Why Cisco's new low-carbon diet isn't just a fad (updated)

(Updated to include video blog link.)Is Cisco CEO John Chambers' aggressive commitment this morning to a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 just a ploy/play for green headlines?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

(Updated to include video blog link.)

Is Cisco CEO John Chambers' aggressive commitment this morning to a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 just a ploy/play for green headlines? Actually, I think this very public very high-level move represents just the first part of a multi-layered program to get Cisco better positioned as a force to be reckoned with in the green tech space. And, I know that when you rally John Chambers behind something, things get done.

Before I go on, a disclosure. I am currently employed on a marketing communications project for a team within Cisco's worldwide channels organization. Technically speaking, this doesn't have anything to do with today's announcement so I don't feel any conflict of interest. Ultimately, though it would be good to get Cisco's VARs and network integrators speaking the same green language about greenhouse gas reductions. There continues to be a disconnect across almost the entire high-tech channel in this one area.

So what does today's announcement mean in real terms?

In 2007, Cisco reports that it had a "gross greenhouse gas emissions" footprint of 832,000 metric tons, including the impact of its leased and owned facilities, vehicles and airline travel. With its new reduction commitment, Chambers said the company will reduce its maximum net footprint to 543,000 metric tons by 2012.

Rob Rolfsen, director of sustainable development at Cisco, said the reductions will be achieved through many different programs. Chief among them are the following: - Addressing all of Cisco's research labs and data centers, which chew up an enormous chunk of its energy consumption; adopting mobile technology and telecommuting policies; embracing building and facilities practices upheld by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program (which is part of the U.S. Green Building Council's Green Building Rating System); employee education; and putting a big-time clamp down on travel in favor of (how shocking) Cisco's very own WebEx and Telepresence conferencing and collaboration technologies. You'll also hear more about the Cisco Connected Workspace concept, which the company actually began touting more than a year-and-a-half ago.

Incidentally, I was surprised to learn that close to 51 percent of Cisco's energy in the United States comes from renewable sources; the amount is 78 percent in Europe. That puts it high up on the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partners list, where it is part of the Leadership Club. Rolfsen says Cisco will increase those percentages in the coming fiscal year.

The other neat thing worth watching is Cisco's Efficiency Assurance Program, which is essentially a public communications portable about green initiatives. According to Rob Aldrich, Cisco data center manager, this is how Cisco intends to educate both itself and others about green tech bes practices. Aldrich says you'll see Cisco use the site to collect and establish benchmarks for data centers and other IT infrastructure. Cisco also plans to offer some professional services (Data Center Efficiency Assessment Services) in this area, he says. Eventually, you'll see some of partners included in these initiatives.

If you'd like to hear more about this in video, here's Laura Ipsen, senior vice president of global policy and government affairs.

Editorial standards