Human rights leadership
Cisco's dedicated Business and Human Rights (BHR) Team is responsible for setting Cisco's human rights strategy to embed respect for human rights throughout our global operations and for working to ensure compliance with human rights-related regulations. The BHR team is led by the Director of Human Rights, staffed with human rights experts, and reports up through the Chief Legal Officer. The BHR team also regularly reports to Cisco's Executive Leadership Team and the Cisco Board of Directors on its progress to mitigate potential human rights harms, and respect ethical principles in our technology solutions and day-to-day operations.
The BHR team works cross-functionally with internal partners to implement Cisco's human rights strategy across relevant functions including engineering, government affairs, human resources, investor relations, legal, marketing and communications, privacy, procurement, sales, supply chain, and others.
In 2020, Cisco established the Human Rights Advisory Committee, a cross-functional group of senior leaders across Cisco's business that advises the BHR team on issues related to Cisco's support of and respect for human rights. The Human Rights Advisory Committee meets on a quarterly basis to discuss emerging human rights risks and opportunities and Cisco's work to address them. The Business and Human Rights team regularly reports to the Board of Directors on human rights issues.
Human rights policies, positions, and operational guidelines
Cisco's Global Human Rights Policy was first adopted in 2012 and is updated on an annual basis. The policy publicly states Cisco's commitment to respect all internationally recognized human rights articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the eight core International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions. We follow the approach laid out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including by developing and communicating our human rights policy, adopting the practice of regularly identifying and working to mitigate human rights risks, and establishing mechanisms for reporting and remediating impacts when they occur. Over time, Cisco has adopted additional policies, frameworks, and guidelines to further implement our commitment to human rights. For example:
- Human Rights Position Statements addressing Cisco's point of view on encryption, data localization and sovereignty, surveillance by governments, internet of things, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence.
- Cisco's Principled Approach to Government Demands for Data.
- Social Justice Beliefs and Actions, including the Action that we will work to ensure our technology solutions and day-to-day operations maximize human rights benefits, mitigate potential human rights harms, and respect ethical principles.
- Cisco's Principles for Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Responsible AI Framework. These Principles have been translated into controls that are applied to training data selection and model creation of AI solutions in Cisco's intelligent products. These controls embed security, privacy, and human rights by design throughout the model's lifecycle and its application in products, services, and enterprise operations.
- Cisco's Position on Government Use of Technology to Curtail Freedom of Expression.
To support employees in meeting Cisco's human rights commitments, we offer basic human rights training to all Cisco employees on our internal training platform as well as tailored trainings and workshops for internal partners in functions that are most likely to encounter human rights risks in their day-to-day jobs.
For more information about how this work is managed in the supply chain, see Human Rights in the Supply Chain.
Identifying and addressing human rights risks
Cisco conducts human rights due diligence and human rights impact assessments to identify, prevent, mitigate, and work to address human rights risks. We are continuously working to integrate human rights reviews into existing processes and procedures.
Through our ongoing assessment of risks, we have identified salient human rights issues associated with Cisco's business to include those related to privacy, freedom of expression, nondiscrimination, health and safety, freely chosen employment, young workers and child labor, ethical sourcing of minerals, pollution prevention and environmental sustainability, and promoting reskilling for the future of work.
Examples of circumstances that could trigger human rights due diligence include:
- Launch of a new product, offer, or service or a material modification of an existing product, offer, or service.
- Entry into or exit from a market.
- Review of a partner's, supplier's, or other third party's policies and procedures.
- Export of regulated products.
- Acquisition of a new company.
Our human rights due diligence process draws on both internal and independent external human rights expertise. When we conduct human rights due diligence, we consider a variety of factors including:
- The geopolitical conditions and human rights landscape in the operating context, informed by an analysis of relevant laws and regulations; international human rights norms; and the state of human rights, rule of law, corruption, and digital rights based on credible journalism and reports by human rights organizations, UN Special Procedures, academic institutions, and the U.S. Department of State.
- Risks associated with potential business plans, including those associated with end users or partners in high-risk sectors.
- Product capabilities, including the risk of product misuse, surveillance, lawful intercept, and other capabilities that may result in negative human rights impacts with particular focus on these risks for export-controlled products.
External stakeholder engagement
To inform our assessment of potential human rights risks, we continually evolve our approach to incorporate emerging best practices and share our human rights practices with the broader business and human rights community. We regularly engage with external stakeholders and potentially affected groups or their legitimate representatives.
Cisco is an active member of industry initiatives related to addressing human rights in the technology sector such as the Article One Roundtable on Human Rights and AI, the Business for Social Responsibility Human Rights Working Group, the United Nations B-Tech project, and the UN Global Compact.
Accountability is core to the effectiveness of our human rights approach. We share our Global Human Rights Policy publicly on our website and share information about our efforts to implement our human rights commitments annually in our Purpose Report and through other communications channels such as Cisco's corporate blog.
Employees, customers, partners, vendors, suppliers, service providers, shareholders, supply chain workers, and any other stakeholder can report actual or potential human rights concerns through our ethics office. Our ethics office is accessible via webform, email, or through a phone call to our EthicsLine, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple languages. We have a strict nonretaliation policy, meaning that employees who report business conduct violations in good faith cannot be subject to any adverse employment action including separation, demotion, suspension, or loss of benefits because of the report.
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