We are applying circular economy principles and improving the energy efficiency of our products to reduce our environmental footprint.
We are applying circular economy principles and improving the energy efficiency of our products to reduce our environmental footprint.
The use of Cisco's products represents both the largest impact in terms of our GHG emissions footprint, and a significant opportunity to accelerate decarbonization and other positive environmental impacts. The process of integrating sustainability across the product lifecycle starts with circular design, which involves carefully selecting the materials we use and choosing recycled and renewable sources where possible. It also includes making our products more efficient, reducing the environmental impacts of their manufacturing, and better facilitating repair and remanufacturing.
In addition to investing in individual product enhancements with circular design and our product energy efficiency goals, we are also developing technology solutions, including Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and cloud-managed services, that can accelerate our customers' progress toward net zero and other environmental goals.
Circular design means designing products and systems that enable reuse, minimize environmental impact, drive innovation, and realize value for our stakeholders. We are designing products and packaging with circularity in mind, aligning to 25 Circular Design Principles organized across five focus areas.
|Focus area:Material use||
|Focus area:Standardize and modularize||
|Focus area:Packaging and accessories||
|Focus area:Smart energy consumption||
|Focus area:Design for disassembly, reuse, and repair||
We have committed to incorporate Circular Design Principles into 100 percent of our products and packaging by 2025. In fiscal 2021, we developed a circular design evaluation methodology and tool to enable us to track progress toward that goal. In fiscal 2022, we leveraged the tool to evaluate 13 percent of new product and packaging designs against the methodology, and 33 percent of those met our circular design criteria.
At the end of fiscal 2022, executive leadership announced that product scoring would become a mandatory step in the product development process, so we expect to have a larger portion of our product portfolio scored in the coming year. We are also continuing to promote our interactive circular design training to key groups across the business, and over 5500 employees completed the training in fiscal 2022.
In fiscal 2021, Cisco exceeded our 2025 goal to reduce virgin plastic by 20 percent, and we closed out the goal. To build on this momentum and do our part to address the plastic pollution challenge, we established a new goal: 50 percent of the total plastic used in our products (by weight) will be made of recycled content by 2025 (excluding commodity components from suppliers). As part of our journey to minimize the use of virgin plastic, our teams are sourcing more recycled plastic parts and designing plastic out of our products. For example, select models of our 8800 Series IP phones consist of 68% recycled plastic and some products in our Catalyst series of network switches were designed without bezels, the plastic cosmetic surface on the outside of a device.
We also continue to make progress toward our commitment to eliminate all paper documentation included in new product shipments. By eliminating millions of sheets of paper shipped annually alongside the product—in the form of licenses, manuals, and compliance documentation—we reduced our material use, waste, cost, and bottlenecks in the manufacturing process. An additional benefit from reducing paper is that we can optimize the size of packaging, no longer needing to accommodate paper of all sizes along with products. Cisco is also continuing to expand our use of pointer cards, further consolidating compliance documentation and driving additional paper reductions.
In fiscal 2022, a cross-functional team came together to respond to customer and partner feedback that certain accessories that ship standard with Cisco products go unused. We added a "no power cord" option to thousands of product configurations and made it easy to select this option in Cisco's ordering system. In the past year, 8500 customer orders opted out of receiving a power cord, preventing the shipment of 205,000 unnecessary power cords.
Another item that was identified as unnecessary to ship is the one-time use disposable electrostatic discharge (ESD) wrist strap. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) wrist straps are used in products to safely provide a way for static electricity to dissipate without causing electrostatic damage while using the product. However, there are now reusable straps available on the market and disposable ESD straps can cause inconsistent readings of EMI/ESD performance. For these reasons, as well as the negative environmental impacts from one-time use, we eliminated ESD straps for all enterprise products during fiscal 2022.
A key priority for Cisco is continuing to improve the performance of our products while maintaining, or decreasing, their energy use. This allows us to tackle our most significant source of emissions, make our products more competitive, help customers save on energy costs, reduce global energy demand, and ultimately achieve our 2040 net-zero goal. More information on emissions from the use of our product can be found in our Scope 3 emissions table.
Cisco products provide an architecture with "energy scalability," one that can provide energy-efficient service for specific traffic types, traffic demands, customer usage, and installations for the intended industry.
Cisco continues to make significant investment in product energy efficiency, up against the challenges of increased power demands and ASIC speeds across the portfolio. Cisco's investments can be split into four primary product energy-efficiency engineering initiatives:
When we evaluate product energy efficiency, we consider the power performance of the entire system. We measure the percent efficiency as electricity passes through each component or function. This can include, for example, the external power supply units, intermediate bus converter, point of load, and ASIC, memory, or other chips.
We consider the environmental impacts of our products through every stage of their lifecycle. Lifecycle assessments (LCAs) are used to model environmental impacts of products across multiple impact categories for the entire product lifecycle, from cradle to grave. LCAs are used as input for prioritization of product-related impacts.
We align with ISO 14040's definition that the primary function of LCAs is "identifying opportunities to improve the environmental performance of products at various points in their lifecycle," and not the final number that is produced. Comparing LCA results should be avoided unless "the assumptions and context of each study are equivalent." Since assumptions are often not published, it is not recommended to compare results of LCAs or Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) estimates of various products.
Our LCAs use the five product lifecycle stages defined by the GHG Protocol in the Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard, which is in accordance with the ISO 14040:44 standards:
An LCA takes multiple impact categories into account, including not only GHG impact, but also land use, water use, ocean acidification, and more. Due to increasing stakeholder interest in GHG impact specifically, and the urgency of addressing climate change, the primary focus of our LCA work is to develop Product Carbon Footprints (PCF), which analyze the global warming potential of our products. Our PCF work has shown that our products generate the most GHG emissions during the product-use lifecycle phase.
In building our LCA approach, we have used multiple external tools and data sources. We use three LCA tools for our analysis: GaBi, SimaPro, and the Product Attributes to Impact Algorithm (PAIA). Our external data sources include the International Energy Agency (IEA); the United Kingdom's Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy; the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Ecoinvent 3.7 (or the most relevant version); and GaBi Support Extension DB XI: Electronics.
We use PAIA to conduct streamlined PCF exercises. PAIA's methodology involves relating product attributes such as Printed Wiring Board area or product weight to its GWP impact to provide an estimated PCF. There are benefits associated with the use of each external tool, but, in general, full LCAs are resource-intensive, and it is not possible to conduct full LCAs of all our products due to the high number of products in our portfolio. PAIA provides a more streamlined approach, which allows for quicker analysis, but can only be used for our servers, storage products, and network switches, given what is included in its database.
Based on our LCA on the Webex Desk Pro, a video endpoint device, the pie charts below show the distribution of environmental impacts in the manufacturing phase of the product. The use phase contribution to abiotic depletion is found to be negligible, while that of climate change is described below.
The LCA was conducted from cradle to grave and mapped the impacts of the Desk Pro on climate change and resource depletion from manufacturing to end of life. With an assumed lifetime of five years, the use phase impacts were calculated based on different use scenarios (home office, meeting room, huddle room), and the end-of-life impacts were calculated based on average recycling rates in the European Union.
The results indicated that the use phase of the product contributes to the highest proportion of energy consumed across the product lifecycle. The associated climate change impacts from the use phase, however, vary significantly in accordance with the location of use and the local grid's emissions. The LCD screen and PCBs in the Desk Pro have the highest climate change and resource depletion impacts during production, especially due to energy consumption and the use of materials like gold and copper in the PCBs.
The study also attempted to address the difference in climate change impacts from using the WebEx Desk Pro instead of commuting. This analysis was conducted for a few cities around the world and considered two scenarios: working from home instead of commuting to work, and meeting on video instead of undertaking long-distance travel to go to another office. The entire product lifecycle of a WebEx Desk Pro, from production through five years of use independent of location, is offset by avoiding emissions associated with one person traveling on a long-haul flight.
We have previously carried out full LCAs on an IP phone, a blade server, and continue to work on more products in our portfolio. The following charts provide more information on the lifecycle impacts of Cisco products:
The extraction and processing of precious metals like copper and gold required to make printed circuit boards (PCBs) and integrated circuits (ICs) are the primary drivers of all categories of environmental impact, including abiotic depletion, which is the decreasing availability of non-living resources like minerals and fossil fuels. Hard drive manufacturing processes, including washing and cooling of production chemicals, are the primary drivers of blue water consumption and smog formation, respectively.
1 Some figures may not total 100% due to rounding of underlying data
We have completed multiple streamlined PCFs using the PAIA tool. Results of these PCFs can be found in the charts below. Regardless of methodology or tool, we continue to see a trend related to our products where the use phase is anywhere between 75 percent and 95 percent of the PCF, depending on the product type. Transport and end-of-life continue to minimally contribute to our PCF compared to the use and manufacturing phases.
1 Some figures may not total 100 percent due to rounding of underlying data. These estimates were generated using the PAIA model, Version 1.3.0, copyright by the ICT Benchmarking collaboration including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Materials Systems Laboratory and partners.
In fiscal 2023, we plan to use GaBi to look at the environmental impacts from the manufacturing phase with a larger set of products across our portfolio. In alignment with the trend across the industry, we are working on increasing the overall application of LCAs, following a timeline that reflects Cisco's vast product portfolio. In this process, we are aiming to build a scalable model to calculate product carbon footprints and expand into other environmental impact categories.
We have also engaged with external organizations on streamlining the process of conducting LCAs. One part of this engagement includes partnering with academic institutions on developing and streamlining tools and methodologies that enable us to conduct LCAs at scale.
Ecolabels are markings that are applied to products that make an environmental claim. ISO 14020 classifies Ecolabels as either Type I, Type II, or Type III, which can be defined as the following:
When applicable, Cisco's products are evaluated against the following Type I ecolabels: ENERGY STAR® and Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). ENERGY STAR looks at the energy efficiency of the product, while EPEAT evaluates the larger environmental and social criteria related to each product, such as:
Cisco currently has products certified to the ENERGY STAR standard under the Enterprise Server and Telephones category. Cisco also has EPEAT-registered products under the Servers category listed in EPEAT´s online Registry.
In an ideal circular economy, there is no such thing as waste. The current reality is that many packaging materials become waste immediately after first use. We are working to remove unnecessary packaging and make what remains reusable and/or easy to recycle. Some common materials used for packaging are difficult to recycle, like foams or expanded polymers, yet they continue to be selected due to their strong cushioning ability. Products that are damaged in transit create additional negative business and environmental impacts, since repairing or replacing a damaged good requires additional resources.
Beyond basic packaging and material requirements, Cisco evaluates four additional aspects of environmental package design:
In fiscal 2022, we reported 36 percent cumulative improvement toward Cisco's 2025 packaging efficiency goal. Packaging efficiency is measured by comparing actual weight to dimensional weight. By determining how well products are packaged, we can optimize the amount of space used for shipping and storage. Dimensional weight is an industry-standard calculation used to determine the amount of space used by a carton or container. It is calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height of the carton and dividing by a dimensional factor. The goal is to reduce the gap between the dimensional weight and the actual weight, indicating a reduction in unnecessary excess space. This goal applies to projects managed by Cisco's Packaging Engineering team, targeting high volume products.
We also implemented several projects that target focus areas for sustainable packaging. For example:
Overall, we eliminated 700,680 pounds of corrugate from our total packaging shipped in fiscal 2022, which is nearly double the corrugate elimination in fiscal 2021. This is equivalent to over a million pizza boxes.
We are rethinking product packaging and are sourcing alternative materials to plastic. Our strategy includes eliminating plastic bags in our packaging wherever possible. In our fiscal year 2022, the majority of accessories for Cisco Meraki products shipped in paper-based packaging, which was made of 70% recycled content. And in certain other product lines, power cords are labeled with scannable wraps instead of plastic bags. As a result of these changes, we avoided shipping an estimated ten million plastic bags, representing 28 tonne of plastic. Through this change, we have avoided shipping an estimated 10 million plastic bags, representing 28 tons of plastic annually. This is equivalent to 77.7 MT of CO2e, or 8743 gallons of gasoline. Some items, like external power supplies and main units, require a higher level of protection during shipment, and those will be addressed as we continue to engage our distributors on new solutions and advance progress toward our goals.
|Category:Secondary product configurable options||Benefits:Reduce materials, packaging, and shipping costs by providing customers with a way to opt out of receiving cables, brackets, and similar items.||Initiatives:Implementing initiative to expand the availability of order options such as optimized accessory kits and opt-out ordering for power cables to reduce excess components included with product shipments. See above for additional detail.|
|Category:Electronic delivery of software, licenses, and product documentation||Benefits:Decrease material waste by reducing CDs, paper, and packaging. Reduce packaging and fulfillment costs.||Initiatives:The eDelivery program updates products available for electronic delivery through unique product IDs and/or Cisco Commerce-based electronic fulfillment preferences. "Pointer cards" are used across Cisco product lines to consolidate web links for product and compliance documentation.|
|Category:Multipacks||Benefits:Reduce packaging and shipping costs, which makes receiving products simpler for customers and increases operational efficiencies.||Initiatives:Various products offer a multipack option for customers to choose for large orders. Results in lower amounts of packaging material waste, cost reduction, and increased pallet use efficiency.|
|Category:Improved product testing||Benefits:Reduce amount of packaging being used for Cisco products.||Initiatives:Improved product testing has led to a reduction in the amount of packaging needed to protect products. Designs have been optimized to reduce corrugate, paper, and foam.|
|Category:Use of recycled materials||Benefits:Reduce the amount of new materials required to produce our packaging while diverting waste from landfill.||Initiatives:Sourcing alternative materials with recycled content, such as molded fiber, fiber-flute, and thermoform cushions.|
|Category:Operational Improvements||Benefits:Broaden pathways to sustainable packaging by seeking new materials, methods, and processes.||Initiatives:Host innovation-focused forums and collaborations with suppliers, distributors, and/or industry professionals to identify new technologies and materials beyond current practices. Increase granularity of packaging material composition data from suppliers to quantify recycled content used in packaging to meet global regulatory reporting requirements.|
Only 9 percent of the world's plastic is recycled today. 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 2022. This effort allowed us to avoid the use of 202,953 pounds of plastic wrap over four years, which is equivalent to 16 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.
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 original equipment manufacturers (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.
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.
Cisco recognizes the power of collective action. We collaborate with a number of NGOs and peer companies and join coalitions and initiatives to further sustainability practices within the technology industry. We participate in initiatives and working groups spanning a variety of sustainability topics, including GHG emissions, supply chain sustainability, circular economy, product sustainability, packaging, renewable energy, and resource efficiency. Groups we work with include, but are not limited to:
|Organization||Engagement topics||Engagement description|
|Organization:Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS)||Engagement topics:Product Energy Use||Engagement description:Cisco is an active member of ATIS Sustainability in Telecom: Energy and Protection Committee (STEP) and engages with other member organizations to develop standards relevant to the telecommunications industry.|
|Organization:CDP IT Industry Collaboration Group||Engagement topics:GHG emissions, supply chain sustainability||Engagement description:Cisco reports annually to CDP, a not-for-profit organization that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states, and regions to manage their environmental impacts. Cisco engages with CDP and a group of peer technology companies through the IT Industry Collaboration Group to set clear expectations and provide joint training for our suppliers.|
|Organization:CENELEC||Engagement topics:Circular design||Engagement description:Cisco is actively working with CENELEC, a European standards organization, on standards for circular design.|
|Organization:Circular Electronics Partnership (CEP)||Engagement topics:Circular economy, supply chain sustainability||Engagement description:Cisco is an active participant in a multistakeholder collaboration with seven organizations (GeSI, Green Electronics Council, ITU, PACE, Responsible Business Alliance, World Economic Forum, WBSCD) and peer companies to establish a shared vision and roadmap for a circular electronics value chain.|
|Organization:Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA)||Engagement topics:Renewable energy||Engagement description:Cisco is a member of CEBA and engages with green power providers and buyers to advance the adoption of renewable energy worldwide.|
|Organization:Digital Europe||Engagement topics:Circular design||Engagement description:Cisco is a member of Digital Europe, a trade association representing digitally transforming industries in Europe, leading industry input to the EU ICT impact study and participating in the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation and its Digital Product Passport.|
|Organization:Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT)||Engagement topics:Product Energy Use, Circular design, supply chain sustainability||Engagement description:Cisco has engaged with IEEE and NSF International in the development of server standards for energy efficiency. Cisco is an advisory committee team member and active member of the EPEAT program for servers.|
|Organization:Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)||Engagement topics:Circular economy||Engagement description:Cisco was a founding partner of EMF, and we continue to leverage member connections, trainings, and shared learnings as a Member of EMF.|
|Organization:ETSI||Engagement topics:Circular design||Engagement description:Cisco actively engages with ETSI, a European standards organization that deals with telecommunications, broadcasting, and other electronic communications networks and services. Cisco engages in material efficiency standards related to mandates from the European Commission, and is leading the work on secure data deletion (EN 303 800-2) and on energy metrics for servers (EN303470).|
|Organization:European Green Digital Coalition||Engagement topics:GHG emissions||Engagement description:EGDC is an initiative of companies, supported by the European Commission and the European Parliament, based on the request of the EU Council, that aims to harness the enabling emission-reducing potential of digital solutions to all other sectors. Cisco has been a member since October 2021.|
|Organization:International Telecommunication Union (ITU) (worldwide)||Engagement topics:Circular economy, product sustainability, supply chain sustainability||Engagement description:Cisco is a contributor to many ITU-T SG5 standards on environmental efficiency of digital technologies, E-waste, circular economy; and sustainable supply chain management, climate change, and assessment of digital technologies in the framework of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.|
|Organization:Open Compute Project (OCP)||Engagement topics:Circular design||Engagement description:OCP is an industry collaboration focused on speeding the pace of innovation in and around the data center. Within OCP, the Sustainability Initiative is developing a detailed study of and guidance on circular design principles specifically for data center hardware. Cisco is a member of the OCP and contributed to the OCP Design for Circularity Guide that will be published in fiscal 2023.|
|Organization:Partnership to Reuse, Refill, Replace Single-Use Plastics (PR3)||Engagement topics:Circular economy, packaging||Engagement description:Cisco is a technology sponsor of PR3, a cross-industry initiative with the goal of replacing single-use packaging by making reuse systems globally scalable, and economically, socially, and environmentally preferable for consumers and the whole value chain.|
|Organization:Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) Capital Equipment Coalition||Engagement topics:Circular economy||Engagement description:Cisco is an active member of the Capital Equipment Coalition, an affiliated project of PACE, which includes nine companies focused on advancing a circular capital equipment industry. Members of the coalition share best practices and capture progress toward company pledges established in 2018.|
|Organization:Product Attribute to Impact Algorithm (PAIA)||Engagement topics:Product sustainability||Engagement description:Cisco is part of a multistakeholder consortium of ICT companies using shared industry-standard inputs in the PAIA platform—hosted by MIT—that provides a streamlined methodology for ICT product environmental footprinting.|
|Organization:Responsible Business Alliance (RBA)||Engagement topics:Supply chain sustainability||Engagement description:Cisco is an original founder and full member of the RBA. We collaborate with peers at RBA to propagate best practices across the industry and supply chain, including those related to circular economy.|
|Organization:Reverse Logistics Association (RLA)||Engagement topics:Circular economy||Engagement description:Cisco serves on the Advisory Board and is a Diamond member of the RLA, a global trade association for the returns and reverse logistics industry.|
|Organization:The Green Grid||Engagement topics:Resource efficiency||Engagement description:Cisco is part of The Green Grid, where we help create tools, provide technical expertise, and advocate for the optimization of energy and resource efficiency of data center ecosystems that enable a low-carbon economy.|
|Organization:U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)||Engagement topics:Product energy use||Engagement description:Cisco has been working with the EPA to define ENERGY STAR standards for networking equipment, including SNE, LNE, telephony equipment, and servers. Cisco has also worked with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the EPA/DOE technical arm; Navigant; the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and Ecova on measurement methodologies and metrics.|
Material use: Incorporate recycled content into our products, reduce the use of nonrenewable materials, and consider resource scarcity risks as part of material selection.
Standardization and modularization: Standardize and modularize components and enclosures to simplify our supply chain and enable reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling.
Packaging and accessories: Use recycled and renewable packaging materials, reduce foam and plastic use, move toward fiber-based designs, eliminate unused accessories, and increase packaging efficiency.
Smart energy consumption: Improve product energy efficiency through activity-based power and power management features.
Disassembly, repair, and reuse: Design products with easily separable components that use similar materials to facilitate reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling.