Cisco's random acts of green-ness

Two disclosures before I get to the body of this entry:First, an apology to the Linksys executive that I spoke with several weeks (maybe, ahem, two months ago) about their sustainability issues. Sorry it has taken so long to actually WRITE this post.

Two disclosures before I get to the body of this entry:

First, an apology to the Linksys executive that I spoke with several weeks (maybe, ahem, two months ago) about their sustainability issues. Sorry it has taken so long to actually WRITE this post. Sorry for having a personal life, or at least trying to have a personal life.

Second, any time I write about Cisco's green strategies, I feel obliged to mention that I do some regular communications consulting work for the organization that runs their reseller channel partner programs (aka, their worldwide channels organization). This work has NOTHING to do with any of their green strategies, but I want everyone to be aware of the connection nonetheless.

Now, onto your regularly scheduled blog.

So, today, the company is launching what it's calling its One Million Acts of Green campaign in order to get people to start doing the little things that could make a difference in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. Here's a link to the site. Still under 100,000 acts in the United States. What are you waiting for?

Cisco is also using the initiative to tout some of the things that one its divisions, the Linksys home networking unit, to cut back on its impact. This, actually, was the topic of my interview earlier this year (ahem) with Marna Bullard, vice president of worldwide marketing for the Cisco Consumer Business Group and the executive sponsor of green activities for the company.

Working with supply chain management company ModusLink Global Solutions, this Cisco unit has reduced its overall packaging materials for each product shipped by almost 49 percent, according to Bullard. This, in turn, has helped it cut back on the number of air shipments needed to get its products from Point A to Point B.

The company also is sourcing inks that are soy-based, which is 100 percent recyclable. Nearly 100 of its products in in packages that use at least 80 percent recycled content.

Although Bullard originally expected these practices to cost more, she has managed to keep her costs at LEAST even with the previous methods, which were much harder on the environment. "The net-net was that we ended up around even," she says, speaking referring to the packaging overhaul.

Here's a link to more information about the various things that this Cisco unit is doing to help improve its sustainability message, without raising its overall costs.

This stuff didn't happen overnight. Bullard's team worked with their counterparts at ModusLink for about a year-and-a-half in order to rethink their supply chain practices. The company has a suite of services call the Sustainable Solutions Suite that covers everything from package design to supply chain network optimization to footprinting of your supply chain's greenhouse impact.

Ryan Humphrey, director of professional services for ModusLink, says his company is engaging most frequently with companies from the consumer electronics and computer peripherals/storage sectors, especially those that need to balance environmental concerns with retail marketing considerations. When it comes to packaging, which is a big source of waste and potential cost savings for many of these companies, Humphrey says companies should focus on four main considerations:

  1. Labor costs
  2. Material costs
  3. Pallet density
  4. Carbon footprint for shipping methods

Incidentally, the World Resources Institute and A.T. Kearney released a study late last year about the potential impact to the consumer goods industry if they DO NOT adopt more sustainable business practices. The study they cosponsored suggests that companies that fail to embrace new practices could see a decline in earnings of between 13 percent and 31 percent by 2014 and between 19 percent and 47 percent by 2018.

Here's the link to that data.