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Dreamforce 2021 - Salesforce hits Net Zero, but the wider 'Code Red for humanity' remains a global crisis

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan September 22, 2021
Salesforce is now a Net Zero company and wants to help others to follow its lead.


A Net Zero company across its full value chain and now using 100% renewable energy - that’s the boast that Salesforce has made this week at Dreamforce as CEO Marc Benioff calls on the firm’s peers to follow suit.

Salesforce developed emissions reductions strategies across Scope 1, 2 and 3 in four key categories - work from anywhere, infrastructure, business travel, and supply chain. It continues to drive towards a 1.5°C future by focusing on six sustainability priorities: emissions reduction; carbon removal; a trillion trees & ecosystem restoration; education & mobilization; innovation; and regulation & policy.

But for now, it’s a moment of some celebration for Benioff as he told Dreamforce delegates:

As of today, Salesforce is not only Net Zero, but also fully-renewable. We are an example, as we enter the Fortune 400 next year, of a company that is Net Zero and renewable. We want our sustainability team to be a model. We want to show you how you can take your company to be fully Net Zero and renewable...Many of our corporate friends have now made the commitment that we have made. We are helping to guide companies like MasterCard and Zurich and Unilever and Verizon and Bank of America and Nike and IBM and many others to go fully Net Zero as fast as possible.

Sustainability Cloud

The company also lifted the lid on its Sustainability Cloud 2.0 offering, which includes  Slack-First Sustainability for better collaboration with suppliers, a carbon-offset ecosystem, and industry-specific climate action plans.

Salesforce Chief Impact Officer Suzanne DiBianca argues that every organization needs to focus on sustainability now:

We're in a climate crisis. This is not going to be a doom and gloom lecture, but it is a reality check. The recent UN IPCC report says that we're on a 'Code Red' for humanity. So we know that we all have to act boldly and quickly to keep to this 1.5 degree world. We're looking at our role as a business. We know governments are beginning to both regulate and mandate climate disclosures - we're seeing it in the UK, we're seeing it in Japan. We know that every company needs to be a Net Zero company, whether they're ready to or not.

At Salesforce, our sustainability vision is to accelerate the world's largest businesses to Net Zero, sequester 100 gigatonnes of carbon through conserving, restoring and growing a trillion trees and energise the eco-printer revolution, which I'm incredibly excited about. We get to this vision by focusing on really six sustainability priorities - reduce emissions, remove carbon, educate, innovate, regulate and reforest the planet. The theme for Dreamforce is this year around being a Trusted Enterprise. We know that being a Trusted Enterprise in this new world means showing that we can be trusted to protect our planet, and do our part in the fight against climate change.

Sustainability Cloud can help in this, she added:

We want to help our customers get there too, but what we hear from them time and time again is they don't know where to start. So we're really excited about our announcements [around] Sustainability Cloud. This is something that we're calling Net Zero-as-a-Service.

We've re-vamped and really increased our investment in this product to really align with the six pillar strategy that I talked about for emissions and reductions. Not only will you be able to see the past and current state of your company's emissions across your entire value chain, you'll be able to see into the future with 'what if' scenario planning that really helps people make better business decisions in areas like travel and real estate.

And we’ll have valuable insights on Tableau dashboards with, of course, investor grade data and Slack for Sustainability. Customers will be able to reduce carbon through their whole value change through Slack Connect and will be able to collaborate with suppliers on key things like progress against their own science-based targets.

In terms of education, we've developed all kinds of playbooks for companies, everything from how to be Net Zero, to how to work sustainably from home, which we developed this year. All of this will be available right within the product and serve as a learning platform through Trailhead as well.

And I'm really excited about that how we're investing both in innovation and in regulation by building an open carbon exchange ecosystem in which customers will be able to purchase and manage high quality carbon credits from all kinds of 'eco-preneurs' around the world and really understand and advocate for science - based climate policies and see it all exposed right through the platform

EU green

For his part, Benioff pointed to the European Union Green Deal as a model for other governments to follow. The Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the  aim of making Europe climate neutral by  2050 through both ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’. Benioff enthused:

There's gonna be a carbon tax in Europe, and we need one here in the United States to we need the same thing. They're definitely leaders in Europe with this EU Green Deal. And this EU Green Deal means that all of us are going to have an opportunity to report exactly on are we Net Zero? Are we not Net Zero? How much carbon are we emitting?

He concluded:

We have to reduce emissions, We know that we have to sequester carbon ie we got to go get the carbon that we put up there and bring it down. The best way to do that is biodiversity. It's biodiversity that can make it happen and we have to educate each other on how to do it. We have to innovate and we have to regulate. That's why I love the EU Green Deal. It requires companies to report the amount of carbon that they are emitting. So right out of our Sustainability Cloud, you get the reports that say, 'Here's where you are and here's where you're going to go'. Because we want to get aligned with those UN sustainability goals.

My take

An admirable achievement and more power to the ongoing campaign for change. It’s great to see the corporate exemplars cited by Benioff. With a cynical eye though, looking at some of the lukewarm comments coming out of national governments on the subject of climate change this week at the UN General Assembly, there’s a depressingly long way to go here. That said, tech such as Sustainability Cloud is going to be a useful weapon in the arsenal to tackle a problem that, quite literally, involves every single one of us.

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