Packaging innovation through collaboration
Only 9 percent of the world's plastic is recycled today, and Cisco continues to explore alternatives to plastic-based stretch wrap to stabilize and protect palletized products in transit. In fiscal 2019, we piloted reusable pallet wraps in our operations and continued to use reusable wraps through fiscal 2021. This effort allowed us to avoid the use of 174,490 pounds of plastic wrap over the three years, which is equivalent to 14 million high-density plastic shopping bags. We built on this pilot in fiscal 2021 by joining with Microsoft and nine other companies for an Ellen MacArthur Foundation network project that is exploring three different pathways to eliminate single-use stretch wrap. To learn more about this collaboration, click on "Stretch Wrap Alternative Project" here.
Generally, our packaging uses corrugate that includes a minimum of 25 percent recycled content. Almost all of our packaging for new products is made either of a single material or of multiple materials that are separable for recycling. In our global market, customer, municipal, and regional recycling practices vary greatly. Customers’ ability to recycle our packaging depends on the recycling facilities in place in their location.
The plastic used in Cisco packaging falls into categories identified by Resin Identification Codes 1 to 7. Polyethylene (codes 2 and 4) is the predominant material. Some plastic components carry labels indicating their plastic recycling code number to support end-of-life recycling. We use thermoformed medium-density polyethylene cushions made from virgin material or from recycled substitutes. When regionally available and technically feasible, we use cushions made from recycled polyethylene. Cisco legacy products, including those produced by our acquired companies, may not incorporate all current packaging best practices. A similar challenge also exists for packaging provided with OEM products that a Cisco supplier delivers directly to a customer.
We strive to use recyclable packaging. However, sometimes this is not possible due to limited options for alternative, sustainable materials. For example, although metallized antistatic bags are not easily recycled, they are essential to the safe transport of products susceptible to damage from electrostatic discharge. We size bags to fit the product being shipped and minimize the amount of material we use. Our contract manufacturers also reuse antistatic bags.
Product packaging end-of-life
Cisco product packaging is designed to be separable and recyclable so it can be absorbed by local packaging material recycling programs. Cisco does not collect used packaging, as shipping empty product packaging to Cisco for recycling would create unnecessary environmental impacts. However, we are exploring reusable packaging options for specific scenarios. One example is using reusable packaging for customers near our distribution sites. This would allow packaging to move between two locations for reuse while minimizing the environmental impact of shipping empty material. Read more about Cisco’s compliance with environmental packaging regulations.
Reducing material waste in our supply chain
Our focus on developing and promoting a circular economy has driven efforts to better understand how materials are consumed upstream in our supply chain. Cisco has committed that 70 percent of Cisco component and manufacturing suppliers by spend will achieve a zero-waste diversion rate at one or more sites by fiscal 2025. Learn more about how we engage our suppliers on zero-waste commitments.
Cisco is focused on engaging our component, manufacturing, and logistics suppliers on setting public, absolute GHG emissions reductions targets. Our logistics partners' reductions will enable Cisco to meet our own fiscal 2025 and 2030 goals.
Over 90% of our transportation-related emissions come from air shipments, so this is a key area of focus. Cisco has a Mode Shift initiative that optimizes global factory-to-factory shipments, shifting transportation modes from air to ocean whenever feasible while still meeting customer expectations. This leads to a lower transportation footprint since the greenhouse gas emissions from transporting products by ocean is significantly lower than transporting products by air.
In fiscal 2022, Cisco took new action to improve how we measure and manage our logistics emissions footprint. We interviewed 11 of our logistics partners to learn more about their greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies, explore opportunities for collaboration, and discuss ways to increase the granularity and specificity of reported emissions data.
In addition to our GHG reduction efforts, we are also working to minimize material waste associated with logistics. For example, at our fulfillment centers in North America, we are utilizing reusable pallets, which are more durable and have a longer lifespan than the wooden pallets they replaced. Since FY19, we have also leveraged reusable pallet wraps as a sustainable alternative to the traditional plastic stretch film. This effort allowed us to avoid the use of 202,953 pounds of plastic wrap from FY19-FY22, which is equivalent to over 16 million high-density plastic shopping bags. Learn more about Cisco’s effort, as well as some other innovative pilots to reduce the use of stretch film.
Product returns, reuse, and recycling
Central to the concept of a circular economy is maintaining assets at their highest and best use for as long as possible.
Cisco has a long-standing commitment, with programs in place for more than two decades, to facilitate product returns for reuse and recycling, to offer comprehensive service and repair, and to remanufacture used equipment for sale through Cisco Refresh. These programs create a second life for equipment, thereby saving the resources required for new manufacturing and reducing waste.
At the World Economic Forum in 2018, our CEO joined forces with the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) in signing the Capital Equipment Pledge, committing to 100 percent product return upon request, at no cost to our customers.
The use phase of our products is the first key step as we incorporate our circular economy approach into the lifecycle management of our equipment. Cisco’s Global Service Supply Chain organization delivers and supports customer and partner hardware Return Material Authorizations (RMAs). We are constantly optimizing our network and inventory levels as parts are used, customers deploy new products, and old hardware becomes obsolete. To maximize products’ useful life, we replace, recover, and refurbish equipment and components as necessary through an extensive logistics, warehouse, planning, and repair operations network. Each device is repaired and repeatedly tested to ensure compliance with the latest manufacturing specifications.