Cloudflare TV

🚀 A Better Internet with the UN Global Compact

Presented by Patrick Day, Alissa Starzak
Originally aired on 

Join Cloudflare's Policy Team as they discuss the UN Global Compact and the origins of corporate sustainability, as well as Cloudflare's first public sustainability report.

Read the blog post:

Find all of our Birthday Week announcements and CFTV segments at the Birthday Week hub

Birthday Week

Transcript (Beta)

Hello. Welcome back to Cloudflare TV. Welcome to Birthday Week. As you can see from our backgrounds, my name is Patrick Day.

I'm part of the Public Policy team here at Cloudflare.

I'm very excited to be joined by Alissa Starzak, who is our Vice President and Global Head of Public Policy.

Hello, Alissa. Hello, Patrick, and happy birthday, Cloudflare.

Happy birthday. So we are here to talk about a blog post that our team put together for Birthday Week.

I almost said Impact Week. For Birthday Week.

It has an impact. Birthday Week has an impact. That's right. So we've authored posts on the UN Global Compact and Cloudflare is putting out its first public sustainability report called the UN Communication on Progress.

So that is what we posted today as well as the report.

But before we get into sort of what that means for the company and why it's significant since we have you here with us as sort of one of the founders of the public policy function at Cloudflare, including almost all the work we've done on corporate responsibility, I thought it'd be cool to sort of go back to the beginning and start sort of where you started when you came to Cloudflare and sort of getting some of our initial corporate responsibility and basically impact how we could use the things that Cloudflare was building to do good in the world.

How did all those first conversations go?

Well, so I've only been here since 2017. So I will say I think the reality is that Cloudflare has been doing things that fall into the impact category for a long time before that.

And so many of them predate me. And I think that's actually important because I think in many ways Cloudflare was from its very early days when it was a very small company and it started doing things that were really sustainability related and impact related even if we didn't call them that.

And so there was that culture is sort of part of who Cloudflare is from a very young time.

It's part of what our founders think is important.

And that actually, I think, helped shape us today and certainly makes a lot of the work we do on impact, just makes it work.

So for me, I think one of the things that's interesting is that my coming to Cloudflare tends to correspond with the public policy team taking some ownership of the corporate social responsibility programs that we have and also our sustainability reporting.

I think we saw the number of things that Cloudflare was doing that we didn't really talk about in the broader scope.

So when I started, we had our Project Galileo, which was providing services to nonprofits.

But it had been sort of a project that didn't have a team owner.

It was something that the whole company cared about, but the company was small enough at that point that no one fully owned it.

So the legal team had taken it on occasionally, but it really needed an owner.

And so we on the public policy team recognized pretty quickly that it was something that was incredibly important to the company.

And it was something that made sense in the public policy function.

And that's kind of how it started.

And then with that, I think we realized that there was a function for us about looking at what Cloudflare does and thinking about all of the good things that it does and where there could be even more things that we could do.

So not long after I started, we started talking about the reality of elections and the vulnerabilities in elections.

And we started having a very robust conversation about things that we could do as a company.

And I actually went to Matthew at the time and said, hey, we have this idea for a project where we could help protect state and local governments from elections.

And Matthew was all for it.

And we went from there on the Athenian project, which has then been a sort of core project for us.

And it's sort of been for me, at least in my own experience, it's been a way that you can develop projects moving forward where there's a ton of receptivity inside the company to them.

And it's really just thinking about how you describe them and what you put together and then making sure it sort of fits where the company is and who we are.

Very cool. What was the conversation like, I'm curious, because if you're not familiar with the project, I encourage you to visit the web pages for Galileo and Athenian.

But obviously, there's a big conversation about providing free services to a potentially really large customer base.

How was sort of that conversation when you approached on Athenian?

You know, I think it was actually much easier than you'd think. I mean, granted, we were a smaller company, so there was some of that.

But I think it was kind of a no-brainer in some ways.

I think we'd seen, we were from a country standpoint, we were going through sort of the challenges of what the election had meant and the reality that there had been foreign involvement and that some of those were cyber related.

And we were looking at state and local governments that really didn't have resources.

And it just seemed like an area where we could help. And it was just in line with kind of who we are and what we do.

And so my conversation with him was, I still remember it was in the basement of our building in San Francisco.

But there was not a hesitation for him getting involved. I think he thought it was a great idea.

And I think we still see that. I mean, that goes back to my point from before, that this is something that we believe in and that we've always believed in.

It wasn't a hard conversation. He saw right away that it was something that was in line with the values of the company, and it was a place we wanted to be.

It was one of the things I love about Cloudflare. And actually, as you know, as a person who was involved in my interview process, I was in government at the time, and Athenian and Galileo were two of the big reasons that I sort of wanted to be part of this team, because I had been working in election security and thought those were really cool.

And one of the reasons I was really excited to be on the team.

But for those, thank you for that. I think it's really helpful context to sort of describe where we are with the UN Global Compact for this week.

But I would also encourage, if you haven't seen our CEO, Matthew Prince's blog post from Impact Week back over the summer, sort of his first encounter, you made the point that sort of these kind of programs are in Cloudflare's DNA.

And I thought he had a really cool story about just the free services that Cloudflare had been offering sort of since it started and the impact that that was having on a group of journalists that he met working in Africa and how that sort of shaped his vision about what the company could be.

So I think you're right. I think some of the work, I have been in the fortunate position to come to the company that had sort of built that into its DNA from the origin and had matured significantly by the time that I joined and have got to work on some really cool things as a consequence of that.

Well, I'm going to interrupt there because I think one of the things that you have done since you've come to the company is actually think about how we build this as a program.

So I actually want to, I want to interrupt because I think when you came on board, I don't think we sort of necessarily had it envisioned that you were going to sort of take these issues on and own them, but you have built them up.

So why don't you talk a little bit about that? Because I think it's got to be, has to have been an interesting experience, particularly because it wasn't necessarily how we brought you on board.

That's true. Yeah. I had been a government attorney and this was the sort of sustainability issues, but not what I had spent the bulk of my career on with the exception maybe of sort of the line of thinking around the Athenian project, but it was such a cool idea and a cool project that you were describing that we had these really cool individual programs and we didn't have sort of a comprehensive way as a company to put them together and to make sure that our stakeholders and the public really understand why they're important to us and why we do the things that we do.

Interestingly enough, as we announced sort of our communication progress this week for the UN Global Compact, the very first thing we did is sort of, we thought, you know, if we're going to have what we now have, Cloudflare Impact, you can check out sort of all the things that are under that heading on our website.

But as we've, we didn't even have, we didn't have a name, we didn't have a platform yet, we just had this direction.

And I think the first thing we talked about was joining the UN Global Compact.

So I'll get it, we can talk about the background of that organization and why it's important for us.

But, you know, around this time last year, we sort of had the first conversations that, you know, our mission is to help build a better Internet.

We have these cool ways that we can leverage our network to do cool things.

What should we be focusing on? Where should we be orienting our efforts?

What would be most meaningful for us to contribute in a small way in helping build a better Internet?

And I think that's what's most attractive to me, although there's a lot that goes into the UN Global Compact.

The Sustainable Development Goals, which we'll talk about, are sort of, for those who aren't familiar, they, you know, the UN, United Nations started with the Millennium Challenge Goals, which was sort of the global communities' objectives for moving humanity forward for development.

Once those, the current UN Sustainable Development Goals superseded the Millennium Challenge ones, but they were sort of that direction we needed, right?

As we were trying to figure out what we were going to do with this growing, incredibly powerful network, how we were going to make an impact, they sort of gave us direction.

And this is what the world should be doing, whether it's, you know, your government or a private entity or individual, these are sort of the joint development objectives.

And you can look them up online, there's 17 of them.

They're also present in our Communicational Progress, which we've published today as part of the blog post that we put out.

But that was really, it really was the beginning for us. And it kind of makes for a useful discussion, because it was the first, it was Cloudflare's first public commitment to sustainability, sort of embracing the tenets of the UN Global Compact.

And we sort of built everything subsequent to that.

And again, we had a pretty robust foundation that we sort of had to bring under one roof.

But it helped us develop some of the subsequent things that we've done over the past year, just sort of give us that unified direction, I think we were looking for.

So it all comes full circle. So on that point, I think you should talk about what the UN Global Compact actually is and how it came to be, because I think it's an interesting story.

And it kind of, it does describe why we might think of them that way.

Sure. So maybe it was a product, because I hadn't sort of worked in sustainability before that I kind of nerded out on the history of all these organizations, like I had, you know, you know, I don't know if it's the function of being an attorney, but like, you have to go back to the beginning before you feel comfortable doing anything.

And so I came across this speech from then Secretary General Kofi Annan gave, and we referenced this in the blog, because I think it's a really, it's really meaningful.

He went to Davos in January of 1999. And this is the context of this, you know, the world is in the midst of globalization in 1990s, and trying to figure out what that means.

And the United Nations had started, you know, classically, a forum for state governments to sort of hash out global policy issues in a peaceful way.

But they had started to talk about sort of the role of these large corporations in the context of globalization, because they were growing so quickly and operating in so many countries, often sort of he made the point outpacing the ability of small and developing nations to meaningfully exert control over them, which is a fair point that, you know, the UN had started to look at what is the role of sort of a large corporation, or a global company sort of in the new globalization environment.

And I thought what he said was really powerful in that, you know, the UN since 1945, had not only been sort of devoted to peacekeeping and things that most folks are probably familiar with, but had really facilitated the development of the global economy, and really been championing, you know, liberal democratic values and free trade and those kind of things.

So he was making the point that, you know, domestic markets had gone through this sort of reform since the Industrial Revolution, you think about things like workplace protection, and then the eight hour workday.

And, you know, in the 70s, in the United States, at least we had the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, there were sort of these gradual reforms based on democratic values that had sort of held these domestic markets together.

And because the global market had grown so quickly, we there hadn't neither the UN or sort of the state governments who were interested in those topics, had really been successful in sort of moving those key types of reform that made people feel invested and comfortable in an industrialized society, they hadn't been able to translate those global market, he was making the point that, you know, in developing nations, without these sort of basic protections, you know, they don't have the same type of investment in liberal democratic values or free and open markets.

And if they didn't see sort of those reforms coming with economic expansion, they would be subject to sort of exploitation, he talked about all the isms of our post Cold War war, so you're getting that terrorism or even protectionism on the on the economic side, he was saying, you know, we're going to lose those populations if we don't find a way to put these type of basic universal values into these markets.

And so he, you know, World Economic Forum, a lot of the business leaders around the world, he sort of challenged the audience that, you know, don't wait for these state political systems to catch up to you, you can have a meaningful effect on the lives of people around the world by making sure that your organization is invested in things like human rights and environmental sustainability and anti corruption, etc.

So he he was saying, you know, there is a role for corporations to play, work with the UN, we can help you sort of develop these programs.

And he suggested a compact, and that would eventually become the UN Global Compact, which is the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative.

I think there's over, I'm gonna recall this from memory, but I think there's 14,000 companies that participate in over 111 countries.

And it's basically, I've been talking for a while, but it's basically three things you have to do to be part of it.

You have to commit to the UN 10 principles, which is sort of that, what I was alluding to translating those shared values from domestic markets to the global markets.

And those are human rights, environmental sustainability, labor protection, and anti corruption.

And then he also challenged corporations, not just to sort of make sure that their own companies operate ethically, but also orient their entire business towards moving humanity forward.

That's sort of the sustainable development goals, which the UN was working on.

Anyway, he was sort of saying, you can use your business to drive these goals forward.

And that's really how you can contribute this sort of larger market larger theme.

So it's grown since, you know, that speech in 1999, as I mentioned to the organization is today.

And I think that's why I was so attracted to us, at least, you know, on our early conversation, because we have this mission, we have these really cool programs, we have this really cool global network, what is what should we be doing?

What should we be oriented towards? And come to find out, we started listing the things that we were already doing.

And it lined up really well with what the UN Global Compact was trying to accomplish.

So that sort of that was my that was the aha moment for me that, you know, this is really something that that would be meaningful for us.

I think it's interesting, actually, as you're going through that, I think, maybe just describing what some of those mean in practice, because I think one of the things that's sort of striking to me when I look through them is that they are things that are essentially values.

And so it's not maybe in some ways, it's not surprising that our some of our activities match up, because we're trying to do something that we think is good for the world.

And it's, they were trying to capture the same thing, right.

And they were trying to capture this idea about, hey, these are these are goals that we want to have.

These are, these are values that we have, and this is what where we go with it.

And then it's sort of mapping it out, right.

And that's what the UN Global Compact looks like. But make it make it come concrete for people, like explain how it works in practice and explain what we're explaining our communication to.

Sure. So this is exactly what I think you I would encourage folks who are really interested in the details.

This is what's in our report.

So I talked about those three requirements, it's you have to commit to the principles, you commit to helping with state sustainable development goals.

And you also commit to reporting annually on your progress sort of implementing this.

And it's basically, you make a list of all the things you're supposed to do, and then you line up sort of company initiatives that are designed to achieve them or advance them.

And then you list the outcomes, you sort of provide data where you can about, this is what we're doing, this is how we're trying to do it.

So, you know, there's the 10 principles I mentioned, human rights, anti -corruption, environmental sustainability, labor.

And so we, you know, in putting out our report, we sort of, you know, our legal team, so I'll take anti-corruption.

I don't think it's one that you're naturally exposed to, you know, perhaps in your work.

But, you know, Andrea and our legal team is responsible, her team responsible for our compliance, and that includes our anti-corruption policy.

We have pretty robust policies to avoid not just violating anti-corruption law in a particular state, but sort of the same tenets that the UN is talking about.

And that's why we do things like spring training with the legal team, that, you know, employees may not know why those types of things are important.

Well, this is why it's a global objective, in addition to being a legal compliance in some countries.

But, you know, we can say to the UN, you know, how are you, they want to know how are you enforcing sort of anti-corruption throughout your organization.

You can say, so we respond, and this is what we wrote in the report. Not only do we have strict policies on this, and we enforce them as a matter of course throughout our organization, but we also take the time to make sure that all our employees are trained on them, not only when they start, but throughout the year.

That's one example. I think the probably the more fun ones are along the development objectives.

So I'll do one more in the ten principles, which is sort of the compliance side before we move on.

But one of them is that, as we've talked about a lot, on the human rights side.

So Cloudflare put out its first human rights policy over the summer.

We did this for a number of reasons, because it's useful in sort of dealing with large issues that the company faces to be able to analyze them from a human rights perspective.

But it's also the objective of the UN Global Compact.

So they want to know how are you sort of implementing, there's a specific UN treaty called the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, sort of how are you implementing the tenets of that treaty within your organization.

And you can say, you know, one of the things we've done over the past year, because this is an annual report, is we've written our first public human rights policy for the company.

And that's sort of what we listed in the report. And we have some other objectives about how we're going to, you know, start to hopefully have a work with those throughout our supply chain and make sure they're meaningful for our employees.

So on the compliance side, those are the types of things that we've listed.

The development side is really cool.

I actually want to go stay on the human rights piece for a minute, because I actually think it feels so, at least for me, for a lot of people, I think it probably feels a little abstract.

And people don't realize that what they're trying to do is make companies think about, with the UN Guiding Principles, for example, trying to make people think about the impact on people.

So what do you do that has an impact on people? How do you think about that?

How do you make sure that's factored into your decision making? And it's, I think it's something, again, that we have tried to do for a long time, but it's then articulating it and making it formal.

And it's being able to do that as you grow as a company is really important.

So even if you had done it informally, the notion of sort of formalizing it, making it a part of your process, making sure it's checked along the way that you're actually thinking about what affects the decisions that you make have on people around the world is really important.

And I think it's something that animates us, and it's something that we care about as a company.

So to me, in some ways, the reporting piece is a, as we describe what our outcomes have been or our goals, it's something that we're sort of moving on in the way together.

The company is moving as we get bigger, as we grow.

And it's describing something that we care about, but just making sure that we describe it publicly so that we can talk about it and talk about why it's important.

Yeah, I think that's a really, really important part is that I think if you are part of the Cloudflare team, and if you've been in these conversations about products or where we deploy or new markets, it's sort of, we know that there are conversations about what are the larger impacts of this product, as we're trying to sort of move privacy protocols forward, like what will this mean in practice?

And those conversations happen internally all the time, but part of, I think, the emphasis by the UN and others is we want to make sure that folks outside the organization understand how we do those things.

And that's why we have a public policy that lays out, yes, we think this is important.

We're committed to doing this.

This is how we analyze these types of issues. And in fact, they are consistent with sort of what the international community is asking of companies as sort of good practice.

So yeah, it's that next step, right? It's sort of the things we had done internally for a long time, but sort of making them official and public is helpful in and of its own sense.

But it's also sort of making sure that those who don't know Cloudflare as well can see that, understand instantly what it means, and it's important to us, and that we are sort of part of the community of companies that care about these issues and are doing things thoughtfully.

So we want to make sure that people have confidence, particularly, you know, Cloudflare is a global company.

So, you know, if you're in a market where we've just entered, maybe in Japan or Paris or wherever, I mean, it's an easy way to see very quickly that we sort of have those values as a company.

So that's why I think it's important to not just for reporting, but it's important to have those public so that our stakeholders know, yes, okay, I have confidence that Cloudflare is doing the right thing.

And just putting that, I think, is a reminder to everyone, right?

So it's a reminder to our employees, too. These are the things we care about.

When you put out comments on anti-corruption, it's public comments on it.

It's a reminder to everybody that these are important to the company, that we care about these, that we're going to continue to do what we can to make sure we don't have challenges or that we train so that those are not bigger issues because they're just big global issues.

I wonder, so thinking about other topics that we covered, you know, we covered some of the, one of the sustainable development goals is peace, justice, and security.

And so one of the things that we're reporting is actually on a product that we put out during Impact Week, which is talking about Internet shutdowns and what the world looks like and how we can monitor that.

So if we can use our network to see different things online, see how governments are actually responding, if they're shutting down the Internet, it actually gives people an opportunity to understand what's happening in the world.

And I think, to me, there are things like that where I feel like we contribute to the global conversation about something, and I think they're really important.

And I think that they, thinking about how they fit into that broader set of goals and how we as a company can help when, if you have an activist trying to make sure that the Internet isn't shut down in their country, it's something that we can do to help them document that it has been and just provide additional information.

It seems like that's something that's really important to help as part of a broader community and coalition.

Yeah, I think that's really cool.

And I'm actually going to ask you another question about that. So I've been in some of conversations with civil society folks who are involved in monitoring Internet shutdowns, particularly around important democratic events around the world.

It's a good sort of weather vane on whether there's public participation and adequate democratic process, but you have led all those conversations.

So talk about how the need arose or the message you were getting from civil society about why it's important or what they were lacking or how, because I think it's a cool story about how Cloudflare sort of fits a really important need.

Yeah, I actually think it's really one of the things that we're seeing in the policy world overall, and you're seeing this as well, right, is that we're seeing this sort of change in how governments respond to the Internet.

And so if you look at people who are in civil society, one of the things that they've reported is this massive spike in people who solve their problems or think they can solve their problems by just turning off people's access to the Internet, not thinking about all of the potential consequences.

So we've had discussions for long periods of time with Access Now, which is a non-governmental organization that does a lot of work in this space.

They have a coalition called the Keep It On Campaign.

And it's something they try to track, but the more sources they have, the better, the more robust the information, the better.

And for me, in the same vein, it was looking out and saying, hey, we have information here that can help.

How do we make sure it gets into the hands of people who could actually use it?

We may not always be able to advocate with it, or we may not necessarily have the context on the ground, but there are people who do.

And what you want to do is make sure that those component parts are put together.

So for us, it was looking around and saying, okay, who follows these issues?

Who is really active? Who could benefit from this information?

And then trying to put the pieces together. So to me, that's where those conversations have been largely.

And it's really then making sure you ask every single person who else could benefit from this, because that's really where you want to be.

If you want to be part of the global community on an issue like that, where you can help, do you want to make sure everyone who needs it has access to it?

One of the things I thought was so cool was that those organizations that currently, like Access Now, who monitor Internet shutdowns, they sort of had, they're grassroots organizations largely, and they rely on civil activists who are sort of on the ground, testing things in real time around an election, whether the Internet is working or not.

And it's sort of, they were interested in just the type of data that Cloudflare has on its network about functionality, right?

Like if traffic is flowing, the types of things that we put up on Cloudflare radar page, if you haven't seen that, it's sort of our view of the functioning of the Internet.

But that it gave them, because of the unique position that Cloudflare sits in the stack, that it gave them a different type of data that they could sort of add to the existing data they had, to your point about context, and human people on the ground can tell you what's going on, but also other sort of local collection methods that have sort of developed organically.

But that Cloudflare could sort of fit in as a puzzle piece, instead of sort of reinventing the wheel.

That's what I thought was so cool. And how I felt like it got off the ground so quickly is that like, there was a real need and we sort of fit right into that.

I just thought that was really cool. I think that actually goes back to even the concept of the UN Global Compact and the idea of help build a better Internet, right?

We are one part of a bigger whole. And the goal for us in all of these efforts is really to think about how we can fit ourselves in.

We can't solve, we can't accomplish on our own any of the UN sustainable development goals, but we can help.

And so it's then thinking about what we can do to help, where it's going to be most effective, and what it looks like.

But so I have one last question for you, which is, so where do we go next?

You're now, you've now been in charge, you're running this, you're running our project here.

Where do we go? We had two big goals for the year.

First was Impact Week, which we did over the summer.

The second is our first sort of large scale public sustainability report that covers everything under the sun.

I think this first report that we've done for birthday week is our UN Global Compact report.

It was sort of our first test case, our beta, if you will, for sustainability reporting.

We're going to fold that in at the end of the year to sort of a much more comprehensive list that I think will be really exciting and finally sort of tell the complete story about all the good things that Cloudflare does for the world that we've been working on for a year or so.

So anyway, I think we are close to out of time. Check out the UN Global Compact report.

It'll be up on the website. And thanks, Alyssa. It was great talking to you.

Great talking with you, too. And happy birthday, Cloudflare. Happy birthday.