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of the declaration, Cisco announced an ambitious new, science-based, product energy efficiency goal, while highlighting existing commitments to reduce GHG emissions in our business operations and supply chain.

For example, we previously committed to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions from operations by 60% absolute by FY2022 using an FY07 baseline.

Engaging the Next Generation on Climate Change

Beyond our own operations and supply chain, we believe we have an opportunity and responsibility to help students from all socio-economic backgrounds learn how to design, build, and secure networks for the digital economy, while also designing and operating them to reduce environmental impacts. This will be a key differentiator for the companies and the professionals that lead in the future.

That is why we’re on a mission to support an inclusive digital economy, where everyone has the opportunity and skills to thrive as global problem solvers — those who innovate as a technologist, act as a social change agent, and embody an entrepreneurial mindset to create solutions for society and our planet.

For example, today Cisco Networking Academy is the largest educational program of its kind, building digital skills for over 1.8 million current students in 180 countries, and more than 9 million students since our program began in 1997.

We are also committed to education and awareness building so the next generation understands how digitization can help them be more sustainable leaders. For example, through our annual Global Problem Solver Challenge (kicking off again this October), college students and recent graduates have the chance to apply digitization to tackle social or environmental challenges.

Solstice Energy was a runner-up in our 2017 GPS Challenge, which attracted 1,100 registrants from more than 450 schools around the globe. Launched by Stanford University students, the energy technology company designed SHYFT, a hardware/software platform enabling the next generation of distributed energy management. As such, it was great to see Solstice Energy recognized at the Global Climate Action Summit as the California Climate Challenge Winner.

Additionally, Team PowerStove was a runner-up winner in our 2018 GPS Challenge with their smokeless, clean cookstove that uses 70% less biomass fuel and has a self-powered cloud-based remote monitoring system.

What decisions will you make today in the fight against climate change?

As Jane Goodall said at the event, “Each one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day and we have a choice as to what kind of impact.”

The same applies to business. We make business decisions every day that impact the world. By engaging diverse stakeholders, sharing best practices, and challenging our employees, our future employees, and entrepreneurs to step up, we can all be global problem solvers for a more sustainable planet, and a brighter future for all.