Today, December 10, marks International Human Rights Day – the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s 1948 adoption of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), setting out fundamental human rights that must be universally protected.  

As a supplier of the infrastructure that connects much of the world, Cisco bears responsibility to make sure we are designing our products to enhance the ability of all people to enjoy the rights reflected in the UN Declaration. Respecting human rights is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good for our business. We are meeting this responsibility in a way that reflects the global nature of our business, the complexity of our supply chain and selling programs, and the rapid nature of innovation throughout our business units.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cisco’s technology has played a critical role for businesses as they rely increasingly on remote workersIn the past year, we’ve also seen our society grow in awareness of systemic injustice and inequality. We’ve enabled connections between people and essential services such as healthcare and education. We’ve seen more consumers adopt our collaboration tools to connect with friends and loved ones virtually in order to keep their communities safe and more inclusiveAll the while, we’ve worked to honor our human rights commitments to protect the workers who build our products in the supply chain.  

Cisco’s broad technology suite means a multitude of human rights touchpoints  

In response to these challenges and as part of our ongoing effort to identify, prevent, mitigate, and address human rights, in the last year our Business and Human Rights team has been working with teams across the business to integrate a human rights perspective across Cisco’s operations. For example, the team examined three of our business units – CollaborationSecurity, and IOT – to assess the human rights benefits associated with these technologies and make sure any collateral human rights impacts are identified and consciously addressed. The exercise included reviews of product pipelines, interviews with Cisco leaders, discussions with external experts in business and human rights, and consultations with potentially affected stakeholders or their legitimate representatives.  

Here’s what we learned: 

In general, Cisco’s technology is designed to advance human rights. In fact, Cisco’s networking, security, collaboration, and cloud solutions help secure and protect the lifeblood of the global economy. This has never been truer than in 2020.  

Where there are potentially deleterious human rights impacts associated with our offersthey stem primarily from applications of use by governments. This presents a challenge for Cisco because once our technology is sold, our control and leverage over its use is dramatically reduced. Still, we want to do what we can to mitigate this risk and we plan to employ a mix of strategies including: 

  • Conducting a review of Cisco’s product design requirements and guidance to ensure human rights and fairness principles are integrated from the very beginning. 
  • Establishing a due diligence process to ensure that we comply fully with laws and sanctions designed to deny access to our products by those who violate human rights. 
  • Working closely with our Human Rights Advisory Committee, a cross-functional group of senior employees that advises us on challenging human rights issues that need to be looked at from multiple angles. 

Today, we published an updated Global Human Rights Policy to reflect what we’ve learned through this exerciseNotably, as we make progress on our company purpose to power an inclusive future for all, we’ve added to our list of salient human rights issues the right to equal protection against discrimination. And as we adjust to life in a pandemic, we’ve added a focus on health and safety issues as well. 

I am proud of the work Cisco is doing to embed attention to human rights across our business, and to help our customers meet their objectives in light of ever-increasing challenges.  

For more information on our work to address human rights issues, visit our ESG Hub and read our CSR Impact Report. 


Mark Chandler

Retired | Executive Vice President

Chief Legal and Compliance Officer