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Cisco's Sustainable and CSR Activities

 Dr Archana Verma

Harish Krishnan, MD, Cisco Systems India & SAARC and Co-Founder Public Affairs Forum of India, speaks about the sustainability and CSR activities of India in this interaction

What is the CSR strategy of Cisco?

Cisco envisions an inclusive future where technology gives everyone the tools to thrive. Our people, solutions, and investments are making this a reality. We enable the same through strategic programs and partnerships in Education, Critical Human Needs and Economic Empowerment.

Out of the CSR activities list, what activities has Cisco engaged in the most in recent times?

The India CSR Program invests in grants and program in Education, Critical Human Needs and Economic Empowerment. Every investment is focused on solving a problem and has a digital product, tool, service or platform as an enabler. All of our investments are aligned to Schedule VII of the Companies Act. Under Education, we prioritise enabling access, engagement and learning outcomes for children up to grade 10. For Economic Empowerment, it is skilling, livelihood generation and entrepreneurship. Under Critical Human Needs, our investments are in hunger and nutrition, healthcare, disaster relief and response.

Does Cisco implement the ideology of social responsibility in its day to day work culture?

Doing good and driving impact has always been a part of our culture and woven into everything that we do. In 2019, Cisco built upon a solid foundation and started defining culture using a new framework that we call “Conscious Culture.” It has three components: • Environment: An inclusive, diverse environment that positively impacts people, society, and the planet. • Characteristics: The typical traits of our culture, such as our unique beliefs, behaviors, and Principles. • Experience: The everyday interactions people have with their leaders and colleagues. From volunteering to help build homes, to mentoring students from under-served communities, doing good is part of being at Cisco. In 2019, 51% of Cisco employees donated or volunteered to support their community.

What is Cisco's contribution towards sustainable living?

Globally, Cisco has set environmental goals since 2006, and continues to set goals aligned with our most material issues. We use life-cycle assessments (LCAs) to estimate the GHG emissions associated with the different lifecycle stages of our products and to help prioritise the best ways to reduce these emissions.

We have also set several targets for ourselves to reduce our impact on the environment. 80% of Cisco's component, manufacturing, and logistics suppliers by spend will have a public, absolute GHG emissions reduction target by FY25, and 70% will achieve a zero-waste diversion rate at one or more sites by then. And with FY19 as the base year, we aim to reduce Cisco's supply chain-related Scope 3 GHG emissions by 30% absolute by FY30, decrease the use of virgin plastics by 20%, and reduce all foam used in product packaging by 75% measured by weight, by FY25. 

To further embed environmental practices into day to day life, employees have access to various groups and learning platforms such as the Cisco Green Team Network (GTN) a global employee-led team with 11 local chapters and hundreds of members. These champions have been instrumental in eliminating paper cups from select offices, established a community garden at the Bangalore site, championed best practices for recycling and e-waste disposal and hosting workshops to educate and learn about sustainable practices for the household, such as wet waste disposal, lesser consumption of plastic in households and more.

Can you through some light on how Cisco helped digitise TAPF kitchens?

Aligned to our goal of leveraging technology to help solve complex problems for our communities, Cisco digitised seven Akshaya Patra kitchens and two offices in India. The exercise was undertaken to help Akshaya Patra realise significant gains in productivity, scalability, and cost-efficiency and accelerate Akshaya Patra’s goal to reach 5 million children by 2020. As part of this agreement, Cisco has deployed an enterprise-grade network and collaboration suite connecting kitchens and Akshaya Patra offices by enabling end-to-end IT and process digitisation.  The upgraded Akshaya Patra network connects their offices in Bangalore, Gurgaon, and field kitchens across seven locations on a single network which enables them to efficiently track their kitchen production, distribution, supply chain and logistics. In the immediate aftermath of the implementation, the following were observed:

·        50% reduction in time spent on collection and entries of school wise attendance and meals consumed data

·        Led to a web-based applications workflow for billing, resulting in up to 53% reduction projected for billing cycle time

·        Up to 50% improvement in asset life cycle and subsequent reduction in IT asset investments

How has Akshaya Patra Foundation along with Cisco tackled hunger during the pandemic due to the loss of income and jobs?

In the aftermath of a disaster, Cisco extended support through immediate relief and response. During the pandemic, as an immediate response to the lockdown, wherein a significant number of individuals across the country were stranded with no access to an income and food, Cisco partnered with Akshaya Patra to provide 6.6 lakh meals to communities across three states. More recently, with the closure of Government run schools, loss of jobs for parents and the lack of access to mid-day meals, Cisco has also worked with Akshaya Patra to provide happiness boxes with essentials, groceries and supplies to 35,000 children.

How can corporate India make a difference to India’s ‘Hunger Index’ ranking? How does Akshaya Patra’s mission contribute towards it?

Akshaya Patra runs the world’s largest mid-day meal program and has demonstrated the impact of the access of one nutritious meal on a child’s development through various studies and research. They have also managed to scale the program meaningfully while maintaining consistency and high quality. If every corporate with a CSR mandate and an employee giving program were to make a commitment to alleviating hunger in some form, more so in the aftermath of this pandemic, India could see an improved ranking on the World Hunger Index.

Outside of monetary contributions, if corporate India used its expertise in technology, human resources, supply chain and/or organisation development to bring in efficiency and further optimise the cost of providing one mid-day meal, Akshaya Patra can subsequently reach out to far more children. Access to cooked nutritious food to the most vulnerable communities is one of the most effective ways to ensure that wide-spread hunger can be curbed. This reduces the burden on families to invest in all the components, right from fuel to supplies to groceries needed to generate one cooked meal. By providing a child one nutritious meal, Akshaya Patra is reducing this burden on the families, while ensuring that chronic under-nutrition, demonstrated by low height and weight for a child’s age called out by the Hunger Index is also addressed.