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The following is an excerpt from the 2020 CSR Impact Report, published on December 8, 2020.

COVID-19 has touched us all. And throughout this crisis, Cisco has responded as only we can—by enabling the world’s networks to handle the sudden work-from-home surge, as well as providing collaboration tools that have brought people together virtually during this time.

From the pandemic’s earliest days, Cisco was deemed an essential business offering critical infrastructure. We prioritized orders from first responders and essential services and supported the rapidly-changing needs of healthcare facilities. At the same time, we provided, and continue to provide, solutions to help communities, customers, suppliers, and partners to operate effectively in virtual environments across the globe.

Our response was rooted in a long history of responding to global challenges. In the context of this pandemic, here is how Cisco helped each of our stakeholders rebuild:

For our customers

For many of our customers, life changed almost overnight as they were forced to close or shift to remote work. To support this transition, Cisco introduced a variety of free offers and trials for our Webex and security technologies, as well as US$2.5 billion in financing to help keep businesses running. The Business Resiliency Program, offered by Cisco Capital, includes an up-front 90-day payment holiday and allows customers to defer 95 percent of the cost of a new product or solution until 2021.

In partnership with suppliers, we developed a new order prioritization process that enabled the fulfillment of over 2500 critical customer infrastructure requests related to first responders. For healthcare customers, we provided essential technology to support remote connectivity and telemedicine; customized solutions to support the rapid ramp-up of ICUs, temporary clinics, and COVID-19 test sites; and enabled medical device integration and remote access to medical data. For customers who manage factories, distribution warehouses, and other facilities that require personnel to be on site, we’ve provided solutions that will help to ensure employee safety and privacy, while allowing them to remain productive.

For our employees

While many Cisco employees were already equipped to work from home, we increased our capacity sevenfold to support 140,000 remote employees and contractors in just 10 days. This required expanding the capacity of our VPN, providing employees with needed equipment, and broadening our global IT support. While the majority of our workforce continues to work remotely, we are thinking ahead to necessary protocols as employees return to the office. For example, we are performing contact tracing where required, and we limit data collection in proximity reporting and health screening to protect employees’ privacy.

We have also remained attuned to employee wellbeing. During regular virtual Check-Ins, our executive leadership team, along with medical and mental health experts and special guests, have offered business updates, medical guidance, perspective, and inspiration. We’ve also given employees several extra paid holidays to be with family or reset and recharge.

For our manufacturing suppliers

We engaged our manufacturing partners and components suppliers early in the pandemic, sharing guidelines on responsible business conduct and ensuring they had protections in place for safe onsite work. As the situation evolved, we reviewed response plans that our manufacturing partners developed. When temporary shutdowns or capacity reductions were needed, we leveraged our global network to continue to meet customer needs. Moving forward, we are continuing to honor our commitments to protect vulnerable workers and promote human rights in the supply chain. Learn more about our supply chain’s response to COVID-19 on page 50 of our CSR Impact Report.

For our nonmanufacturing suppliers

Beyond suppliers who manufacture, transport, and repair Cisco products, we have a large network of indirect suppliers, including staffing companies who connect Cisco with our contract workforce. We supported these suppliers and our contingent workers by providing pay continuity to Cisco-placed workers who require access to Cisco locations to perform their services, temporarily extending tenure limits and providing designated days off to recharge. We maintained regular communication with these workers through a website, invitations to Cisco Check-Ins, and a hotline with our Chief Procurement Officer for situation updates and rapid actions. For diverse suppliers who have participated in our sponsorship programs, we provided curriculum training on Cisco’s COVID-19 response, Webex solutions, and virtual meeting trends to help them work as effectively as possible in this new environment.

For our communities

We also remain aware that people who were vulnerable before the pandemic now face even more risks to their health, stability, housing, and wellbeing. The nonprofits that serve these populations have seen declines in volunteer capacity and financial support, on top of the challenges of complying with social distancing requirements. Cisco has stepped in to help organizations near and far, donating US$53 million in cash and personal protective equipment to organizations addressing these vulnerable citizens. This included US$10 million to Destination: Home to support a Financial Assistance Program for residents of Santa Clara County, California who lost income due to COVID-19. We also invited customers, partners, and suppliers to join us in uplifting vulnerable communities through our Next Horizon Impact initiative, and launched an employee matching gift campaign that raised over US$3 million for nonprofit partners.

For governments and front-line workers

Part of Cisco’s contribution to COVID-19 relief was US$7 million that went to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, supporting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) worldwide efforts to prevent, detect, and manage the spread of the virus. Through our Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, we provided funding for heads of state, government agencies, and businesses to rapidly deploy COVID-19-related technology solutions. Webex collaboration technology also enabled institutions like the G20 and U.S. Congress to transition to secure virtual meetings.

We also helped essential medical professionals in multiple creative ways. Teleconferencing equipment in Cisco offices was donated to local hospitals to be used for telehealth visits. Stanford Children’s Health, one of the hospitals that received a donated system, was able to increase virtual visits from 30 to 700 per day as a result. Cisco donated 5.3 million KN95 masks and more than 750,000 surgical masks and face shields, some of which were 3D-printed by Cisco volunteers worldwide.

Cisco’s four pillars for an Inclusive Future

While COVID-19 has been a major focus of our efforts over the past year, the pandemic will not be the last major crisis that we confront. To enable Cisco to be a part of solutions for any crisis, injustice, or global challenge, we have developed a new framework, anchored by four primary pillars of response:

  1. The Most Vulnerable: Focusing on the nonprofits and partners that support underserved communities, first responders, and those disproportionately impacted by systemic issues and crises
  2. Families and Community: Expanding care and wellbeing services beyond our employees
  3. Research and Resilience: Supporting technology solutions that can advance healthcare research and address social inequities
  4. Strategic Recovery: Helping healthcare and education institutions provide care and pathways to job opportunities during times of uncertainty

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.