BY: Chuck Robbins [Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Cisco]
There is no question these last few weeks, months and even this past year have been incredibly difficult as we have seen the systems of our daily lives and ideas of what we had considered “normal” disappear.
The successive battles of COVID-19, the resulting economic contraction and job losses, and our own reckoning with deep-rooted systemic racism and bigotry have brought to light centuries of inequality, injustice, and fragility underpinning our society for far too long.
It is clear to me that our notions of corporate social responsibility, advocacy or even the most recent notion of stakeholder capitalism simply aren’t doing enough to care for our world.
When we first began to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked ourselves, “what more can we do?” Each of us knows the familiar and comfortable playbook of donating funds and releasing a statement of solidarity. Every dollar certainly matters. At Cisco, we have done our fair share of giving – whether it be the first $50 million we committed to solving homelessness in Silicon Valley in 2018 or the initial $225 million in COVID-19 global response we committed in March which we have grown to over $500 million today. But what happens when we take it beyond our financial means and put all the might of what makes Cisco unique towards fighting a pandemic or centuries of systemic racism?
Over the past year, we have been thinking a lot about the purpose of our organization and the work we do with our customers and partners. In our early days, we set out to change the way the world worked, lived, played and learned by building networks that have shaped the Internet we know today.
This work is now ensuring billions of peoples’ curbside pickups, grocery deliveries, telehealth visits, digital payments, and Webex meetings work flawlessly. So, what comes next? We know our responsibilities don’t end with technology.
It’s now about making the world we envision possible. Over the past six months, we came to the conclusion that our new purpose is to Power an Inclusive Future for All.
We can achieve this purpose through our technology, our actions and our intentions. As we grappled with COVID-19, we developed a new framework for how we will guide our decisions in how we respond to what we see as a crisis, an injustice or a global challenge.
This is anchored by four primary pillars of response:
- The Most Vulnerable, led by Tae Yoo, SVP, Corporate Affairs, will focus on the non-profits and partners that support underserved communities and those disproportionately impacted by systemic issues and crises.
- Families and Community, led by Fran Katsoudas, EVP and Chief People Officer, will focus on expanding care and well-being services beyond our employees.
- Research and Resilience, led by Liz Centoni, SVP Emerging Technologies & Incubation, will focus on technology solutions that can advance healthcare research and address social inequities.
- Strategic Recovery, led by Maria Martinez, EVP and Chief Customer Experience Officer, will focus on helping healthcare and education institutions adapt their operations so they can continue to provide care to impacted communities and critical pathways to job opportunities during times of uncertainty.
As we rise to challenges going forward, we will use this framework as a holistic approach to make sure our efforts are not “one and done” and drive impact at an individual level.
We commit to thinking beyond the initial response and utilizing all of our resources and capabilities to truly work towards long-term partnerships and solutions that make peoples’ lives better.
All of us are impacted by the choices we make and the events that are thrust upon us, but it is our intent and our actions that set us apart. At Cisco Live in 2016 – with many of you – we announced our goal of positively impacting one billion people by 2025.
While we are well on our way, having impacted 469 million in just the first four years, I believe this new framework and our continued partnerships will only accelerate this journey.
We are at a critical moment in history and so much is within our ability to shape it. As businesses, we have an opportunity to do way more for the world than we thought possible and I look forward to you joining us. I have been so inspired by the heroic actions and faces of hope around the world.
I believe we can use this opportunity – and this week – to come together and achieve what we know is possible. Possibilities are truly the hope of society and I cannot wait to see what we will achieve together.