Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cisco and New Models of Social Responsibility

I am still really looking forward to the upcoming Global Virtual Summit (November 5th and 9th , 2009) entitled New Models of Social Responsibility, presented by Communitelligence and Cisco. The summit boasts a truly impressive line-up of speakers. As my Company, BeyondBusiness , is one of the Media Sponsors for the summit, I was privileged to have the opportunity to interview some of the speakers. You can read my interview with Cecily Joseph, CR Director of Symantec here. This post is all about another impressive woman on the sustainabilty scene - Kathy Mulvany, Director of Marketing and Sustainable Business Practices for Corporate Affairs at Cisco. Kathy will be making opening remarks on Day One of the Summit.

Kathy has been with Cisco for 13 years, and has led Sustainable Business Practices for the past 15 months. She wears two connected hats.  "Marketing and Sustainable Business Practices are two separate groups that I manage within Corporate Affairs though they both involve communications. My marketing role is focused on building awareness of and engagement in the work we do in Corporate Affairs, specifically our social investments. My sustainable business practice role is focused on overall CSR reporting for Cisco (environment, society, employees and governance), stakeholder engagement and analysis so that we can better inform the business of emerging CSR issues, helping to prioritize CSR issues for which the business functions then set goals, implement programs and measure performance. "
As always, this kind of role has personal relevance and Kathy says  "I get great satisfaction from helping Cisco have a positive and lasting impact on the world through our corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. I also have the opportunity to work with a great team of people who are passionate and committed to the CSR work they do. And I enjoy finding new, creative ways to tell our human impact story."
Cisco is now a seasoned CSR reporter after having produced 4 CSR reports. It is always interesting to me to see how Companies evolve their CSR reporting as each reporting cycle brings tremendous learning opportunities. Kathy explains how it happened so far at Cisco: "Our report has evolved considerably over the last 5 years in terms of breadth, depth, level of transparency and delivery methods. As with many early reporters, our first CSR report in 2005 was an inventory of responses to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework. This first report set the outlined our overall approach to CSR, our programs and strategies. As our reporting matured we began to focus our reporting on issues that are most material to our sustainability as a business and have continued to deepen the level of disclosure, diligence and measurement in each successive annual CSR report. In the past few years we’ve put particular emphasis on enhancing the readability and user experience of the dense CSR content. In examining stakeholder needs for CSR data, we’ve found new and innovative ways of reporting our progress. We’ve introduced an interactive overview of our global CSR activities to provide a regional context for our CSR performance. We’ve incorporated videos that provide 1st person perspectives. We are also exploring ways in which social media (Web 2.0) might help us improve the dialogue between our stakeholders and business owners" .
One of the commendable things about Cisco's reporting is the focus on internal CSR processes and engagement of employees - 31 pages in the 2008 report. Kathy says about internal employee communication and engagement processes "We use a number of internal channels to drive awareness and engagement amongst our employees including newsletters, articles on our company intranet, executive briefs on our CSR engagements, employee meetings at the company and departmental level, CSR showcases during our virtual strategic leadership summit and global sales meeting, informational fairs, etc. In addition, we use a number of Web 2.0 technologies to bring our CSR story to life including videos, blogs, RSS feeds as well as WebEx and TelePresence sessions." 
My regular readers will know that i am a fan of localization in reporting - i.e. the practice of reporting a local level by global companies, in addition to global reports which have less relevance for  local stakeholders. Cisco have an interesting approach with  regional and country updates on in an interactive presentation on the Cisco CSR report website. Kathy says: "Cisco's CSR report is intended for external and internal parties who want current and historical information about Cisco’s performance on CSR issues. Our audience includes financial and industry analysts, investors, customers, NGOs, employees, academia, government, and the media. A topic of very active discussion is how to balance the detail needed by analysts and the readability desired by those wanting a general overview. Because we respond to hundreds of stakeholder CSR inquiries and surveys throughout the year, it is advantageous to publish a complete reference to support such interest and inquiries. Conversely, we also receive feedback to make the reporting shorter and more accessible. As such we introduced the regional interactive overview for those who wanted a high level snapshot of our CSR work around the globe. We continue to research web-based tools that satisfy both audiences in a scalable and cost effective manner."
Whither Cisco CSR in the coming years? "We continue to develop best practices for our CSR programs through benchmarking, IT sector engagement and dialogue with multiple stakeholder groups. For the longer term, however, we are focusing on enhancements to our governance structure and driving CSR innovation across multiple organizations. We have started this process by engaging in Cisco’s new Collaborative Management Model and reporting into Cisco’s Connected Business Operations Council. We feel this is the most efficient approach for reporting up into cross functional senior leadership. We also actively engage with our boards and councils as needed. More information on this will be included in our FY09 CSR Report."

If you want to know more about network enabled sustainability and Cisco's leadership in this field, take a look at their report and website. If you want to hear more from Kathy Mulvany and other Cisco colleagues, come to the Global Virtual Summit on New Models of Social Responsibility . I am sure that we will hear more from Cisco that will insprie us.

Thanks to Kathy Mulvany for generously sharing insights, thanks to John Gerstner, visionary founder and president of Communitelligence.
And i still haven't worked out - how do they get the Chunky Monkey to you in a Virtual Summit ... hmmmm .... I am stockpiling tubs in my office just in case ...

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm . Visit our website at: www.b-yond.biz/en

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