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Illustration by Kaley McKean

As social distancing changed the ways that businesses, families and even doctors and patients communicate, the world seemed to go all Zoom, all the time. With much less fanfare, however, another big winner was Cisco Systems’ Webex video-conferencing platform, which registered 500 million users in April – up from 324 million in March and more than triple its traffic pre-COVID.

The rise of Webex gives Cisco a new way to mix business with social responsibility. Growth of video conferencing and telehealth can not only reduce the carbon footprint of business and healthcare, but also enable more equitable distribution of services to disadvantaged communities.

In other words, it may be hard to displace Cisco Systems Canada from the top of Corporate Knights’ list of Canada’s Top International Corporate Citizens – a title it has now earned two years in a row.

The list comprises non-Canadian companies on the 2020 Global 100 ranking of the Most Sustainable Corporations in the World that derive at least $1 billion of their revenues in Canada.

Cisco was founded in Silicon Valley in 1984 by Sandy Lerner and Leonard Bosack, computer technicians at Stanford University. Their goal of developing new hardware to help computers communicate peaked at just the right time. Today Cisco is a $50-billion-a-year giant in networking, software, cloud computing and collaborative work platforms.

Branding itself as a bridge to the future (its logo is the Golden Gate Bridge), Cisco is a strong supporter of social responsibility. CEO Chuck Robbins wrote in the company’s 2019 corporate-social-responsibility report: “We see massive opportunities for our innovation, expertise, and culture to play a role in finding solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges . . . including partnering with governments to accelerate digitization goals, advocating for data security and privacy, and empowering the next-generation workforce.”

Cisco’s first-place ranking stems from various achievements, including the highest clean-revenue score in its industry peer group, growing investment in innovation, and a high ratio (42%) of women in executive management.
In a CEO community still dominated by white males, Cisco Canada president and CEO Rola Dagher is not just a woman, but a refugee whose family left war-torn Lebanon 30 years ago. She too is a bridge: Dagher heads a career-development group called Connected Women that helps young female employees feel that they belong at Cisco and can help make a difference.

Cisco has responded proactively to the pandemic. To support remote workers, it made Webex services free to businesses. It also allocated $8 million in cash and $210 million in in-kind products to support medical facilities, education, and government response efforts.

While video conferencing has been around for two decades, it’s finally reaching its potential. Case in point: in March, the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) deployed Webex technology across the organization for use by more than 400 CAMH clinicians. From March to April alone, “virtual-care” patient visits across Ontario rose from 350 to 3,000.

“Cisco understands how critical technology can be in bridging gaps, breaking down barriers and connecting the unconnected,” says Dagher. “This pandemic has fuelled the digital revolution in mental health services – it’s been a catalyst for delivering remote care at scale and helping those in need get access during a difficult time.”

 

Who are this year’s top international corporate citizens in Canada? They include companies that earn over $1 billion in revenues in Canada, are not listed or headquartered in Canada and have the highest scores on the Corporate Knights Sustainability Rating methodology employed for the 2020 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World.

 

 

 

 

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