Originally aired on July 29, 2021 @ 5:30 PM - 6:00 PM EDT
Join Maria Eitel (Founder of the NIKE Foundation, Founder & Chair Emeritus of the Girl Effect, and Cloudflare Board Member) & Patrick Day (Senior Policy Counsel, Cloudflare) for an Impact Week fireside chat where they will be discussing corporate responsibility; ESG.
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Impact Week Hub for every announcement and CFTV episode — check back all week for more! Hi everyone, welcome back to Cloudflare TV. My name is Patrick Day. I'm part of the policy team here at Cloudflare in Washington, DC. This is day four of Impact Week here at Cloudflare. Today was oriented towards how Cloudflare promotes human rights online. There's a lot of cool announcements about Project Athenian and Cloudflare Radar. So if you haven't seen those, check those out on the blog. But I am incredibly excited to be joined by a member of Cloudflare's board of directors, Maria Eitel. She is also a former vice president of corporate responsibility for Nike. She's founder of the Nike Foundation. She is founder and chair emeritus of Girl Effect. Maria, welcome. Thank you. Great to see you, Patrick. Hi everybody. I can't imagine a better guest than sort of knowing Cloudflare and obviously knowing the corporate responsibility world. So it is incredibly exciting to have you here. As we sort of built up to Impact Week, we've had a lot of conversations about how we take the good work Cloudflare has done in the past with Galileo and Athenian and how we sort of move it into the next stage as Michelle says, level up. And part of that is sort of bringing it all together so we can sort of tell a cohesive story and hopefully help innovate on a larger scale. But as part of that process, it occurs to me it's always useful to start at the beginning. And so I know that you've talked about this before, but for folks at Cloudflare who are just sort of getting exposed to Cloudflare Impact, how did you, when you joined Nike and took over sort of that same portfolio, how did you, what was the, do you remember your first week? What was the first thing you work on and how you sort of get that ball rolling? Well, I started in a job in the middle of a crisis. So Nike was the target of attacks at the time. And we had a labor crisis that required a full focus. And so I didn't have a lot of choice. When I walked in the door, I knew exactly what I needed to do was figure out how to solve that problem. And it was only after some time that I was able to then open the aperture up and see what were the other aspects of corporate responsibility, ESG, that needed to be addressed by the company. But we had a sort of a singular focus that then provided us, because it was a crisis, provided us this enormous opportunity to look at ourselves very deeply. And we wouldn't have if we hadn't because now today everybody's ESG everything, but at the time it really wasn't. And when I got the job, we were like, well, what should we call your job? Social responsibility? Corporate responsibility? I mean, we had all these, there wasn't really a title even for it long ago, over 20 years ago. So this idea of being able to be a cloud player that is starting in just new in the world and can get things right from the beginning and not have a legacy that has to be fixed or adjusted or changed, but actually be strategic right out of the box and making it integral to the business and every aspect of the business is just a whole different ball game and so exciting. What do you, what do you remember about, so obviously in any organization implementation is key, right? We have our programs and they exist in one space, but sort of integrating into the business into, in Cloudflare's case, into engineering and our products and our business operations and making them useful for our customers. What, what do you remember about sort of when you felt that you sort of had the wind at your back and sort of getting it implemented and you started to see returns on that kind of work? Well, what's pretty funny about it is in the beginning, of course, this is just a new job and I've got to really get my arms around this thing. And so I started hiring a team and building a strategy and the team was growing and then we were like, well, we don't just have labor issues and human rights issues. We've got sustainability, environmental issues, we've got governance issues. And, and so I started building this team and different departments and it was growing and growing and growing. And, and then all of a sudden I had this realization that everyone was starting to depend on my team to do everything. And we're supposed to be the response, the ones who worried about that. And then I realized that was the worst thing we could do is that, that everyone in the company needed to own it. And it was the people who had the product job, we're developing our products and who are responsible for the manufacturing of the products, the distribution, all these jobs where the decisions were being made really affected our ability to be responsible or not as a company. So it was really this ability to see the full impact of what we were having as a company and then who had the ability to make decisions to do it differently. So for instance, when we were looking at what to do with environmental, it was sustainability. Sustainability didn't even have meaning at the time. So we had this whole sustainability campaign and was like to define the word all over campus, you know, what's sustainability. And, and then we created an employee sustainability program where we took someone from every level of seniority, geography and function. And we took that cohort of people and put them through this year long training to understand sustainability, how to integrate it. And then each of those people had to make it part of their job and part of their normal deliverables for their job to get that specific sustainability goal. So it was everything, every different part of the company, finance didn't matter where you sat in the company, you had to, you had to find a way to make it a goal. And that was a real tipping point for us as a company, because it went from this psychology of like, let's hire some people to do this work to no, no, no, we're all in this, we're all responsible for it. And not just that, we got to like lead it within our own function. That's really, really cool. So I heard internal communications, there was employee training, and then that ownership piece you mentioned, I mean, how do you, how did you sort of integrate that into job descriptions where not only you're defining a new term, but you have to train the folks on it going into it at the first instance. So how, how actually do you sort of build that in to make sure that people are accountable, who don't traditionally, you know, weren't before the training necessarily experts in sustainability or human rights or what's sort of a reasonable ask in integrating that into performance? Yeah, I think two principles are make it easy and make it fulfilling. Don't make it too complicated. People already have huge jobs. Everyone at Cloudflare has a huge job, you have tons of responsibility, you have too much work to get done. So try to make sure we design things in such a way that it doesn't feel like this additional burden. And it's just part of like, we put it in people's performance review. So we had something called our CFE, our coaching for excellence was our performance review. And we made it part of every single person's performance review. So it wasn't like only certain people had that 100% of people had to say what they had done for that, and then had a very specific goal. So it was and most, most importantly, it was making your job, it was about your job, being better, not about something you were doing on the side of your job. So if you think about the projects that you all put in place so far, they really work that way. They're integral to the business, as I was telling Matthew and Michelle, I'm giving them a huge compliment to you and your team and them, which is they're making it part of integral to the business, not trying to do completely, you know, there's so many issues that matter in the world, there's such an ability to get distracted. I mean, you know, we could be focusing on animal rights, we could be focusing on inner city gangs, Cloudflare could do anything, but Cloudflare can have its greatest impact by doing things that leverage our network, like Project NVIDIA, which is like the one of the most important things in the world is to get people that access. And we have a unique ability to do that, that many other companies wouldn't have any particular ability to bring those resources to. So I think people get motivated and excited because they know more about that. You know, our employees know a lot about that. But if we're doing something they don't know a lot about, it's less fulfilling and less integral to their daily jobs. So the more it can feel like, hey, this is just how I do my job in general. And here's a goal that's specific that I deliver within that, that I can feel really proud of. And I have to say the thing that has just kind of overwhelmed me and thrilled me over the years is just how much people want to have impact in their job. I mean, it's nothing new. It's not old. It's not new. It's just the human condition. We like helping other people. We are so lucky. And when you are, it feels so good when you use the skills and the knowledge and the resources that you have to do something great. So I think it really helps employees. I mean, people talk about it for retention or job fulfillment. It's just very human. It just makes people feel good about their job. I couldn't agree with you more. And even in the limited experience, putting this first impact week together, you know, we had a couple of, particularly on environmental sustainability side, we had a couple of new products that we've introduced, green computer workers, carbon impact report. A lot of that work, you know, was not sort of in the traditional product pipeline for Cloudflare. It was sort of people working on the side and donating time and because they were interested in helping and making a difference. And so even in sort of the limited exposure I've had to that already, I've been incredibly encouraged just employees at Cloudflare who are willing to sort of either work after hours or stop what they're doing and chip in and help, whether it's marketing or finance or on the product development side. I've seen evidence of that already. So that's been one of the most exciting parts about putting this together. Yeah. I want to say something about time. When we do these kinds of things, they feel important at the time, but it's hard to think about like, think about Cloudflare in 25 years. Okay. So 24 years building this at Nike. And in the beginning, I remember starting some stuff and I'd be like, well, I don't know, it seems pretty good or whatever. But like when I see what we've done around products, closed loop product, and we were early in organic cotton. One of the decisions we made is we were going to only buy organic cotton. This was before organic cotton was even a crop that people were developing. And there was this moment actually, we were purchasing all the world's organic cotton. So we had to stop buying it so we can create an industry. So there'd be buyers, so we could sustain the growth of the industry. So I love that example, because in the moment we made this commitment, and then as we lived it, it adjusted and it ended up creating this huge shift in cotton. And I could take 30 more other areas where you don't see how big the thing is at the moment, because oh, you know, who knew how much Nike was going to grow? Who knows how much Cloudflare is going to grow? If it grows anywhere near the trajectory that we're on, the small things we're doing today are going to balloon and swell into these extremely impactful things over time. So the commitment that you make, these commitments that you make early on, which I think are spot on what we're doing right now, if you think about that over the 20, 30, 50 years, it's really exciting. And so you want to make sure that that alignment is there, because you don't want to get committed into things that then you're like, oh, that's not really what we're about. You want to commit to fundamental things that are absolutely to the core of the mission of the company. The mission of the company is to build a better Internet. So everything we do better answer to that, because that's who we are as a company. That's really interesting. I think as you were describing sort of the evolution of the organic cotton market, it actually reminds me a lot of sort of the tech industry investment generally in renewable energy. So Cloudflare has been 100% renewable for the last two years as part of Impact Week. This week, we've committed to continuing to be powered by 100% renewable energy. But you're right, you know, part of the requirement is that you, wherever we have, you know, as you know, equipment in 200 countries, or excuse me, 200 cities, and over 100 countries around the world, part of the requirement is that you're actually purchasing renewable energy from the same grid that you're pulling it from, right? Because if you're building in the United States, but you're pulling off of a gray grid somewhere else in the world, then you know, you're not really having sort of a net, your impact is not even. But if you look at sort of the tech industry, generally, including Cloudflare, investing in renewable energy in these markets over time, because that's where there's growth opportunity, it's sort of, it is materially advanced. I saw, I think IAEA had a stat that I saw the other day that something like 50% of all corporate investment in renewable energy over the last five years has come from the tech sector. So it's, I think you're right. And then, you know, obviously, energy is core to business, because you can't run the network without it. I'm hopeful that sort of our contribution to the development of that market sort of has a similar effect over the long term. And that's climate, right? I think two thirds of greenhouse gases are energy related. So without a decarbonized energy grid, that's, it's one of the first things we need to address. I think that's, that's been pretty well established. So it is cool. The one thing I wonder, though, is having seen multiple examples of that while you were doing it, is it easier for you to recognize, you know, obviously, energy is core to our business. So it's natural for us to start there. But in terms of identifying other opportunities to have that sustained impact, knowing what you know, now, how do you sort of try to parse those out? Well, it's interesting, because I think the best places to look is where you have the biggest impact, you know, and where there's the biggest need in the world, you know, where are the biggest problems in the world? And where do we have the biggest impact, you know, and the intersection of those two points. So, you know, people don't normally think of tech as being energy, you know, they think everything being virtual, virtual, they don't think, oh, my God, tech is huge on climate. So that's like a perfect area. I really think what we're doing there is going to have a huge impact over time. And what what I think is critical is seeing that we influence the industry, you don't always have to be the biggest. But when you get bigger and bigger, you do have more and more influence. But when you know, someone's an early mover, and starts to do something, everybody goes, huh, should we be doing that? And I think that the kinds of moves we make, we're holding other not our not just our competitors, but others in the tech industry in general, will have to sort of answer to that, because then employees and shareholders and boards all start asking those questions. Well, what are we doing if they're doing that? And so one of the most exciting things about doing this work I found over the years is when we did things that challenged our industry or helped propel the industry itself forward, because if you look at the collective impact of, of the industry, it's it's just massive. And, you know, it's, it's a little bit of a bias I have to I mean, you know, I love seeing incremental change, you know, it's very exciting to see that we've done this in this city, or we've achieved that in this area. But it is so exciting when you see like a shift at scale, we're like, industry standard has changed, it's now normal, that everybody's 100% renewable energy and zeroing out of historic emissions, you know, by 2025. Well, what if everybody did that? Not committing to that. But if everybody did that, it would be extraordinary. So being also, this is a, you know, a really important one, too. And a lot of times I talked to people, and they'd be like, I didn't realize Nike did all that work around climate, or I didn't realize that you had sustainable product. And, and we didn't actually do a ton of PR around it. We try to do is a lot of industry advocacy around it, and not trying to always take big credit for things. But our bigger goal was we cared about the issue. And because the issue required not just us to be doing good things, but our industry to be doing good things. I think that's really an incredible way to focus because what happens is you become known as the company that's doing things for the right reasons and inspiring and challenging others to do it as well. And I know Matthew and Michelle are so committed, and I know they are respected and interact with other leaders and other companies. And that, that modeling is easy, it makes it easier for others, you know, Cloudflare is doing that, we can do it, if they can do it, we can do it. And that's a positive, what I call the positive spiral instead of the negative spiral. It's not, we don't need to be competitive on it. Like we want to be competitive in a way that creates, makes the world better and people's lives better, not competitive in the like, our programs better, we're better. It's like, hey, we'll challenge you to be to be doing this. And we will be challenged by others in a positive way. Like if our competitors are doing something great, adopt it. Not invented here is not, you know, it doesn't need to be a problem. That's great. And actually, I'll share a bit of good news that someone shared with me yesterday. So one of the products we launched this week was the carbon impact report. It sort of takes Cloudflare's carbon emissions footprint and gives our customer an idea of their particular footprint based on using Cloudflare's network. So their percentage of the total. And I think within a day, we had one of our largest customers reach out and say, hey, that's really cool. We were thinking about doing something similar to that. Can you tell us sort of how you're doing it and how it works, et cetera? So it's actually, and I didn't appreciate the significance in the time and seeing, I was like, oh, that's kind of cool. But I think you're right. And driving that within the industry seems like a really meaningful way to do that, particularly set apart from, you know, paid media or things that we do to sort of publicize products and stuff. I think that's, that actually is a really cool and important distinction in sort of this type of work. It's kind of an interesting metric, actually, because, you know, we think about the metrics are usually all internal, but it's an interesting metric to be like, are things that we're doing, others that are others adopting it? Are we innovating in such a way that we move the industry? I mean, it's very ambitious, but look, we're ambitious with our business. Why wouldn't we be ambitious with our business work? You know, the ESG work requires the same kind of ambition. I actually think that's, if we did one thing right at Nike, once we really got going, we had the same level of ambition that people on those teams, the people leading those initiatives were strong business leaders, just like in every other part of our business. We didn't treat it as something, you know, less important, but central. I think that's a really interesting point, aside from just sort of respect within the industry or whatever policy is generated organically for corporate responsibility. What do you sort of, that silo of what has in the past been called corporate responsibility are now sort of ESG metrics sort of filtered to it. How do you see that function within sort of the umbrella of the business? What do you see as that central role to help grow the company and help contribute to sort of the broader goals of the company? Well, I think, I think we all probably are hoping for a world where that is not extractive and that is not so unequal, you know, where the winners and losers, you know, and I think that there's this incredible opportunity to, as you said, spot these opportunities, these areas where you have disproportionate impact and then double down on those because, you know, you're going to have this trajectory of time on your side to make that powerful. One of the things I would caution against, you know, if you think about the things that we have going so far is that, is doing too many things actually. Focus is really powerful. So when we started the foundation, I decided we, you know, we went through a whole process to focus on adolescent girl poverty is the most untapped resource on the planet. And if you could change the trajectory of an adolescent girl in poverty, you could change the trajectory of poverty and stop it before it starts. So that was a theory of change. And so we started it, everybody's like, okay, so what else is the Nike foundation going to do? And I was like, are you kidding? Adolescent girls in poverty, this is the, you know, inequality around the planet. Is that not enough? And so whenever I see things that are focusing on health, economic opportunities, you know, it's like, hello, how are you doing all those things? You can't be, Cloudflare is amazing as a company because we are so good at what we do. We say really focus, we're really good. And our products are all extensions of that core. And it's the same with this is that sometimes I look at a company and I'll say like, what are they doing, doing that? And they have these 14 things and this, you know, it's every employee in the company and our stakeholders should be able to feed back to us what we're doing. So the proliferation of lots of things means a disbursement of your energy and impact. And when you put that impact of time that I'm talking about, with that focus, then you have this incredible opportunity for what is real impact. You know, impact, we use that too much, that word. It's like, no, it's not really impact. You know, when people say, oh, we got, you know, 2000 kids into this education program, like, well, what happened? Did they continue to succeed? What happened? Did they graduate when they graduated? Did they get a job? Is their life on a positive trajectory? There is not an accountability right now to sort of the full trajectory of the lifespan of the kinds of things we engage in. So I think it's really smart to be focused and not try to do too much. And the things we do, do them incredibly well. There's a guy at Nike, he used to say, what are we going to be famous for? He didn't mean famous in the sort of celebrity famous. He meant, what are we going to make, what are, where are we going to make our mark? And, you know, the foundation is focused on adolescent girls for 15 years and has impacted the life of millions and millions, you know, some 30 million girls. It's, it's, that's, that's focus. That actually is one of the things I wanted to ask you about, so I'm glad that you brought it up. One of the things I think you mentioned, focus, one of the most exciting things I think Cloudflare is working on, not just in this space, but generally for the, you know, building a better Internet. This is a new program we have on Monday, which is project NGO. So Cloudflare is connecting small nonprofit rural networks all over the world back to the Internet for free. We have partners in, in New York city, in Canada, in South Africa, in Argentina, really building on exactly what Cloudflare does, right. And making the Internet faster, safer, more reliable. One of the things that since you're here and one of the world experts on sort of creating better outcomes for adolescent girls, I wonder, and I wonder if there's sort of, if there's something we should be focusing on within that program to make sure that there's sort of equitable access and we're not sort of, as we're forging these relationships, how do we make that sort of a point of emphasis? What should we be looking for? I'm just curious to hear your thoughts. I love that you asked that. The thing that's so interesting about adolescent girls is they're always the last to benefit and the first to suffer in poverty. And so when technology arrives, they don't get access to it for strange reasons. There's, there's stigma that if a girl has a cell phone, she's going to get in trouble. It's just going to give her access to information. And then she's going to get in trouble. You know, girls have to be so creative. We have girls that have done insane things. Like they get up in the middle of the night and they take their dad or their brother's cell phone, and then they have their own little SIM card. They put it in there and they use it. Or we have some girls who developed a generator that runs off of urine. They figured out how to, so that they could power their cell phone. So there is a desire that is so extraordinary to be connected because girls suffer from huge isolation. One in five girls says she has no friends in poverty. It's tragic. And so, and because there's been so much noise around all the issues around the world, we continue to forget girls when they need to get very precise and very specific attention. So what we're doing with Project Pangea is straight in the fairway of what girls need. And I'd love to see us be able to partner and find a way to help that get more access for girls in the organizations that work with girls around the world. That's great. Yeah. I'm looking forward to sort of chatting about making sure that that's integrated into what we're doing in terms of outreach and connecting with, in the same way that we're trying to sort of reach out to hubs that could connect us to a lot of the same branches of a larger network in the same, making sure that that's part of it. We don't just miss it because we're not paying attention. I sort of, the last question I had for you, and we have about three minutes left, was, is more open -ended. It's just sort of, you mentioned that you really felt success at Nike when you had the wind in your back when employees had gone through the training and they had taken ownership and then made it part of their job. What sort of, what's your message to sort of Cloudflare employees about, you know, obviously the policy team's been helping organize this, but a lot of the work is being done by teams all over the company. So just sort of your message about integrating into daily work and the best way to do that and take ownership and contribute. Yeah. The word that comes to my mind is alignment, actually, for some reason. I think, look, it's tough when you're an employee in a company and the leadership isn't in alignment with your values. Obviously you don't want to work there, right? And why am I on this board? You know, I'm on this board because I believe that Matthew and Michelle are right focused. I believe that they are passionate about succeeding as a business hand in hand with having a positive impact on the world and building a better Internet as its fundamental mission is about creating a better world. And I believe in the board. I sit on the board with individuals that I respect and I believe are trying to help guide the company in the right direction. And the leadership team, there's just this nice alignment that you want to see. When you have a break in that chain, anywhere in that chain, you've got weakness. It's just like any, when you have alignment, you have strength. And so I think employees should draw strength from that, that they are in alignment in doing this work. They're not off on some tangent. They're in alignment with the values that the company stands for and the leadership is putting in place. And really does believe in. So, so, so it's, it's like, I always think that when people under stress or they don't feel an alignment or they're not happy, then we aren't at our best. But when those things are in alignment, then it kind of like be creative, come up with ideas and 20 of your ideas may go nowhere, but we, but if one goes somewhere, that's amazing. Or so I think I would credit our employees with, with, with, I don't know, 90% of not our leadership, but our employees with the strength of our program was our, is, always was, and is today, how our employees take their personal passion and make it real. Because all this stuff is just a bunch of talk, unless you make it. And, and I think that the programs you're putting in place are the kinds of things that do allow employees that, and people are going to come up with great creative ideas that stay focused. So that was a, I know you can't see the clock, but that was a perfect close. We have five seconds. So I'll just say, thank you so much. It was wonderful to connect. Absolutely. All right. Great to see everybody stay safe and thanks so much.