While I’m out on maternity leave, I’m excited to highlight the varied viewpoints of some of the amazing people that make up CHILL. I’m proud to work with this diverse and talented team. They hail from around the globe, and bring a rich set of experiences, skills, and passions to bear on everything they do. Today’s guest blogger is Neil Harris, Senior Business Architect for CHILL. Neil has a passion for creating multi-party collaborative approaches to solving big challenges, and during his 17 years at Cisco has led numerous projects focused on using technology to foster sustainable development and conservation.

One of the things I love most about my job is being able to work with very smart people who are doing amazing things. So I was thrilled recently to be part of SustainX—a gathering of the hundreds of people in Cisco who are working tirelessly on Cisco’s sustainability goals—from greenhouse gas reduction and renewable energy to employee engagement and reducing supply chain waste.

In my role in Cisco CHILL, I work with big companies all over the world to identify areas where we can disrupt the status quo and create business opportunities. As an innovation catalyst for Cisco’s $12 billion Customer Experience team, CHILL brings together diverse groups of customers to innovate around big global challenges. SustainX reinforced my belief that business sustainability is just such a challenge—an area ripe for sweeping, cross-industry innovation.

Nike is a great case in point. Cyrus Wadia, Nike’s vice president of Sustainable Business & Innovation, explained that sustainability is an integral part of Nike’s mission to serve and support athletes. Sport brings the world together, but that can’t happen if pollution and climate change threaten our health, or if toxic chemicals and water shortages destroy our green spaces. So Nike has announced a bold ambition to double its business while halving its environmental impact. This has led to some amazing product and supply chain innovations.

Like Nike, Cisco understands that environmental responsibility shouldn’t be viewed as an expense; rather it’s an essential ingredient of the bottom line. Cisco is designing products in a way that minimizes waste and maximizes recurring value. We’re extending product lifecycles and driving toward 100 percent end-of-life product returns. And we are innovating to improve efficiency throughout the supply chain—using sensors and data analytics, for example, to identify and take out energy inefficiency in our contract factories.

After two decades of experience in IT and networking, I am well aware of the hard work it takes to manage companies’ environmental performance. But if we do that hard work, we’re now in a position to create tremendous opportunities—not just for the future of the earth, but for the success of our companies.

That is why we are looking at the “circular economy” as a focus for CHILL innovation early next year. We are beginning to identify our innovation “battleground” areas and to bring together a cohort of customers who are equally ready to create broad, transformative solutions that are wins for both our businesses and our planet. Join the conversation. Follow along on Twitter @katecokeeffe, or check out our publication on Medium to see more ways that CHILL is driving transformative innovation.


Kate O'Keeffe

Senior Director

Customer and Partner Innovation