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Responding department: Corporate Affairs

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Numerous cross-functional teams support Cisco’s human rights working group, policy implementation and external communications.

Note - also available: Cisco response to our Myanmar Foreign Investment Tracking Project

Does your company have a publicly available commitment to respect human rights?

Yes, Cisco has a human rights policy: [link]

Human rights is a matter which encompasses multiple issues and therefore this corporate human rights policy is supported by other Cisco policies including but not limited to policies on privacy, product application, health and safety, diversity, harassment and other labor related policies—links to these are provided in the human rights policy.

Examples include Cisco’s Supplier Code of Code Conduct [link] and Cisco’s Code of Business Conduct [link].

How are human rights governed in your company?

Cisco has adopted a formal human rights governance structure to support implementation of the company’s Human Rights Roadmap.

Our cross-functional Human Rights Working Group includes experts from across the business, including Supply Chain, Ethics, Privacy, Government Affairs, Business Strategy, Communications, Investor Relations, and others. The Human Rights Working Group is overseen by our Corporate Affairs Department (which leads human rights strategy) and Chief Compliance Officer (who oversees human rights compliance). The Working Group is sponsored by Randy Pond, Senior Vice President, Operations.  Our Board Audit Committee receives regular updates on Human Rights related issues, and reports to the Board of Directors on those updates.

Please the human rights section (pages B12 – B16) of Cisco’s FY14 CSR Report [link]

How are human rights managed within your company?

Human rights issues are guided by a cross-functional team of employees. The human rights working group is supported by many functional groups including:

Cisco’s ethics and integrity team for global communications channels

Compliance learning and development team for developing and delivering human rights training to Cisco’s employees

The supply chain sustainability team for integrating and monitoring the deployment of human rights standards in the supply chain

Government affairs and investor relations for managing and planning for Cisco’s human rights stakeholder engagements

Corporate Affairs for programs which focus on improving access to healthcare; promoting skills development and entrepreneurship; supporting programs that use technology to improve education outcomes; and helping nonprofits deliver food, clean water, shelter, and disaster relief

Cisco has both human rights opportunities and risks.

Two examples of opportunities are:

  • The Cisco Networking Academy brings technology education, 21st-century skills, and improved job prospects to students in more than 165 countries. To date, the Networking Academy has empowered and prepared approximately 5 million students for careers in the ICT field.
  • Together with USAID and World Learning, Cisco is partnering in a program that promotes networking systems training which can help to achieve economic development in Myanmar. The University of Computer Studies in Yangon, the University of Computer Studies’ Centre of Excellence, and the University of Computer Studies in Mandalay have joined the Cisco Networking Academy program. The program has trained 20 faculty members and more than 100 students in Myanmar.

 Two recent examples of human rights risk management are:

  • Global product standards: We believe that open and global product standards play a very important role in protecting and respecting human rights. For this reason, we work with policy makers and participate in standards-setting bodies, working groups, and industry coalitions to create and maintain a secure global standard for many of our leading technologies, ranging from wireline and wireless local-area network (WLAN) connections to video encoding/decoding and security/encryption services.
  • Supply Chain: We completed audits of 34 supplier facilities in FY14. We collaborated closely with all 34 facilities to help them put robust corrective actions in place to close performance gaps. Suppliers have resolved or are pursuing corrective plans to resolve all the major issues identified in the FY14 audits. We engage third party auditors to review progress, and we follow up with additional site visits to validate corrective actions before these are closed.

We rely on our employees to uphold our values and follow the expectations we put in our Code of Business Conduct. In addition, we consult with stakeholders and experts to keep focused on the most important areas from business and social perspectives. Some of these include providing expertise to public policy debates for our industry, raising awareness about the importance of privacy and data protection, and respecting human rights around the world. Cisco strives to contribute to a better society.

We use a CSR materiality assessment to understand and report which environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues are most important to our stakeholders and our business. As our business grows and reaches more people across the world, we must continue to identify and enhance the way we address our key human rights opportunities, risks, and challenges. To help achieve our goals, we regularly engage and collaborate with our stakeholders, including nonprofits, industry peers, investors, and CSR practitioners, to help us gauge expectations and understand the ongoing effectiveness of our work.

The Governance and Ethics section (pages B1 – B16) of Cisco’s FY14 CSR Report [link] also includes information on:

  • Corporate and CSR Governance
  • Risk Management
  • CSR Management
  • Ethics
  • Privacy and Data Security
  • Human Rights

What is the company’s approach to the engagement of stakeholders (including workers, and local communities impacted by the company’s activities), on human rights issues?

Cisco has an extensive history of engaging on corporate social responsibility issues. In 2014 Cisco held its first stakeholder engagement focused exclusively on human rights.

In July 2014, five Cisco senior leaders met with experts from seven global human rights organizations to:

• Learn about the organizations’ perspectives on human rights priorities

• Discuss our company’s approach to human rights.

• Increase transparency and understanding of human rights issues in ICT

Cisco representatives from corporate affairs, investor relations, legal, operations, and supply chain attended the meeting, which was held in our Washington, D.C. office and facilitated by human rights experts from BSR. Participants from Boston, New York, and San Jose joined via Cisco TelePresence.

The discussion covered substantive issues such as privacy, freedom of expression, product use, public policy efforts, and collaborative initiatives. It was mutually beneficial and we expect it will lead to more dialogue. Engaging with the human rights community provides Cisco an opportunity to learn more about how our products and services can be used to address some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as data security, disaster response, and access to education and healthcare. Areas discussed as potential topics for future sessions included human rights in the supply chain, due diligence, employee training, and collaboration with hardware companies.

In addition to this specific engagement, we regularly engage and collaborate with human rights stakeholders, including non-profits, industry peers, investors, and CSR practitioners, to help us gauge expectations and understand the ongoing effectiveness of our work.

Examples of our collaboration in 2014 include:

• Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB): Our ongoing dialogue with the Institute for Human Rights and Business, a global think tank focused on the relationship between business and human rights, has deepened our understanding of external expectations regarding potential areas of concern and our ability to address them. We appreciate the relationship and important perspectives IHRB brings on issues we are facing.

• Business for Social Responsibility (BSR): Cisco continued its active participation in BSR’s Human Rights Working Group in FY14. The group serves as a forum for companies from all industries to share ideas, exchange best practices, and discuss challenges they face in the area of human rights, including topics such as reporting, governance structures, training, and grievance/remedy frameworks. In addition, we have separately engaged BSR to inform our approach to integrating human rights into our management processes and to collaboratively create an employee training module and facilitate the stakeholder sessions in July 2014. We actively participated in BSR’s annual meeting.

• Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC): Cisco is a founding member of the EICC. The EICC Supplier Code of Conduct specifically addresses human rights issues, including forced or involuntary labor, child labor, wages and benefits, working hours, non-discrimination, respect and dignity, freedom of association, health and safety, protection of the environment, supplier management systems, supplier ethics, and supplier compliance with laws. Cisco is a member of the EICC Board of Directors.

• Global Network Initiative (GNI): We continue to follow the achievements of the GNI, and are encouraged by its expanding membership and engagement across new industries. We support the principles of the GNI applicable to operators of public Internet access networks. Where we have offered to build such networks and operate them temporarily, we have included contractual terms specifically permitting us to act in accordance with the due process protections set forth in the GNI principles relative to supplying user information during any period in which we might operate the networks. We operate some of the networks providing services that are used primarily by enterprises such as cloud services, hosted collaboration, WebEx and Callway (which allows for bridging of TelePresence services), and in those circumstances, we also support the GNI principles.

We build relationships with stakeholders and key influencers through regular dialogue. Understanding their views helps us prioritize issues and better align our business with society’s needs. We use their insights to help us develop our CSR strategy, programs, and reporting. In FY14, we conducted perception studies specifically on CSR and Environmental Sustainability at Cisco with a broad group of stakeholders, including our customers. In addition, a group of senior leaders from Cisco met with seven influential human rights organizations and shared with them the progress made on our Human Rights Roadmap. They also discussed current trends and future ICT human rights issues.

Please see pages B7 and B16 of Cisco’s FY14 CSR Report

Priority human rights issues: What are some of the priority human rights issues for your company?

The company selected the following from a check list:

  • Freedom of Expression and Privacy
  • Product Use:
  • Internet Security
  • Global Standards:
  • Employees
  • Supply Chain (including migrant workers, forced labor risks)
  • Conflict minerals

Descriptions of actions in many of these areas follow, in sub-questions.

Please the human rights section (pages B12 – B16) of Cisco’s FY14 CSR Report, as well as Diversity Data (Page D10), Supply Chain Issues (Pages C1 – C14), Product Use (Page B14) [link] for additional information.

Actions on freedom of association and trade union rights

To safeguard the rights of our employees, we follow our COBC, which includes our commitment to uphold human rights. We also rely on our many employee policies and guidelines that incorporate relevant laws and ethical principles—including those pertaining to freedom of association, nondiscrimination, privacy, freedom of expression, compulsory and child labor, immigration, fair pay, and working hours—to guide our day-to-day activities and business decisions.

Actions on freedom of expression and privacy

As a technology leader, we believe that upholding the rights to freedom of expression and privacy are fundamental to our business and society. We strongly support freedom of expression and open communication on the Internet, and we are proud of our role in helping to make Internet technology ubiquitous, allowing billions of people in nearly every nation across the world to access information previously unavailable to them. However, technologies, including ours, can be used by governments and organizations to both enable and impede communications, and to both protect and impair privacy. Our goal in developing ICT systems is to expand access to information and promote innovation. To meet this objective, we build our products on open, global standards, which we believe are critical to overcoming censorship, protecting privacy, and keeping the world connected. By making our products interoperable, we strengthen the Internet’s capacity to be a positive force for society.

Our work across the world is guided by the following principles:

• We do not participate in business activities that would aid repression.

• We do not support attempts by governments to balkanize the Internet or create a “closed” Internet, as such attempts undermine fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

• We do not customize or develop specialized or unique filtering capabilities to enable regimes to block access to information.

• We do not supply nor do we support mediation equipment that allows the interception of telephone calls made over the Internet using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

A full appreciation of the human rights issues associated with network equipment requires an understanding of the equipment’s core features. The nature of Internet routing is such that in order to deliver messages and content, service providers generally can see the addresses of the senders and recipients of information and, in the absence of adequate encryption, the contents of messages and attachments.

Individuals, companies, and countries make their own decisions with respect to how they operate networks and network security in terms of protecting the network itself from denial of service and other attacks and protecting users from spam, hacking, and virus attacks. This requires operators to have capabilities that can also be used to block access to particular websites or copy and download users’ communications. For network management purposes, network operators also require the ability to identify the protocols used for different types of traffic.

We cannot shut down such networks—only network operators have that capability. We advocate that users should have access to workable encryption, and we have opposed the efforts of some governments to block users from adequate encryption.

For these reasons, we believe that the threat to freedom of expression and Internet freedom today resides not in standardized equipment, but in efforts to adopt special protocols that deviate from global norms and efforts to enable special censorship or filtering systems. We have worked in opposition to such efforts and will continue to do so. We do not and will not supply video surveillance cameras or video surveillance monitoring software in our public infrastructure projects in China. We are strongly committed to a standards-based global Internet that maximizes the opportunities for freedom of expression, and we do not customize our equipment to help any government to censor content, track Internet use by individuals, or intercept Internet communications.

Actions on product misuse

We believe our role in providing more people across the world with access to the Internet is hugely important and that operating in most countries brings more benefits than if we were not present. In all countries where we do business, our technology and systems, whether they are sold directly or through local partners and service providers, include the same standard Internet-access equipment and network management capabilities that are used by public libraries in the United States, which include such capabilities as blocking inappropriate content for children.

We also believe in an open Internet where people can access the same information no matter where they are in the world. We design our products and services to enable this access while safeguarding human rights. Despite these efforts, it has been alleged that some customers in some countries have misused our technology. In some cases, awareness of the fact that a government does not respect the open Internet is confused with complicity in efforts to limit communications or repress freedom, even where the equipment being supplied is standards-based, noncustomized access equipment necessary to facilitate communications.

Our technology and systems can also play an important role in helping to promote public safety—through crime prevention assistance, for example—but we recognize that there is a growing concern about the use of networking equipment for improper surveillance that would violate individuals’ privacy rights.

Global standards:

We believe that open and global product standards play a very important role in protecting and respecting human rights. For this reason, we work with policy makers and participate in standards-setting bodies, working groups, and industry coalitions to create and maintain a secure global standard for many of our leading technologies, ranging from wireline and wireless local-area network (WLAN) connections to video encoding/decoding and security/encryption services.

China, however, uses a local national standard known as WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) to provide secure access to the Internet rather than the IEEE 802.11 standard, which is now universally used in Wi-Fi networks globally. Although the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has rejected the Chinese government’s application to make WAPI an international standard, WAPI continues to be used as the default standard in China despite concerns that WAPI remains incompatible with internationally recognized standards. While our equipment supports the globally recognized Wi-Fi standard, suppliers and users of our equipment in China are able to add WAPI to our equipment. We would not be able to sell our equipment and provide the benefits of an open Internet in China if WAPI could not be added. Many western vendors of handsets and infrastructure, however, comply directly with and incorporate the WAPI protocols in their products, enabling this nonstandard encryption to proliferate.

Our efforts to oppose WAPI are rendered meaningless when other vendors incorporate the code. Nevertheless, we continue to maintain our efforts to push for international standards that are used to pursue a safe and secure open Internet.

Actions on 'other' issues

Supply chain

To help protect the rights of workers in our supply chain, we maintain a Supplier Code of Conduct, which describes our expectations on key human rights issues, including the prevention of child and forced labor. Through our supplier audit process and capability-building programs, we partner with our suppliers to uncover human rights violations and work with them to improve their performance. Our top priority is to partner with suppliers that share the same values we have about human rights. We also work with others to tackle industry wide challenges, though initiatives such as the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition.

Cisco has taken a proactive approach to addressing the concern over conflict minerals. Cisco’s Conflict Minerals Policy asserts our commitment to source minerals in a manner that respects human rights and our support for the goals and objectives of the Dodd-Frank Act. Our Supplier Code of Conduct also includes the responsible sourcing of minerals and requires suppliers to conduct appropriate due diligence. We have communicated the policy to all suppliers. We have provided training sessions to educate suppliers, strengthen their capabilities, and improve data quality. More information about Cisco’s approach to conflict minerals can be found here, [link].

More information about our supply chain program is located here, [link], including our positions on slavery and human trafficking and conflict minerals.

How are human rights commitments and information about how the company addresses its human rights impacts communicated, internally and externally?

Cisco communicates externally about human rights through its annual corporate social responsibility report which is organized around five pillars:

  • Executive comments, governance and ethics
  • Supply Chain
  • Our People
  • Society
  • The Environment

We align our CSR reporting with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

We actively communicate through corporate, public policy, legal and CSR blogs. [link]

Mark Chandler, Cisco’s General Counsel often covers human rights issues in his blogs. He speaks, along with Brad Smith, the General Counsel of Microsoft, during a BSR Conference panel: Collaboration in Action: Human Rights in the Technology Sector. Watch it here: [link]

Internally, we recently finalized a human rights training program that will allow our employees to gain greater clarity regarding human rights and the intersection with Cisco’s operations and products. The training is an online interactive module that will require relevant employees to certify its completion, and it will be available to all employees. The training will communicated by an executive email, through communications on the intranet, and via Cisco’s Code of Business Conduct. We completed the training in FY14 and will be tracking and reporting on it in FY15.

We provide a monthly voicemail update to more than 800 executives across Cisco on CSR related issues which periodically include updates on our human rights work – the human rights stakeholder engagement session, for example.  

What provisions does your company have in place to ensure that grievances from workers and affected communities or individuals are heard, and can you provide examples of remedies provided?

In FY14, we continued to integrate human rights into Cisco’s Ethics Line. This will allow employees and any other stakeholder to submit questions related to human rights concerns by email or telephone. We will review the types and numbers of human rights-related questions submitted through this system to assess how well employees are aware of this resource and to analyze the content of the questions for any patterns or areas of concern. Callers have the option to remain anonymous when reporting concerns.

Employees, customers, partners, and shareholders have a responsibility to promptly speak up about any issues or concerns they believe, in good faith, may constitute a violation of the Code of Business Conduct or any other Cisco policy.

The Cisco Ethics Line is publically available: [link]

Which external and collaborative human rights initiatives does your company participate in, and what is the nature of your involvement?

Please see the Our Approach to Engagement on Human Rights on page B15 of Cisco’s FY14 CSR Report.

Examples of our collaboration in FY14 include:

  • BSR’s cross-sector working group
  • Founding member and Board Chair for the EICC
  • Engagement with organizations such as IHRB
  • Supporting the principles of the GNI
  • Signatory of the UNGC since 2001

Which are the key one, two or three elements of your approach to human rights that been developed or amended since June 2011? Please indicate if these actions were in response to the UN Guiding Principles.

Since June 2011, Cisco has implemented a human rights policy, created a formal governance structure, established an internal cross-sector human rights working group, developed company-wide human rights training, and engaged with human rights stakeholders.

The UN Guiding Principles have proven valuable in shaping the company’s overall human rights governance framework, management, and strategy.  It has allowed us to align internally and provided for a more systematic approach to human rights risks and opportunities.

What are some of the obstacles and challenges that your company encounters in implementing its human rights commitments?

Product Use

We believe our role in providing more people across the world with access to the Internet is hugely important and that operating in most countries brings more benefits than if we were not present. In all countries where we do business, our technology and systems, whether they are sold directly or through local partners and service providers, include the same standard Internet-access equipment and network management capabilities that are used by public libraries in the United States, which include such capabilities as blocking inappropriate content for children.

We also believe in an open Internet where people can access the same information no matter where they are in the world. We design our products and services to enable this access while safeguarding human rights. Despite these efforts, it has been alleged that some customers in some countries have misused our technology. In some cases, awareness of the fact that a government does not respect the open Internet is confused with complicity in efforts to limit communications or repress freedom, even where the equipment being supplied is standards-based, noncustomized access equipment necessary to facilitate communications.

Our technology and systems can also play an important role in helping to promote public safety—through crime prevention assistance, for example—but we recognize that there is a growing concern about the use of networking equipment for improper surveillance that would violate individuals’ privacy rights.