This blog is part of our People Behind Purpose at Cisco series that focuses on employees driving Cisco’s purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All. Each blog highlights a different Cisco employee whose work positively impacts people, communities, or the planet. The series was formerly known as people behind Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Cisco.
Since 2015, Cisco has collaborated with government leaders, industry, and academia to support the delivery of national digital agendas through the Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program. Over the last two years, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies; however, it has also highlighted the stark digital divide across society and within different socioeconomic groups. Through CDA, we are supporting countries to embrace digital technologies and deliver connected and inclusive societies. To date, CDA has over 1100 active or completed projects in 50 countries.
Another important and growing part of CDA is partnering on sustainability projects, with 30+ to date. Meet Jutta Graefensteiner, Director for CDA, Sustainability and the Country Plan in Germany. She shares more about her early connection with nature, the evolution of her career at Cisco over the past 20 years, and how digitization can go hand-in-hand with sustainability.
When did your interest in sustainability begin?
Jutta: My interest in sustainability has been with me my entire life because I grew up on a farm in Germany that was a four-generation household. We had cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs of course. It was a small farm, but it was lovely, and I had a beautiful childhood. Nature and animals have been with me since I started to breathe, walk, think, and act, so it is always close to my heart.
From a business perspective, I think about how we are embedding sustainability across Cisco operations, and how our products and solutions can support our customers in reaching their net-zero goals. About two years ago, a colleague was tasked with setting up a tiger team to enhance our sustainability strategy for our Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. She reached out and asked if I wanted to join that community, and I was happy to say yes.
From that moment on, I was diving in, embracing, and inhaling the topic of sustainability for Cisco in Germany. A significant task is bringing our corporate approach, our products, and our solutions closer to our customers, partners and other stakeholders.
Tell us more about what brought you to Cisco and your current job responsibilities.
Jutta: I started working at Cisco in January 2000, so I have been here for over 23 years. At that time, I worked for an IT distributor, and somebody from Cisco reached out to me. So, I came to Cisco and started as a marketing manager for Cisco’s small and medium business (SMB).
Over the years, I held various marketing and communications-related roles, first in Germany and then in Central Europe where the sales region consisted of 19 countries at the time. In 2015 I went back to Germany to lead Cisco’s Channels and Partner Organization for over five and a half years, which offers solutions, training, tools, and support to help value-added resellers (VARs). I’m also part of Cisco Germany’s Management Board.
Now I am the Director for Sustainability, CDA and the Country Plan in Germany. Importantly, we are seeing that sustainability can help with digitization, including as far as solutions are concerned, and vice versa. They are tightly connected.
You led Cisco’s Channels and Partner Organization. How did your work with partners prepare you for your role in CDA?
Jutta: Leading a partner organization is challenging, and I loved it. It requires a lot of resiliency, agility, and persistence. Those competencies are also needed for sustainability. Sustainability is being integrated across our company, and it is increasingly important for the business organization we drive, our portfolio and customer landscape. Having that established network and persistence in moving the topic forward is essential, especially since it is a rapidly developing topic from a sales perspective. Further, Cisco has been reporting on sustainability since 2005. So, I can build on that knowledge, and on the other side, I have those relationships with our partners and a good entrance point for sustainability in our conversations. The doors are open; I have to go through them and raise further awareness about our sustainability journey.
Can you tell us more about the sustainability initiatives that CDA is leading and the impact you hope to make?
Jutta: As mentioned earlier, sustainability and digitization are tightly interconnected, and sustainability is becoming important for businesses.
One example is one of our customers and partners in Germany — Deutsche Telekom (DT). DT deployed the Cisco 8000 Series based on Cisco Silicon One, the router with transmission speed of 260 terabits per second (Tbps). DT has reported that the move from the Cisco CRS-X multi-chassis system to the Cisco 8000 Series routers has reduced power consumption by up to 92 percent per 100 gigabits per second (Gbps). In addition, DT has also reported that the high connection density of the routers leads to a reduction in space requirements from eight racks to one rack per system. We see that companies can save energy and space with innovations developed by Cisco.
Currently we are working with one of the biggest global sports retailers. With the support of CDA we are investing in the development of a sustainability dashboard to monitor and visualize in real-time various parameters like energy consumption, climate, oxygen, and heating. Initially, the dashboard is expected to be implemented in one of the company’s new pilot retail stores. Of course, the goal is a global scale implementation.
CDA is a wonderful program to support our customers and accelerate their digitization and sustainability efforts.
Why is it important for corporations and people to care about a sustainable and regenerative future?
Jutta: We see, hear, and experience global climate change. Depending on where you are living in the world, it is with different intensity. Companies can play a key role in taking action, and Cisco is making this a priority.
And, not to forget each one of us. As employees and as private citizens, we can start taking action. For example, calculating your personal carbon footprint can help you get transparency on your impact and identify your own private actions to reduce it.
I heard you’re passionate about animal welfare. Can you tell us more about that?
Jutta: From a sustainability perspective, I can touch on biodiversity and how important animals are for our survival as humans. If you don’t plant trees, the insects will not have a home. The bees won’t be around to pollinate plants on the farm, and we will not be able to produce food for us human beings. As humans, we depend more on animals than they need us. We should treat them well and ensure they survive.
To bring it down to the most personal level, I simply love animals. It gives me a good feeling to be surrounded by animals and they are part of our big family. They give love, belonging, and make me laugh. Petting animals makes people feel good, and research shows that interacting with animals has health benefits.
My pets are part of my family, and I love to care for them. We got our first dog six years ago, and during the pandemic we opened our home to a rescue cat. Seeing the situation in Ukraine and how blessed we are, we decided to adopt another small, elderly dog from Kyiv, Ukraine. She fits in perfectly with our first dog and our cat. And, in our greenhouse, I have two hedgehogs living there over the winter. Once it is warm enough, they will wake up and we will return them to the wilderness.
As part of our “Time2Give”, which is a benefit at Cisco where you get paid time off to volunteer, I organized a one-day building project with a woodworker and 10 Cisco employees. We built hedgehog houses together for an animal nonprofit, so they could sell them to get funding for medicine and other things to care for the hedgehogs. It was a great give-back activity with our colleagues, and the next build is scheduled for the end of June.