There are a large number of interpretations of corporate social responsibility (CSR). One popular definition is that CSR as business practices that aim at social and environmental issues, including pollution, inequality, public health, etc. Companies that adopt CSR practices have higher operational performance and a greater level of sustainability. Similarly, another definition views CSR as a voluntary business plan that is incorporated into a company’s strategy to address social concerns. There are several benefits of CSR, including higher employee morale, better customer satisfaction, and brand recognition, greater cost-saving, and easier access to capital. With those benefits, more and more companies have integrated CSR practices into their daily operations. Cisco Systems, Inc. is one of those companies that not only have a CSR program in place but also prioritize corporate social responsibility practices in their business agendas.
Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Silicon Valley in California, Cisco Systems, Inc. is one of the biggest technology firms in the U.S. The company specializes in manufacturing high-technology devices such as telecommunications equipment and networking hardware. Its mission is to connect people and computers through its networking solutions, enabling them to exchange information, regardless of their time and location differences. Cisco’s corporate social responsibility philosophy is building bridges between hopes and possibilities. The company has been using its technology and resources to solve global problems and achieve social benefits as well as environmental sustainability. The CSR programs at Cisco are managed by Corporate Affairs, which is a part of the company’s Human Resources department. Corporate Affairs has four major responsibilities regarding CSR. The four responsibilities are defining and managing CSR programs, driving CSR processes, communicating with stakeholders, and evaluating and monitoring corporate social responsibility issues. Some CSR campaigns are initiated by various business functions within the company. Other campaigns are owned by Corporate Affairs. All are incorporated into ongoing and long-term business plans that focus on social and environmental impacts.
Cisco measures the success of its corporate social responsibility by how it positively affects society. Every year, Cisco projects a set of goals of what its impact will be on society for the entire year. At the end of the year, the set of goals is used as an indication of whether the company has been successful in its CSR campaigns. For example, in 2019, the company set four main CSR goals. The first goal was for Cisco Networking Academy, which offers free online courses for IT entrepreneurs, to reach two million students. The second goal was to keep away one million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in the company’s supply chain. The third goal was to achieve at least eighty percent of community involvement through employees’ participation. Employees’ participation can be anything from donating, volunteering to advocate for the causes that the employees care about. The last goal was to positively influence one billion people through the company’s Global Impact Cash Grants program by 2025.
For the first goal of its corporate social responsibility, Cisco Networking Academy was able to reach 2.15 million students in 2019. The students come from all countries around the world. It is promised that this number will continue to grow in the coming years with the help of Cisco’s new partnerships. For the second goal, Cisco managed to exceed the expectations ahead of the 2020 target date. All of the company’s electricity used in the U.S. and Canada facilities is generated by renewable energy. For the third goal, Cisco failed to meet its target. Employee engagement was stopped at fifty-one percent, which was far below its target level at eighty percent. Cisco admitted its failure for this goal and promised to adjust its plans to get a more favorable result. For the last goal, as of 2019, the company impacted approximately 470 million people. If everything is kept at this rate, Cisco will be able to reach its goal ahead of 2025.
As can be seen, the corporate social responsibility programs of Cisco are sustainable because the goals are either long-term of repetitive annually. Furthermore, the CSR goals address the current concerns of the society. Those concerns are how to use technology to develop and protect the environment. Lastly, CSR programs have measurable results. Thus, Cisco can evaluate its programs and make adjustments if necessary.
Corporate social responsibility has become more and more important to businesses around the globe to boost their brand recognition as well as gain competitive advantages. Cisco Systems, Inc. is not an exception. The executives at Cisco have long understood that CSR must be a vital part of a sustainable business. It is the reason the company established its own Corporate Affairs who oversees all CSR programs of the company. Through its CSR practices, Cisco has successfully built its business image, retained best talents, and created its own competitive advantages. All of these have made a big contribution to the overall success of the company.