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At Dreamforce, exec says business has 'huge role' in climate action

Julia La Roche

At this year's Dreamforce — the annual blowout software conference hosted by Salesforce (CRM) — the tech community’s leaders are tackling some of the world's most pressing challenges, from climate change to inequality.

More than 150,000 people are expected to attend this year’s confab in San Francisco, while millions more will tune in online.

This week, Salesforce pledged $17 million in grants and one million in employee volunteer hours over the next year to go toward SDGs, which are 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations member states.

Among the SDGs embraced by Salesforce is climate action, which has become a business issue that even the Federal Reserve is citing as a risk. In Salesforce's annual 10-K report, the company explicitly called out climate change as a business risk.

"Climate change is the biggest issue that humanity has ever faced, and it's here, and we have to go fast. Business has a huge role to play," Salesforce's chief impact officer Suzanne DiBianca said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

From a technology perspective, Salesforce recently launched a product called the Sustainability Cloud, which is a carbon accounting tool available to all customers to track their carbon footprint and reduce it. CEO Marc Benioff delivers his keynote address at the company's annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco, California November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)

A focus on climate

Twenty years ago, when Salesforce was only a small start-up, it made integrated philanthropy a critical part of its mission. At the time, Salesforce's founder Marc Benioff brought on DiBianca — who pioneered the 1-1-1 model, where the company donates 1% of its equity, product, and employee time to charity.

"I think business is the greatest platform for change; we knew that when we started the company. We wanted to build a different kind of a company that made that a core principle from the very beginning," DiBianca said.

She vowed that the company would be engaged with this year’s Dreamforce attendees on “how to get engaged in the SDGs, how to make a difference. And we've got young people that are will be coming in joining us this week and many thousand nonprofits that are here, and it's going to be an incredible week," she added.

Today, Salesforce is one of the fastest-growing enterprise cloud companies with a market cap north of $140 billion.

Under its 1-1-1 model, Salesforce has given $300 million in grants, more than 4 million hours in volunteer time. It has given more than 40,000 nonprofits, and nongovernmental entities access to its products for free or at steep discounts. Several other companies have since adopted the 1-1-1 model.

"[We] have 9,000 other companies and partners and customers who have joined us, and together they've unlocked about a $1 billion in new philanthropy," DiBianca added.

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo 
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