Abbey Burns McDougald
Abbey (Burns) McDougald,

This post was written by guest blogger Abbey (Burns) McDougald, Circular Economy Program Manager at Cisco

Cisco’s products power networks and shape the way we live, work, play, and learn. However, they also shape the world in many other ways. We extract natural resources to make and ship our hardware, and our customers rely on this same pool of resources to make their own products and run their own businesses. We can’t keep taking, without giving. It doesn’t last. But as a business, as a society, as a species, that is exactly what we’ve been doing. And it’s not sustainable.

For companies like Cisco, this means that we need to re-think the way our business operates and the way we provide products and services to our customers. We want to reuse more of our equipment, so that we recycle less. We also want to re-manufacture and refurbish more of the products we make, so we can give them new life with more customers.

Cisco’s commitment to circularity and environmental sustainability starts at the very top. Our CEO, Chuck Robbins, committed to 100% product return at the World Economic Forum in 2018. This pledge will require not only 100% commitment from Cisco, but also active engagement from our partners, suppliers and customers.

To help inform this process and drive the necessary change, we have been working to break down barriers between the teams at Cisco that are involved in returning and reusing Cisco products. Members of multiple core operational teams are now highly intertwined, working together to make product returns easier, as well as direct used equipment to its highest-value next use. Additionally, we are seeking input from our sales teams, customers and channel partners. The goal is to understand the various pain points in the returns process and ensure that used equipment becomes a reliable source of value for Cisco and our customers.

Internally, we are transforming our business to run a world-class returns program and to enhance customer value through product lifecycle management.

But what does this mean to a customer? It means that when we work with a business, we are considering the entire lifecycle of the service we provide. The hardware that enables that service might be leased or used as-a-service rather than purchased directly. When the hardware is no longer needed, it is easily returned to Cisco. That equipment can then be remanufactured or refurbished to have new life somewhere else — all  while maintaining the security for which Cisco is known.

This secondary life not only saves minerals and resources, but also brings quality technology to those who may not otherwise have access. We are already embarking on this circular economy journey. In May, we announced our plans to launch a Repair Partners Network in Africa. The aim is to work with selected distributors who will repair and restore Cisco hardware and make high-quality, refurbished technology accessible, especially for small and medium-sized organizations. By investing in repair centers in Africa, Cisco intends to contribute to job creation, skills development, brand protection and promoting Cisco’s Authorized Channel.

The road to a circular economy cannot be paved by Cisco alone. We are committed to collaborating across our suppliers and channel partners, and the communities we serve to achieve this vision globally and locally. Between today’s technology and our dreams for tomorrow, there’s a bridge.