A conversation with Craig Cieplinski, Senior Director of global SMB sales at Cisco
How are you seeing SMBs around the world address the need to run more sustainable businesses?
Craig Cieplinski: Every organization has a responsibility to operate in more sustainable ways, including small and medium businesses. One of the most profound IT advances that enables SMBs to reduce their footprint is the adoption of cloud technologies. SMBs are taking advantage of SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] apps and cloud IT infrastructure platforms at a fraction of the cost and complexity we saw less than a decade ago. The ability to securely work and collaborate from anywhere transforms productivity, but it also dramatically reduces the energy consumed by commercial real estate, commuting, and travel. Even IT tasks like network deployment and support can be accomplished via the cloud. Cloud-first solutions are now pivotal to SMB growth and sustainability, and our portfolio of products reflects that.
Cloud technologies are more sustainable, but how do they impact SMBs’ ability to compete?
Cieplinski: Sustainability has become a competitive necessity. An SMB’s customers, whether they’re consumers or other companies, expect the organizations that they do business with throughout their supply chains to run smart, sustainable operations. But just as importantly, cloud and SaaS have made enterprise-scale digitization available to every player, enabling them to compete at new levels. Digital transformation is rooted in taking advantage of innovative apps that previously required investment in in-house infrastructure. The cloud lets SMBs use these advances as a service. Of course, Cisco Partners are integral in helping customers drive business value and process improvements, but the technology has really thrown wide open the gates of opportunity for SMBs.
Is Cisco taking other steps to support sustainability for SMBs and its Partners?
Cieplinski: Partners and their customers, particularly in the European region, have made it clear they want best practices and programs to help support their sustainability commitments. Our Environmental Sustainability Specialization, which was launched in April, trains Partners in how customers can participate in the Circular Economy, migrate to cloud-enabled solutions, and generally drive sustainable outcomes, like reducing energy use and waste. It’s one of our fastest growing programs and includes a Take Back Incentive for Partners to get commitments from customers to return products to Cisco. We’ve made it easy and automated for Partners, while also holding them accountable through reports and tracking, which we’ve found they appreciate.
How does taking back products help SMB sustainability?
Cieplinski: Customers often struggle to know what to do with old equipment—it’s costly, and complex to write-off and generally difficult to figure out, so we’ve developed ways to make it as easy as possible. Our programs are a perfect entry point to reduce waste. Customers can return legacy or unwanted hardware directly, either through our free Send IT Back app, which is available in North America, EU, and UK, or our global Customer Recycling Solutions. Any customer can simply let us know and we will pick it up for free, and we will either recycle it according to local rules or bring it to a Cisco facility to get refurbished. We take care of shipping, taxes, and any cross-border implications. And just as importantly, Cisco then sends a report confirming what was received so SMBs can prove how they safely divested the equipment to comply with regulations. We take all of that off customers’ hands. We’re proud that in our 2021 fiscal year, 99.92% of everything that has been returned to us is either refurbished for Cisco Refresh or other programs, or recycled. Almost nothing goes to landfill.
You noted Cisco Refresh, which offers fully certified and warrantied remanufactured equipment. What role is refurbished technology playing in SMB customers’ approach to sustainability?
Cieplinski: We see a lot of SMBs building it into their strategy. Refurbished solutions are cost effective, help alleviate any potential issues with supply chains, and as SMBs look at their own sustainability goals, the lifecycle of IT plays a big part. Customers often seek at least a blend of new and remanufactured products, based on how they will be used.
It sounds like you’ve made SMB sustainability a top priority.
Cieplinski: Absolutely. Cisco has set an aggressive target to reach net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our value chain by 2040, which means a commitment to deep GHG reductions across our operations and supply chain, but also the lifecycle of our products. This naturally includes SMBs, and a big part of that is enabling a future powered by SaaS and cloud-delivered networking for our small and medium-sized customers.
This conversation is included in the latest edition of SMB Dynamo.