New Cisco Environmental Sustainability Specialization, Incentives Are For ‘All Partners’

‘I wanted to make it as easy as taking your recycling to the end of the driveway. We want to make this process as easy as possible over time so that we have as many partners involved as possible,’ Andrew Sage, Cisco’s VP of global distribution sales and Cisco Circular Economy executive sponsor, tells CRN.


Cisco Systems is launching its first-ever Environmental Sustainability Specialization that will reward partners that build a practice around product takeback and the networking giant wants to get as many of its thousands of partners onboard as possible.

First announced at Cisco Partner Summit in November and launched on Tuesday, the Environmental Sustainability Specialization will empower solution providers that are participating in a circular economy, especially as customers update their older technologies and migrate to cloud-based solutions, Andrew Sage, vice president of global distribution sales and executive sponsor, Cisco Circular Economy, told CRN.

This new specialization will teach and certify Cisco partners that help their customers responsibly repurpose or recycle end-of-use products. The best part? Partners only have to reach out to Cisco to schedule the collection their customer’s older hardware; no need for the solution provider to handle the refurbishing or recycling, Sage said.

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“As we roll out the specialization, we’re asking partners to take a pledge with us to commit to this idea of the circular economy and product takeback. We think that it’s going to help them to have conversations with their customers that are that their customers want to hear, frankly. I think is going to be super important,” Sage told CRN.

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Earning the Environmental Sustainability Specialization is a simple process that takes less than 15 hours of training and completion of two exams, Sage said. Sustainability-certified partners have to book at least one takeback deal a year and 80 percent of the used gear must be returned within the year. Additionally, Cisco is planting a tree for every new individual that a partner organization trains on sustainability. “It’s a nice little add to the program,” he said.

Once a partner earns the specialization, they can advantage of Cisco’s Takeback Incentive, which offers discounts of up to seven percent on new products that partners can register as part of Takeback Incentive deals on their refresh or migration opportunities. The incentives will serve as motivators for Cisco’s thousands of partners and their end customers to recycle their older IT gear, rather than send it to a landfill, Sage said.

“We want partners to do this with us and we want to make it profitable for them to do so,” he said. “We [also] want to give a motivator to the customer as well so that the customer feels compelled to upgrade what they’ve got.”

Hardware that comes into Cisco via the company’s Takeback program is either recycled, depending on its age and condition, or, it becomes part of Cisco Refresh, an initiative that was launched more than 20 years ago in 2001 to offer partners and customers certified Cisco remanufactured equipment with the same warranty and support options as new Cisco products, but at discounted prices, according to the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Cisco said that 99.3 percent of all hardware that is returned to the company is either completely refurbished with new components and a warranty, or it is securely decommissioned and recycled.

“My goal was to make this idea of equipment takeback the first step for partners to take in building a sustainability practice and I wanted to make it as easy as taking your recycling to the end of the driveway,” he said. “We want to make this process as easy as possible over time so that we have as many partners involved as possible.”

Cisco focus on sustainability and product refresh is helping the company and its partners tackle the current supply chain challenges around new networking gear. The Cisco Refresh program is addressing the “gray market,” or used Cisco gear that winds up back on the market and misrepresented to customers, Sage said.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins pledged to either take back and refurbish or recycle 100 percent of its hardware products in the market and set an ambitious goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2040, with its own operations being carbon-neutral by 2025.

About 41 percent of partners say they are already engaged in product take-back, recovery and recycling, according to a recent survey from technology analyst firm Canalys. Forty-five percent of partners say that expect to generate some of their revenues from sustainability solutions.