Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Cisco's Impactful Investment Model: Blueprint to One Billion Lives


Last month, Cisco announced that we have surpassed our ten-year goal of positively impacting one billion lives, achieving this milestone more than a year ahead of schedule. The 1.1 billion lives we have touched for the better account for roughly one-eighth of the global population.
This announcement marks just the beginning of our commitment to sharing the narratives of our journey toward impacting one billion lives. We aim to disseminate our approach and insights to empower organizations of all sizes to enact meaningful and enduring social change in communities worldwide.
Fran Katsoudas, Cisco's Executive Vice President and Chief People, Policy, and Purpose Officer, sheds light on this guiding principle in Cisco's FY23 Purpose Report. "By articulating our Purpose, 'To Power an Inclusive Future for All,' we have operationalized the efforts of our teams to collaborate with partners using connectivity, bridge the digital skills gap, promote sustainability, inclusivity, and social justice, and foster innovation through partnerships and impactful grants."
In order to achieve our objective of positively impacting one billion lives, Cisco has established over 100 partnerships and invested in hundreds of initiatives spanning nearly 200 countries across the globe. We have prioritized people at the core of our endeavors, concentrating on generating positive outcomes in crisis response, education and digital skills, and economic empowerment.
Additionally, we have developed what we term "the Blueprint for One Billion" to align our partnerships and initiatives with the guiding principles that merge our business, technology, and innovation with our Purpose. This framework enables us to concentrate our efforts where we can make the most profound impact.
We firmly believe that our guiding principles are adaptable and applicable to organizations of any size, facilitating increased and enduring social impact.

The Blueprint for One Billion: Aligning Purpose and Partnership for Impact

Commence with "Why"
Begin by identifying your "why." This will vary for each company, reflecting its unique strengths and passions. Anchor your "why" in the products and services where your company excels and align it with areas of Purpose that resonate with your workforce.
Cisco's products and services, such as networking, security, collaboration, and cloud management, underpin the Internet. Therefore, our "why" was rooted in the mission to connect the world and explore the potential for transformative change. We sought to understand the extent of our influence by leveraging our expertise in connectivity and innovation, alongside strategic partnerships and inventive solutions.
Define Impact Objectives Clearly
Impact can be defined and measured in numerous ways, necessitating clarity on how your company will assess it.
Collaborating with nonprofit partners, we established a shared definition of positive impact. Together, we concluded that positive impact occurs when individuals gain access to vital resources, acquire new knowledge, or participate meaningfully in society.
For instance, for job seekers, positive impact is realized through completing training programs and securing gainful employment. For students, it involves acquiring knowledge and demonstrating proficiency in their studies. In communities lacking clean water, positive impact translates to establishing reliable and affordable sources of potable water accessible to all residents.
Implement Robust Tracking Methods
Tracking and validating impact is a multifaceted yet indispensable endeavor, crucial for transparency, accurate reporting, and assessing effectiveness.
Our approach aimed for a balance between meticulousness to ensure consistency and precision and meeting the operational requirements of our nonprofit partners.
Beyond validating positive impact, our methodology guarantees the uniqueness of each counted individual and prevents duplicative counting over time. For instance, individuals benefiting from multiple programs within a year or the same program across several years are counted only once during the duration of our One Billion Lives initiative.
Recognizing the challenge of quantifying impact in certain social impact categories, we made adjustments. We omitted some social impact grants where nonprofit partners lacked mechanisms to track uniquely impacted individuals, such as those addressing food insecurity. 
Cisco enlisted PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct an independent limited assurance review of our progress toward our goal, as well as our associated methodology and validation processes from FY16-FY22, ensuring the integrity of our journey to one billion. We maintained the same approach and methodology in FY23.
Investing in Potential 
With a bold objective, precise impact definitions, and a meticulous methodology established, we shifted our focus to executing our investment model.
Cisco prioritizes early-stage involvement, offering essential seed funding to promising nonprofits to conceptualize, develop, and trial technology-driven solutions. While supporting proven solutions addresses immediate needs, identifying and investing in novel and innovative approaches can facilitate scalability and amplify impact over time.
Our commitment to investing in technology-driven solutions is intrinsic to our identity. As a technology enterprise, we believe in the transformative potential of technology to bridge gaps and drive widespread impact.
In addition to financial grants, we equip our nonprofit partners with our technology, enhancing their operational security and efficiency. Moreover, we connect them with relevant subject matter experts across our company, as well as with key organizations, partners, and funders. This ensures that our partners can sustainably extend their impact long after our direct engagement concludes.
Our Social Impact Grant partners receive resources, funding, and flexibility to experiment with their solutions. As these solutions are validated, we continue to support our partners in replicating them in new regions and scaling to reach more individuals. Through this collaborative process, Cisco gains deeper insights into the challenges being addressed and the strategies required to drive meaningful impact. Together, we foster innovation and growth.
What's Next?
Today, we are pleased to unveil our Blueprint to One Billion. As we contemplate our next ambitious goal, we remain committed to sharing insights gleaned from positively impacting one billion lives and gaining a deeper understanding of the diverse challenges facing communities worldwide. We will spotlight the stories of our partners, their impactful work, the solutions we've championed, and the lives transformed as a result.