London Mayor Khan talks political and business trust crisis as Salesforce opens its doors to not-for-profits

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan December 6, 2019
Salesforce is opening up its Ohana Floor to not-for-profit organisations, a move that maps onto London Mayor Sadiq Khan's vision for business and society.


Look up from ground level in London’s Bishopsgate and the skyline is dominated by a 41 storey tall edifice, these days known as the Salesforce Tower. It’s the UK headquarters for the cloud firm and yesterday saw the formal opening of its latest addition - the Ohana Floor - by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who talked about the trust deficit that big business and politics suffer in common.

An Ohana, for the uninitiated, is a Hawaiian term for family in its most extended sense and is used by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff to describe the firm’s employees and customers. The Ohana Floor is intended to be used by Salesforce Tower occupants as a flexible working space during the day, but is then thrown open free of charge to charitable organizations in the evenings and weekends to host events.

Salesforce UK and Ireland CEO Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia explained:

At night and weekends, It's available for not-for-profit institutions and for foundations that want to use this for doing good.We encourage anyone to come here. People can use this place in order to put forward and progress their own ideas and their ability to do good in the country.  I'm on the board of a couple of non-profits who find it hard to find space in London to do work and to make things happen. We very willingly and passionately and optimistically hope that this is available to you and your friends and contacts for doing good.

Salesforce used the opening of the new floor to announce grants totalling $1.25m to two charities involve in education and workforce development - $750,000 to education charity Ark and $500,000 to Ada, the National College for Digital Skills.

The company is also expanding its Pathfinder Training Program for the first time outside of the US. The initiative is intended to address the skills gap by providing technical and business training to participants from diverse backgrounds with 62% of participants to date coming from under-represented groups in the tech industry, such as career changers and military veterans. Over the course of 16 weeks, so-called Pathfinders complete more than 150 hours of training. The UK programme will launch with an initial 50 Pathfinders in 2020.

It’s all part of Salesforce’s value culture, said Dame Jayne-Anne:

You need to be trustworthy. And for us, I think as business people that resonates significantly. We want to be trusted partners for all of our customers, for our broader community... it's such an important thing for all companies I think going forwards. We also have the value of innovation. Technology is such a positive force for good in the right hands, and we're able to develop brilliant technologies, and we want to make sure that in the world that we're in. whatever happens politically, our technology can be used by business to connect with their customers to create brilliant opportunities, new opportunities, a better economy and better society for all of our clients, customers and their customers.

Can do

Formally opening the Ohana Floor was London Mayor Sadiq Khan who presented Salesforce with certification of the Good Work Standard, which sets a benchmark that the Mayor wants every London employer to work towards and achieve. Organisations able to meet the Good Work Standard criteria can apply for accreditation and recognition as leading employers from the Mayor. Khan said:

When I stood for election, I pledged to be the most pro-business Mayor London had ever seen. And since taken office in 2016, despite the difficult backdrop of Brexit, we've been working tirelessly to deliver on that promise. Ultimately, our ambition is to create an economy that works for all Londoners,  an economy where businesses are given the support they need and of course, an economy that gives Londoners a helping hand, an economy where neither opportunity, nor achievement are limited by gender, by race, by sexuality, by disability by religion, or by your background.

He added:

I'm going to quote a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who said the good economy and the good society advance together. I've always believed it's a myth that the goals of growing the economy, supporting businesses and standing up for workers and reducing inequality, are in conflict. Indeed when it comes to addressing many of the big challenges we face today - from tackling the climate emergency to forging a fairer society -  London's business community must be viewed not as an adversary, but an ally in achieving our shared goals.

By the same token, I believe it's a myth that big businesses only care about what's in their bottom line. The reality is that  we're living in an era when trust in our big business institutions, just like trust in our political institutions, is extremely low. And that's why it's so good to see a global technology company like Salesforce, recognizing its place, and responsibility to the wider community...clearly moving beyond the simple motive of shareholder profit -  important though that is - and recognizing that they have a social purpose to, to support their employees.

My take

To date, events held on Ohana Floors in Salesforce buildings in San Francisco, New York and Indianapolis have raised over $9.4 million for charitable causes. That’s a genuine achievement in a sector where it’s all too easy to take cheap shots about the clash between the supposed shrimp cocktail lifestyles of the technorati and the wider plight of those sitting outside at the base of the tech towers. I’d strongly encourage not-for-profits in the UK to tap into this new resource and make the most of it. You can apply to book the space here.