The following is an excerpt from the 2019 CSR report. In FY19, Cisco created a new legal function to address human rights issues that arise in our business.

Our world is changing fast. The speed of innovation and the adoption of new technologies
is increasing at an exponential rate. For example, with the growth of 5G, the number of connected devices worldwide will explode. Nearly 29 billion networked devices in 2022 will swell to 300 billion by 2030. In the same time period, more than 3.5 billion more people will begin using the Internet for the first time.

This evolution presents great opportunities to solve pressing global problems: Improving health. Reducing pollution. Making cities smart. But these same technologies can also cause harm. Unfortunately, advanced data and technology can be used to infringe upon human rights, such as when governments employ technology to surveil or censor individuals.

We’re keenly aware of both the potential benefits and risks of our technology. That’s why we’re working to integrate human rights into the development, marketing, and sales process.

Our human rights journey

Cisco's CEO, Chuck Robbins
Cisco’s CEO, Chuck Robbins, is committed to human rights

Cisco’s commitment to human rights comes from the top. Our CEO, Chuck Robbins, and other senior executives established our strategy and stress its importance. This year, we created a new legal function led by Mark Chandler, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and Chief Compliance Officer, to address human rights issues that arise in our business. Business and Human Rights at Cisco sets Cisco’s human rights strategy, drives decision-making, and manages relevant human rights issues across Cisco’s business with a focus on the potential human rights impacts of our technology. In FY20, we will begin regularly sharing with our Board of Directors how Cisco is responding to identified human rights risks.

To understand where we’re going, it helps to know where we’ve been. In 2012, Cisco’s technology landscape began to change. That year began our transition from a business focused on networking hardware to one focused on software and services delivered through the cloud.

This led to the creation of our first Global Human Rights Policy. This policy is aligned with the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011, the UNGPs spell out the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.

Cisco formally began to put policy into practice when we created our Human Rights Working Group (HRWG). The group includes experts from all parts of the business, including:

  • Supply Chain
  • Security & Trust
  • Legal
  • Engineering
  • Customer Experience
  • Office of Inclusion and Collaboration
  • Government Affairs
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Corporate Communications
  • Investor Relations
  • Corporate Affairs

The purpose of the HRWG group is to:

  • Inform our human rights strategy and policy
  • Track and share our progress
  • Champion human rights externally and within their own functions
  • Consider external perspectives on human rights

In 2018, Cisco supplemented our human rights policy with six human rights position statements that describe Cisco’s approach to key emerging human rights challenges in the technology sector. They address the following issues:

  • Encryption
  • Data localization and sovereignty
  • Surveillance by governments
  • Internet of Things
  • Big data analytics
  • Artificial intelligence

These statements give us a central platform from which to share Cisco’s basic commitments to uphold human rights. Our next goal is to translate these perspectives into guidelines that will inform software and product development and sales.

Weaving human rights into all we do

Each of these accomplishments has helped lay the groundwork for the next phase in the evolution of human rights at Cisco. In FY19, we increased our capacity to understand and influence the human rights impacts of our business with the creation of our new Business and Human Rights at Cisco team. This team sits in our legal department and is staffed by human rights specialists. Creating this team within the legal function allows for input on legal, regulatory, and policy decisions related to human rights impacts. BHR at Cisco will continue to leverage the Human Rights Working Group for insights across Cisco functions. And we’ll rely on external stakeholders to support continuous and shared learning.

This dedicated internal team also equips us to make a bigger impact. We’re shifting from a reactive approach to one where we can build a sustainable, scalable, and holistic framework by developing and implementing policies, procedures, and training for the long term.

 Our latest achievements

We’re putting our human rights commitments into action by raising internal awareness of human rights and engaging externally. Many Cisco employees have the potential to encounter human rights-related challenges in the course of their work. That’s why we are diligent about educating these employees with regard to:

  • How we define human rights
  • Why human rights are relevant to Cisco
  • How technology can impact individual human rights
  • How issues might show up in their roles
  • What to do if they identify a human rights concern

Cisco is an influencer in the human rights space. We regularly share our perspectives outside
the company as a member of the Article One Business Roundtable on Human Rights and AI and the BSR Human Rights Working Group. In 2019, we sponsored RightsCon for the third year in a row. RightsCon is the world’s leading conference on human rights and technology, bringing together thousands of stakeholders from around the world. At RightsCon 2019,

a BHR at Cisco team member participated in a panel on 5G and human rights and gave a presentation about how Cisco has innovated to provide users with more transparency about personal data processing through our Privacy Data Sheets and Privacy Data Maps.

We’re also leading by calling for government action. In FY19, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins called for U.S. federal data protection legislation that recognizes privacy as a human right.

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Jennifer Boynton

Corporate Social Responsibility Content Strategist

Corporate Affairs