Cisco CEO says Silicon Valley companies 'have to care' about issues like homelessness

  • CNBC's Jim Cramer gets an exclusive read on Cisco Systems' recent projects and deals in an interview with Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins.
  • Robbins speaks about Cisco's commitment to battle homelessness and his take on the trade debate.

Big, lucrative tech companies have a responsibility to consider and address societal issues like homelessness, Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins told CNBC on Thursday.

"In this part of the world, affordable housing, homelessness, hunger — these are all issues that companies in Silicon Valley have to care about," the CEO said in an exclusive interview with "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer.

In March, Cisco announced its contribution to the homeless crisis: the company pledged to give $50 million to public-private initiative Destination: Home to battle homelessness in Santa Clara County, which has the third-highest rate of chronic homelessness in the United States.

"It just doesn't feel like that should be occurring anywhere, much less in a wealthy county where we've seen so much prosperity," Robbins told Cramer. "We're just trying to do our part."

"[Salesforce.com CEO] Marc Benioff's doing a lot of work up here in San Francisco, so we're actually trying to [come] together and drive some regional alignment around these efforts," Robbins added.

Cisco, a massive networking company that deals in cloud computing, security and the internet of things, is also nearing the end of its transition from a hardware supplier to a catch-all digital giant.

In Cisco's immediate focus is cybersecurity, around which the company has made several key acquisitions in the past few years. Robbins specifically highlighted the ongoing shift from standard firewall protection to securing data via "identity and the cloud."

"For the past decade, [our customers have] built networks and they've built security architectures based on a premise that traffic begins at the edge, perhaps at the branch, and terminates in their data center," the CEO said.

"Today, what's really happening is all the traffic still begins at the edge, but it's terminating in 100 different places, and this is the multi-cloud story," he continued. "So it's terminating in Microsoft, it's terminating in Amazon, Google, IBM. It's terminating in all the [software-as-a-service] providers like Salesforce here today. And what that means is there's not a central ingress-egress point to actually apply security anymore."

And, like with many tech companies, the issue of tariffs is lingering in the backdrop for Cisco. But the Trump administration's latest wave of duties isn't the primary concern, Robbins told Cramer.

"We know how to deal with it and we've had conversations with the administration, we've been optimizing the supply chain and we've applied some price increases where we had to," he said. "I think my bigger concern is what do these trade skirmishes or the uncertainty that's going on, at what point does that flow through to the global macro environment? And that's the bigger fear for us and that's what we don't want to see."

Shares of Cisco closed lower on Wednesday, down 0.17 percent at $48.33. The stock rose slightly in after-hours trading.

Watch Chuck Robbins' full interview here:

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet.

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