As the global community continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is reason for hope. In ASEAN, governments, the corporate sector, and NGOs have mobilised at impressive speeds in a concerted effort to meet the crisis head-on. This cooperation is a testament to what we can accomplish when we work together to achieve a common goal.
The current climate crisis could also benefit from this level of unprecedented, yet much-needed, global cooperation.
In a recent report, UN chief António Guterres wrote that we are “way off track” to meet the 1.5°C or 2°C targets many nations committed to as part of the Paris Agreement. The consequences of that failure is devastating to us and our planet. Fortunately, this year’s Earth Month — including the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — provided a great opportunity to reassess and realign our response.
We can’t leave the solution solely in the hands of government. Businesses are — and should be — agents of change. And together, we need to reimagine what defines business success in the 21st century.
At the 2020 World Economic Forum, Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff advocated for the concept of stakeholder capitalism. “Capitalism as we have known it is dead,” he said. “This obsession that we have with maximising profits for shareholders alone has led to incredible inequality and a planetary emergency... The new stakeholder capitalism is about business as the greatest platform for change.”
So what does that look like in practice, and what can you do to build the principles of stakeholder capitalism into your organization's DNA? It begins with a simple three-step approach.
We can’t create the change needed alone. Collaboration with other companies, the public sector, your larger community, and NGOs is needed to drive positive change.
A good start is an organizational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The set of 17 goals provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. This year, Salesforce will invest US$17 million to advance the SDGs through grants to nonprofit partners and has pledged one million employee volunteer hours to support the SDGs.
Salesforce also encourages other organisations to join us in signing up for the 1t.org partnership. 1t.org is a World Economic Forum initiative that aims to connect, empower and mobilise a global reforestation community with the goal to ensure the conservation and restoration of one trillion trees within the decade. To celebrate this year's Earth Day, Salesforce planted 50,000+ trees, that's a tree in honor of every Salesforce employee.
It's also vital for companies to encourage employees to champion environmental values, drive key initiatives, and advocate for change in communities where they live, work, and worship.
At Salesforce, the employee-led Earthforce team represents the sustainability voice and efforts of our employees. Our volunteer champions are dedicated to driving environmental sustainability within the organisation and our communities. Colleagues from across teams volunteer together to contribute to the UN SDG's, and lead sustainability events in collaboration with NGOs and sustainable businesses.
As a representative of Earthforce in Singapore, I’m incredibly grateful to work for a company that encourages its employees to donate volunteer time to the climate cause. Working alongside colleagues and leaders who share a passion for sustainability helps me align my personal values with my professional career.
Forward-thinking organisations are also well placed to empower their customers to join the fight against climate change. This could be through providing thought leadership, guiding customers in setting more ambitious sustainability targets, or helping them find ways to contribute to the environmental cause.
At Salesforce, for example, we have launched Sustainability Cloud to help customers deliver on their sustainability goals. The platform enables customers to track, analyse, and report environmental data to help reduce their company's carbon emissions and drive sustainability across their organisation.
The planet is facing a tipping point that presents both the greatest threat to our future and an incredible opportunity to create the world we want for ourselves and generations to follow. Businesses can champion the change we need by committing to the principles of stakeholder capitalism and living those values through genuine engagement with our communities, employees, and customers.
Sustainability is within our reach. The global response to COVID-19 proves that what unites us is much stronger than what divides us. As a business community, we can extend the same commitment to the urgent action required to heal the earth.