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Scope 3 GHG Emissions

The majority of Cisco’s emissions footprint is attributable to our supply chain, the use of our products, and other indirect emissions sources.

Cisco measures our environmental footprint across our value chain to prioritize areas for improvement. Scope 3 emissions cover a broad range of activities across Cisco’s supply chain, business operations, products, and solutions. Below we discuss the most significant areas of impact. Additional Scope 3 emissions information is available in our response to Question 6.5 of our 2021 CDP Investor Survey response.

The table below summarizes our Scope 3 emissions. Important notes for understanding the values provided:

  • We are in the process of refining our methodology for calculating several Scope 3 categories. As a result, we have updated data where methodologies have changed. We have updated data back to fiscal 2019 to align with the base year for our net zero goals. We have also made updates to several categories based on the results of our third party verification as well. As a result, some of the values listed in the 2021 CDP Investor Survey response will differ from the table below.
  • Where emissions in a Scope 3 category are significant, further discussion is provided in the section linked from the first column.
  • Cisco’s fiscal year runs August through July, so the end of our fiscal 2021 is the end of July 2021.
  • Each summer, companies reporting GHG emissions as part of CDP’s supply chain initiative submit data for their last completed fiscal year for which data is available. In Cisco’s case, we report fiscal 2020 data in the summer of 2021 (“CDP 2021”), because our fiscal 2021 data is not yet available. A similar offset may occur for other Scope 3 reporting companies.
  • For our response to the CDP 2022 carbon questionnaire, the numbers below will be updated to reflect full fiscal 2021 data (or CDP 2021 data for supply-chain related emissions).
Scope 3 emissions for fiscal 2019-2021
Emissions category CDP response evaluation status FY19 (metric tonne CO2e) FY20 (metric tonne CO2e) FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 1: purchased goods and services CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)6,455,647 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)5,374,109 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)5,035,4921
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 2: capital goods CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)(included in category 1) FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)(included in category 1) FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)(included in category 1)
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 3: fuel- and energy-related activities (not included in Scope 1 or 2) CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)120,263 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)110,917 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)105,740
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 4: upstream transportation and distribution CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)586,622 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)501,881 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)453,445
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 5: waste generated in operations CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)816 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)1114 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)509
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 6: business travel CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)217,500 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)88,939 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)973
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 7: employee commuting CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)79,735 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)49,463 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)4575
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 8: upstream leased assets CDP response evaluation statusNot relevant, explanation provided FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY21 (metric tonne CO2e) 
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 9: downstream transportation and distribution CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)88,625 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)62,115 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)62,000
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 10: processing of sold products CDP response evaluation statusNot relevant, explanation provided FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY21 (metric tonne CO2e) 
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 11: use of sold products (product energy efficiency) CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)19,675,170 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)18,426,615 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)17,272,636
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 12: end-of-use treatment of sold products (end‑of‑life) CDP response evaluation statusRelevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)10,093 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)8469 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)9339
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 13: downstream leased assets CDP response evaluation statusNot relevant, explanation provided FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY21 (metric tonne CO2e) 
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 14: franchises CDP response evaluation statusNot relevant, explanation provided FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)  FY21 (metric tonne CO2e) 
Emissions categoryScope 3 category 15: investments CDP response evaluation statusNot relevant, Calculated FY19 (metric tonne CO2e)Screened for relevence in FY19, determined to be immaterial2 FY20 (metric tonne CO2e)Screened for relevence in FY19, determined to be immaterial2 FY21 (metric tonne CO2e)Screened for relevence in FY19, determined to be immaterial2

1 We are reporting the latest year available, which is one year behind due to availability of CDP data from our supply chain.

2 .01% of Scope 3 footprint

Scope 3 reduction strategy

To reach net zero across all Scopes (1-3) of emissions by 2040, we will drive emissions reductions in product use, operations, and supply chain. Our strategy for Scope 3 emissions related to product energy use and supply chain will include the following focus areas and build from there:

  • Continuing to increase the energy efficiency of our products through innovative product design.
  • Accelerating the use of renewable energy globally, including the communities where our suppliers operate.
  • Optimizing transport and materials in the manufacturing of our products, and increasing energy efficiency in our extended operations.
  • Collaborating with manufacturing, component, and logistics suppliers to manage and report GHG reduction targets, influencing improvements in performance year over year (Learn more about supplier engagement on reducing GHG emissions).

Scope 3 supply chain operations

Cisco and the broader electronics industry rely on suppliers worldwide to provide components, assemble, test, and ultimately ship products to our end customers. As a result, supply chain emissions make up a significant proportion of Cisco's GHG footprint. To help us understand critical impacts in our supply chain, we use recognized global frameworks and industry standards for accountability and reporting.

As a member of the CDP Supply Chain Program, we request that all of our direct suppliers—with whom we have a significant business relationship—report their carbon impacts to CDP. Furthermore, Scope 3 category 1 and category 4 GHG emissions are included in the boundary for our Supply Chain-related Scope 3 absolute GHG emissions goal.

Scope 3 category 1: purchased goods and services

This Scope 3 category includes cradle-to-gate emissions from both direct and indirect procurement. Within direct, the boundary incorporates the allocated GHG emissions of our Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturing, component, and warehouse suppliers. Emissions are allocated based on Cisco’s financial share of the supplier’s reported global Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions. The majority of emissions are related to the electricity consumption used to manufacture subcomponents and complete final testing for our products. In addition, an environmentally extended input-output model was used to estimate the complete upstream impact.

As part of our FY30 supply chain absolute reduction goal, we are working with our Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturing, component, and warehouse suppliers to set and make progress toward absolute emissions targets, which will be critical to our ability to reduce our Supply Chain emissions by 30 percent absolute by fiscal 2030.

GHG emissions from outsourced IT – DCaaS, IaaS and SaaS

We calculate these emissions separately to show the impacts of outsourcing our IT load to third party service providers. These emissions are included in our calculation of Scope 3 purchased good and services (category 1). Cisco procures IT services in several forms: on premises, co-located data center as a service (DCaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). As part of our annual GHG emissions reporting, we calculate the on-premises emissions of Cisco-managed data centers. However, we are shifting more IT services into co-located data center facilities or the cloud (as-a-service providers). In 2019, our Chief Information Officer confirmed this shift to outsourced IT. As part of this transition to cloud resources, Cisco is targeting a 30 percent reduction in the number of Cisco on-premises data centers within the next five years.

We have estimated our GHG emissions for our use of DCaaS, IaaS and SaaS services using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol guidance for calculating Scope 3 emissions (version 1.0). For our IaaS calculation, we used facility-level data provided by our partners. We calculated the DCaaS and SaaS services GHG emissions using publicly reported revenue, scope 1 and scope 2 GHG emissions reported to CDP, and our spend with each partner to estimate our portion of emissions. Where annual revenue and carbon emissions information are not available, we use a carbon intensity average and our spend with the provider to estimate our portion of emissions.

There is difficulty aligning these three sources, as they all cover a slightly different time period, but we believe that we are in the correct order of magnitude. Our emissions for DCaaS, IaaS, and SaaS can be found below.

GHG emissions from outsourced IT services
KPI FY201 FY21
KPIScope 3 GHG emissions from outsourced IT (location-based), metric tonne CO2e FY20136,086 FY2155,902
KPIScope 3 GHG emissions from outsourced IT (market-based), metric tonne CO2e FY20118,034 FY2124,513

1 Fiscal 2020 figures have been updated due to a change in data collection

Scope 3 category 2: capital goods

Scope 3 emissions from capital goods have been included as part of Scope 3 Category 1, purchased goods and services. We use a spend-based methodology for calculating emissions from capital goods in this category. An environmentally extended input-output model was used to estimate emissions from capital expenditure.

Scope 3 category 4: upstream transportation and distribution

This Scope 3 category is included in our FY30 supply chain absolute reduction goal. The boundary incorporates the GHG emissions from transportation and distribution services directly purchased by Cisco over the reporting year. The majority of emissions are related to the air transportation used to deliver products and services within our manufacturing and distribution networks. Air transportation emissions are inclusive of Well-to-Tank (WTT) emissions.

Outbound transportation emissions, paid by Cisco, are included in Category 4 Upstream Transportation and Distribution (in accordance with the GHG Protocol).

Scope 3 category 6: business travel

We continue to report travel emissions as part of our Scope 3 CDP reporting. We are refining our methodology for calculating these figures and will share updates in fiscal 2023. Due to the impacts of COVID-19 on corporate travel, our Scope 3 business travel emissions are approximately 99 percent less than we would have expected during a normal year.

Reducing GHG emissions from business air travel and teleworking

Remote collaboration technologies help Cisco and our customers reduce emissions from air travel and commuting. Information on Cisco’s collaboration solutions can be found online. Beyond reducing emissions, these technologies also increase employee productivity, promote work-life balance, and help us build customer relationships.

Replacing business air travel with remote collaboration requires more than just technology. Our business processes, management practices, and culture have also had to adapt. As experience with collaborative technologies increases within Cisco and among our customers and partners, remote interactions have gone from being the exception to standard practice.

Hosting and attending Webex meetings with other employees or with customers, partners, and other stakeholders has become as common as using the telephone. We use Cisco TelePresence and Webex for virtual company meetings, executive operational reviews, and department all-hands meetings.

Prior to the pandemic, about one-third of our annual global ISO 14001 site audits were performed using Cisco remote collaboration solutions. In fiscal 2021, all were performed virtually. This type of real-world experience guides product development and helps with the rollout of supporting management practices. Because adoption of remote collaboration technologies has matured, we are no longer tracking adoption metrics included in our previous CSR report.

Scope 3 category 7: employee commuting

Cisco used our latest employee commuting survey completed in fiscal 2018 to estimate the emissions produced from employees commuting to work in fiscal 2020. Our Scope 3 emissions from employee commuting decreased significantly from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2021 due to our mandatory work from home policy during the COVID-19 pandemic in place for the majority of our employees.

Scope 3 category 9: downstream transportation and distribution

Based on historical Cisco shipping data, we use a ratio to estimate the proportion of outbound shipping that is not paid for by Cisco and therefore classified under Category 9. This ratio is used to extrapolate the emissions for non-Cisco-paid outbound shipping from the emissions calculated for Cisco-paid outbound shipping. The Cisco-paid outbound shipping is accounted for in Category 4 and is calculated using a combination of activity-based and spend-based methodology.

Scope 3 category 11: use of sold products (product energy efficiency)

Cisco calculates our Scope 3 use of sold products GHG emissions based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol guidance for calculating Scope 3 emissions (version 1.0). Our use of sold products is classified as direct use-phase emissions as our products directly consume energy during their use. We use product energy consumption, number of sold products (in a fiscal year) and the expected product lifetime to estimate the total CO2e from the use of our sold products. Because our products have varying expected lifetimes, we assume a conservative average of five years. In actuality, it could be anywhere from two to 15 years depending on the product type. To account for the previous four years of product energy consumption, we include those previous yearly estimates in our current yearly estimate.

See Scope 3 summary table above for total estimated GHG emissions from the use of sold products (Category 11). Electricity and GHG emissions decreased in fiscal 2021 due to manufacturing restrictions due to COVID-19.

Stakeholder engagement and standards development

Cisco engages with governments, regulatory agencies, and standards development organizations to monitor and influence the development of emerging product energy-efficiency requirements and standards. Product energy-efficiency standards can promote innovation by being performance-based, by considering product functionality, and by relying on objective criteria, real-world data, and system- level efficiency. Predictable requirements enable companies to focus on the environmental issues most relevant to them.

Many eco-design standards and regulations generally apply to a single point of energy conversion in the power supply at the front end of the total system. Cisco supports the idea of studying energy consumption more broadly. This systems approach should result in a fair and correct way to promote energy efficiencies in tomorrow’s networks. One standard that embodies this approach is the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) Telecommunications Energy Efficiency Ratio (TEER). This measurement method covers all power conversion and power distribution from the front end of the system to the data wire plug, including application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).

The ATIS TEER standards created a framework for measuring product energy usage that takes product functionality into account. They use real-world loads to determine energy efficiency across the entire product. This is important because it allows companies like Cisco to compare energy-usage design improvements from one product generation to the next, and it helps consumers make better-informed purchasing decisions. The ATIS TEER standards have been incorporated into the Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) design guidelines applied to telecommunications equipment in the United States. NEBS is the most common set of safety, spatial, and environmental design guidelines applied to telecommunications equipment. Compliance with these guidelines is an industry (but not a legal) requirement.

Energy-efficiency initiatives and organizations with whom Cisco actively engages
Organization Engagement areas
OrganizationAlliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) Engagement areasCisco 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.
OrganizationDigital Europe Engagement areasCisco is the issue leader on the ICT study which is working to assess the impact of ICT.
OrganizationEuropean Commission Joint Research Center, Codes of Conduct Engagement areasCisco is a signatory and active member of the EU Code of Conduct on Energy Consumption of Broadband Communication Equipment.

Aspirational goals are provided to reduce energy consumption of broadband communication equipment without hampering fast-technological developments and service provided.
OrganizationElectronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool—EPEAT Engagement areasCisco 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.
OrganizationEuropean Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Engagement areasCisco is engaged with ETSI in the development of standards for energy efficiency.

We lead the ETSI server standard EN303470, which defines the active efficiency metrics and idle measurements for two- and four-socket servers and where high temperature testing is being defined.

Cisco also leads DEN/EE-EEPS47-2 on the verification of compliance with the requirement on the secure data deletion functionality, including instructions on how to use the functionality, the techniques used, and the supported secure data deletion standard(s).
OrganizationInternational Telecommunication Union (ITU) (worldwide) Engagement areasCisco is a contributor to the ITU-T SG5 Study Group while holding a vice-chairman position on the management team.

Cisco is also contributing to L.GDSPP (Product Digital Passport) and L.NetZero.
OrganizationU.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Engagement areasCisco has been working with the EPA to define ENERGY STAR standards for networking equipment: 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.

Improving product energy efficiency

Improving product energy efficiency addresses two key challenges for Cisco. First, to achieve the projected product performance specifications for the next five to 10 years, Cisco products need an architecture with “energy scalability.” This is one that can provide energy-efficient service for variable traffic types, traffic demands, customer usage, and installs. Second, product use is our largest Scope 3 GHG emissions source. To address these challenges, Cisco is investing in five primary product energy-efficiency engineering initiatives. These initiatives were chosen because they enable the largest impact on improving our products’ energy consumption.

  • Power initiative: We are improving the efficiency of our products from plug to port and set a product power-efficiency goal in early fiscal 2018. This goal is to improve large rack-mounted-equipment system power efficiency—as measured from the input power from the facility to the board-mounted ASICs, memory, and other chip devices—from 77 percent to 87 percent by fiscal 2022 (fiscal 2016 base year). Read more about this goal in our goal announcement blog post. As core voltages on ASICs continue to decrease, the current must increase to deliver the same amount of power. With this larger current, we continue to see increased conductive losses in our printed circuit boards (PCBs) which reduces the overall efficiency in our system power efficiency. To meet this challenge, we continue to explore ways to reduce the overall resistance in our PCBs and other components through the use of more conductive materials. To minimize conversion losses even further, we continue to investigate and adapt high-efficiency conversion technologies and components. This not only improves the overall system level efficiency, but also reduces the amount of heat that needs to be exhausted from the system.
  • Thermal initiative: Commonly used forced air-cooling systems have limitations in cooling higher-powered, next-generation products. As such, we are exploring alternative methods of cooling such as liquid or refrigerant cooling, which will reduce power used by the products dedicated to cooling. Currently, liquid and refrigerant cooling is technically feasible, but implementation is dependent on customers’ upgrading their facilities to integrate properly with these cooling methods. Where appropriate we advocate for the use of liquid or refrigerant cooling, but until these methods are more widely adopted, we continue to develop advanced thermal techniques and optimize traditional forced air cooling to remove heat from our products.
  • High-speed interconnects and ASIC initiatives: High-speed silicon-to-silicon or optics-to-silicon interconnects are an integral part of routing and switching systems. As throughput (or bandwidth) requirements increase, the interconnects can consume a significant portion of the total system power. Through advancements in optics, we can deliver increased bandwidth using the same or less power compared with earlier generation interconnects. Previous-generation ASIC packet processing technology designs consumed large amounts of power. The Cisco Silicon One ASIC architecture, a complete redesign, has allowed the ASIC to be twice as efficient as previous ASIC technologies, while enabling a move from Gbps to Tbps capacity with a single ASIC. For more information on how the Silicon ONE is reducing energy, read our blog here.
  • Customer facilities initiative: We are working with customers to reduce the amount of energy required to operate IT facilities with power solutions that increase the efficiency of overhead power, avoid step-down transformers, and provide integrated cooling strategies. These end-to-end solutions reduce hardware requirements and energy consumption while providing a more integrated method for managing IT infrastructures. Our customers are constrained by the total amount of electricity that can be delivered to a given data center. Because of this, every watt counts, and delivering electricity to our products in the most efficient way is becoming an even higher priority. Currently, data centers are using 208 or 239VAC or 48/60VDC inputs, while the most efficient input voltage is 277VAC or 380VDC. There has been low adoption of the 380VDC input voltage due to concerns over safety. To alleviate these safety concerns, we are working with customers to design and implement fault managed power systems which can be integrated into connected building applications and reduce the cost of building out of future electrical infrastructure. To reduce energy consumption at facilities even more, we have proposed an improved cooling system with a smart HVAC system. The paper can be found in Technical Disclosure Commons here.
  • Power Supply Initiative: Power supplies play a critical role in managing product energy efficiencies, as they are the first step where energy is lost in connection with the use of a product. To overcome this loss, we are working to offer more energy-efficient options for power supplies, giving customers the option of platinum or titanium 80+ rated power supplies whenever possible. This provides cost-sensitive customers the option of selecting lower-rated power supplies, such as gold or silver, while allowing customers concerned about reducing their total energy use to select the higher-rated supplies. Over 50 percent of the new power supplies designs we developed last year were tested for a rating of platinum and above. This initiative also includes developing power supplies with wide-ranging AC and DC inputs that support AC/HVAC/HVDC for 200-277VAC or 240/380VDC. These designs allow us to support both AC and DC with legacy low-input AC voltages or higher voltages that have higher efficiencies. Once customers begin to switch to 380VDC, we will develop power supplies that are optimized for this input voltage. For external power supplies, we ship products that are DOE6 compliant, aligning with the latest U.S. energy-efficiency standards.

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 (PSU), intermediate bus converter (IBC), point of load (POL), and ASIC, memory, or other chips.

Product power-efficiency improvements (large rack-mounted equipment)
KPI FY16 Base Year FY17 FY18 FY19 FY20 FY21
KPISystem power efficiency (percent)
Goal: Improve large rack-mounted-equipment system power efficiency—as measured from the input power from the facility to the board-mounted ASICs, memory and other chip devices— from 77% to 87% by FY22 (FY16 base year).
FY16 Base Year77% baseline FY1780% FY1882% FY1985% FY2085% FY2185%

Scope 3 category 12: end-of-use treatment of sold products (end-of-life)

We calculate this based on the product weight and assumed material composition of all outbound shipped products and packaging per fiscal year. Material-specific, historical recycling rates published by the EPA are used to estimate the proportion of Cisco product and packaging materials that are recycled at their end-of-life. Material that is not recycled is assumed to be landfilled. Material-specific emission factors for recycled and landfilled waste published by DEFRA are used to determine the category emissions footprint.