Why the Salesforce CEO wants to redefine capitalism by pushing for social change

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff speaks onstage during the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco event in San Francisco on Oct. 3, 2019. Benioff is a proponent of stakeholder capitalism, the belief that companies must look out for the broader good.

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During a recent interview with tech journalist Kara Swisher at the Code 2021 conference, Benioff further explained his thinking on Texas and other policies that he believes would adversely impact Salesforce staff.

«All I want to say to my employees is, ‘I have your back,'» he said. «That is, ‘I will take care of you.'»

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The Slack app icon is displayed on a computer screen on Dec. 2, 2020, in Tokyo. Salesforce completed a deal to buy the popular work messaging platform earlier this year.

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Benioff defines «stakeholder» more broadly than most of his contemporaries.

In a recent interview with NPR, Benioff said the planet is a Salesforce stakeholder, and so is the homeless community in San Francisco, where his company has its headquarters, and where his family has lived for four generations.

It’s a kind of advocacy few other CEOs have engaged in, according to Benioff.

«When I first started, I don’t think there were a lot of CEOs who were willing to speak out and really take positions outside of, maybe, their product,» he told NPR.

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An employee enters the Salesforce office in San Francisco, on Oct. 5. Benioff often acts when he feels policies adversely impact his employees.

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Then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference on March 31, 2015. Pence was speaking about the state’s controversial religius freedom law, which sparked some corporate opposition.

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Migrants are apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents after crossing the Rio Grande in LaJoya, Texas on June 12. Benioff kept Salesforce’s contract with the CBP despite opposition from his own employees.

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That often leads to tensions among executives themselves, as they wrestle with when to speak out, and when to hold back.

When Georgia passed laws that many saw as imposing new voting restrictions, it took a while before more than 100 CEOs eventually signed onto an open letter organized by Ken Chenault, another former CEO of American Express, and Ken Frazier, then the CEO of Merck. The letter demanded «the right to vote for all of us.»

Kenny at Nielsen also criticized Georgia’s voting law, because to him, it was an issue of representation, which is Nielsen’s bread and butter.

Benioff was less hesitant. He insists he has no political ambitions because he is aware of how much influence he already has as the founder of a San Francisco-based Fortune 500 company.

And as Benioff starts his third decade at the helm of Salesforce, he continues to tell other CEOs it is their duty to use that power for good.

«I really think you have to ask yourself the question, ‘Is business the greatest platform for change?'» he told NPR. «And in our world, our country, you know, CEOs wield tremendous power with these amazing businesses.»

  • stakeholder capitalism
  • Salesforce
  • Big Tech
  • billionaires
  • bathroom bill
  • reproductive rights
  • slack
  • software
  • capitalism
  • cloud computing
  • Abortion rights
  • North Carolina
  • Indiana
  • San Francisco

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