The following is an excerpt from the 2020 CSR Impact Report.

Circular design is fundamental to our ability to implement a circular economy, both now and into the future. Our circular design strategy spans five focus areas, which address our most material impacts. In fiscal 2020, guided by this framework, we developed Circular Design Principles, allowing us to make progress toward several of our product and packaging goals:

  • Material use: Incorporate recycled content into our products, reduce the use of nonrenewable materials, and consider resource scarcity risks as part of material selection.
  • Sustainable packaging: Use recycled and renewable packaging materials, reduce foam and plastic use, move toward fiber-based designs, and increase packaging efficiency.
  • Standardization and modularization: Standardize and modularize components and enclosures to simplify our supply chain and enable reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling.
  • Smart energy consumption: Improve product energy efficiency through activity-based power and power management features (see page 80 for more details on product energy use).
  • Disassembly, repair, and reuse: Design products with easily separable components that use similar materials to facilitate reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling.

Growing our circular design community

In fiscal 2020, we held eight workshops globally with stakeholders from across our design community, including Cisco employees from supply chain, engineering, and product management. These workshops increased awareness of our circular design strategy, sparked innovative new design ideas, and grew the community of advocates advancing circular design in their business units. We also established a Circular Design Steering Committee and launched a Circular Design Working Group, which meets regularly to share case studies, discuss best practices, and stay updated on key initiatives.

Circular Design Principles training

To increase internal awareness and understanding of our circular design strategy, we developed an interactive, gamified training course targeted at our design community. In this course, launching fiscal 2021, learners will make a series of design decisions to “build” Cisco products, learning about the Circular Design Principles as they go.

Designing products for circularity

Our Circular Design Principles are increasingly incorporated into the design of new products, making those products more durable, environmentally friendly, and easier to reuse through multiple lifecycles. In fiscal 2020, we launched our first products with closed-loop plastic. Another example is our IR1101 router, which employs a highly modular and expandable hardware design to extend product lifetime. Customers have the flexibility to add or upgrade components as their needs and technologies evolve, as they have with the rollout of 5G. The updated design also reduced the idle power by 45 percent from the previous generation.

Progress on packaging

We are reducing the environmental footprint of our packaging and making progress toward our goals by optimizing packaging efficiency, minimizing single-use plastics and foam, reducing unwanted or redundant items in shipments, and using readily recyclable materials. In fiscal 2020, we redesigned the packaging for our Carrier Routing System Performance Route Processor and Fan Controller spares by redesigning the foam cushions and carton. This reduced the dimensional weight of the spare pack while also reducing nearly two pounds of foam overall for each product shipped. Through additional packaging design changes, we also eliminated more than 80,000 pounds of corrugate from our total packaging shipped in fiscal 2020. With a number of additional projects underway, we expect to see increased impact in fiscal 2021.

Eliminating paper from product shipments

In July 2020, we announced that we will eliminate all paper documentation that is included in new product shipments by the end of 2021. Today, for many of Cisco’s hardware products and software solutions, millions of sheets of paper are shipped in the form of licenses, manuals, and compliance documentation. Eliminating these paper shipments and moving to electronic delivery represents an opportunity to reduce waste, cost, and GHG emissions while streamlining the supply chain and enhancing the customer experience. Exceptions to this policy will be allowed where it is business critical or legally required for the product to include paper documents in the shipment.

To learn more about the progress we’re making to power a more inclusive future through CSR, visit our Cisco ESG Reporting Hub, where you can read our CSR Impact Report.

CSR Impact Report graphic


Jennifer Boynton

Corporate Social Responsibility Content Strategist

Corporate Affairs