Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Salesforce’s Net Zero Emissions Status
What does our recent announcement that we have net zero residual emissions mean? How is this announcement different from our 2017 net zero announcement?
Our 2021 announcement means that Salesforce has net zero residual emissions across our full value chain. We worked to reduce our Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, and then compensated for emissions we can’t yet reduce by matching our energy use with 100% renewable energy1 (“Purchasing 100% Renewable Energy”) and purchasing high-quality carbon credits to cover all emissions that remain. In 2017, we achieved net zero residual emissions for Scope 1 and 2 emissions only. Now, importantly, we include Scope 3 as well, the indirect emissions in our value chain.
Achieving net zero residual emissions across our entire value chain in 2021 was an important milestone. But we recognize that maintaining net zero residual emissions and achieving our long-term sustainability goals is a continuous journey, requiring us to continue reducing emissions as quickly as possible and aligning our full value chain (Scopes 1, 2, and 3) to the global trajectory of ~50% emissions reductions by 2030, and to near-zero absolute emissions by 2040. We will continue to compensate for any remaining emissions by Purchasing 100% Renewable Energy (see here for renewable energy procurement suggestions) and purchasing high-quality carbon credits to compensate for any emissions that remain.
1 100% renewable energy means procuring electricity / the claims to electricity produced from renewable energy resources equivalent to the electricity we use globally on an annual basis.
Even with renewable energy certificates and carbon credits, how can we say we have net zero residual emissions when we consumed 746 GWh of electricity last year, a 20% increase from the year before?
Is Salesforce’s definition of "net zero residual emissions" synonymous with the Science Based Targets initiative's (SBTi) definition of "net zero"?
It is not. SBTi’s definition of net zero states that, in order for a company to claim it has achieved net zero, it must reduce 90% of its gross emissions before offsetting any remaining emissions with carbon removal credits only (no carbon reduction or carbon avoidance credits).
Salesforce believes that — as a planet — we must reduce our emissions by 90% and do so as quickly as possible. But, realistically, we may not achieve this milestone until 2040-50. For every company, reducing emissions by 90% will also take time, especially with goals that rightfully include all of Scope 1, 2, and 3. Under SBTi’s definition, no company can claim they are net zero for decades. We believe that companies should be able to claim they’re net zero if they’re fully committed to decarbonization and have demonstrated they’re on the path to achieving the deep emissions reductions that will put the planet on a 1.5 degree trajectory, if they’re also compensating for their remaining emissions with high-quality carbon credits to achieve net zero residual emissions across their full value chain, transitioning to using removal credits only over time.
If Salesforce has net zero residual emissions now, why did we join Amazon’s Climate Pledge to reach net zero by 2040?
How did/do we do it?
How were we able to achieve net zero residual emissions so quickly while others are still aiming to reach that milestone decades from now?
Our vision is to be the leading example of strategic decarbonization across an organization's entire value chain. Only when customers and suppliers prioritize data-driven climate action together will we achieve impactful change at scale.
We’ve publicly committed to working with suppliers, who represent 60% of our Scope 3 emissions, to set their own science-based reduction targets by 2024. We’ve also introduced a Sustainability Exhibit that is being integrated into our supplier contracts. This Exhibit requires that suppliers disclose their carbon emissions (Scopes 1, 2, and 3), set science-based emissions reduction targets, and move toward providing carbon-neutral products and service to Salesforce. Of course, each supplier is unique. When incorporating an Exhibit, we evaluate the sustainability goals of each supplier as well as the emissions associated with the specific products and services we use.
We are committed to working with our customers to help them develop and track their own climate targets with Net Zero Cloud. With powerful Tableau dashboards, customers can visualize their sustainability data, discover trends, leverage transparent reporting, and identify the most strategic areas for improvement.
How did we achieve procuring renewable energy equivalent to 100% of the electricity we used globally? Are our projects U.S.-based or global?
In 2021, Salesforce achieved an important milestone: Purchasing 100% Renewable Energy, see definition above. Since our first renewable energy commitment in 2013, Salesforce has been working to accelerate the global transition to clean, renewable sources of electricity. To this end, we made our approach available for others to replicate and improve upon in our white paper More Than a Megawatt.
Our projects are both in the United States and international. In 2020, we entered into our first international power purchase agreement with X-ELIO’s Blue Grass solar farm in Queensland, Australia. Once online, the project will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 80,000 homes and save more than 320,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
How much of Salesforce’s net zero emissions strategy is based on reducing emissions vs buying carbon credits?
What would it take for a company to follow our footsteps? Would they need to purchase carbon credits today?
Salesforce takes a systemic approach to addressing the climate crisis. We acknowledge that every company must pull all the “levers” they have at their disposal, which means dedicating resources to implement diverse solutions internally as well as throughout their value chain. Salesforce prioritizes climate action from a programmatic standpoint, and has also made a significant financial commitment to achieve net zero residual emissions today. Our goal is to enable other companies to accelerate their own net zero journeys, so we will continue openly sharing our lessons learned and expanding Net Zero Cloud functionality.
How much a company would need to invest in carbon credits to reach net zero residual emissions is unique to each business. Net Zero Cloud is an award-winning platform for companies to determine their current carbon footprint. Once this baseline data is understood, companies can identify high-impact emissions reduction strategies and understand how many carbon credits are required to achieve net zero residual emissions today.
Carbon Credits & Offsets
Aren't carbon credits a questionable approach that delays real action? Why is Salesforce utilizing on carbon credits as part of our net zero strategy?
Critics claim that carbon credits allow polluters to "buy their way" out of accountability, or that the offset projects themselves have negative externalities. It’s true that not all carbon credits are equally beneficial. But more and more companies — including Salesforce — have rigorous standards for evaluating potential carbon credit purchases and seek out high-quality carbon credits to compensate for emissions they can’t yet reduce.
Emissions reduction is always the most important, first step in any company’s net zero journey. But carbon credits also play an important role in enabling the world to move closer to net zero. Carbon offset projects also bring capital to areas of the world most impacted by the climate crisis, and high-quality, well-designed projects provide significant positive co-benefits to affected regional communities. It will continue to be critical for Salesforce, and any other company taking bold climate action, to be transparent about how carbon offset projects are evaluated and selected.
- Proyecto Mirador: Provides fuel-efficient cookstoves in rural homes throughout Honduras and in certain areas of Guatemala. Traditional wood-burning cookstoves are replaced with locally constructed, clean fuel-efficient ones, lowering carbon emissions and deforestation while improving family health through better indoor air quality. The organization supports 24 small businesses and employs more than 200 people. The project uses Salesforce to maintain a database of stove locations, before and after photographs, and more than 300,000 surveys of use and maintenance information to verify stoves are working correctly.
- Sea of Change: Replants mangrove forests and provides social and technical assistance to the local population in Myanmar. Due to human activity, only 16% remains of the original coastline mangrove forest. Mangroves are important nurseries for fish and crabs, feeding grounds for migratory birds, and are a first line of defense against storm surges and floodwaters. This project is planting more than 6 million trees to restore 2,200 hectares of these forests. They are also working with the local population (60% living below the national poverty line) to create alternative sources of income, build technical skills, and adapt to more sustainable living practices.
- Katingan-Mentaya Peatland Project: Conserving peat swamp forests, protecting orangutan habitat, and improving local livelihoods. The project protects and is rewetting much of its 350,000 acres of Indonesian peat swamp forests, a biodiverse rich ecosystem threatened by conversion to palm oil and acacia plantations. Preserving peat swamps also provides clean water, prevents devastating fires that unleash large amounts of CO2, and preserves habitat for the endangered Bornean orangutan and Proboscis monkey. In partnership with 34 villages, the project has created a culture of sustainable innovation – creating jobs, supporting small businesses, and improving education, clean water, and health for hundreds of people. It earned triple-gold certification under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards.
What happens if Salesforce buys carbon credits for a forest preservation project, and the forest ends up burning down? What happens to our carbon offset claims?
- Only purchasing forest carbon credits that have carbon insurance via “buffer pools,” which are regularly assessed for their ability to replace carbon credits that are accidentally reversed.
- Only supporting projects that have specific risk assessments and risk mitigation plans.
- Supporting projects that have in-depth understanding of specific regional climate risks and provide specific evidence they have created climate-resilient ecosystems.
Trees & Forests
To address climate change, we need to both cut emissions and draw down the carbon from the atmosphere. In terms of carbon drawdown, forests are the most effective tool we've got at the moment. Trees provide additional benefits every day by providing shade, blocking wind, improving biodiversity, purifying our air, preventing soil erosion, cleaning our water, and adding natural beauty to our homes and communities.
On a local level, trees provide powerful green infrastructure that fights climate change, advances equity, and creates tangible benefits for all people in a community. Salesforce’s tree equity and urban reforestation initiative aims to mobilize and engage ecopreneurs, local organizations, and volunteers (including Salesforce employees).
Most recently, Salesforce contributed $100 million to accelerate 1t.org’s work, and Marc and Lynne Benioff contributed $200 million. Additionally in 2020, Salesforce set a goal to support and mobilize the conservation and restoration of 100 million trees over the next decade, and within two years already have funded more than 43 million tress.
Salesforce also contributes our technology in the form of UpLink, a new digital platform to bring together stakeholders of all sizes to solve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including how to address climate change.
We also provide 1t.org with our strategic input and guidance around how to engage corporations and drive reforestation and tree-planting efforts.
Sustainability at Salesforce
How are we defining our climate and sustainability priorities? How does Salesforce’s net zero strategy fit within our climate strategy?
Salesforce has been on this sustainability transformation journey for over a decade. Our core values — Trust, Customer Success, Innovation, Equality, and Sustainability — are inextricably linked to how we think and what we do around climate action. To build a climate strategy, we asked ourselves:
- What do we do? And why? (our products & services, mission)
- How do we do it? (our operating model and value chain)
- Who do we influence? (our employees, customers, society)
The result was our Climate Action Plan, which outlines six sustainability business priorities that we believe every company can adopt to help accelerate our collective journey to net zero emissions:
- Emissions Reduction
- Carbon Removal
- Trillion Trees & Ecosystem Restoration
- Education & Mobilization
- Regulation & Policy
Why is Salesforce increasingly active in the sustainability movement? What does this mean for the industry?
Beyond carbon emissions, is Salesforce covering all the basics regarding sustainability (e.g., recycling lanyards at events, minimizing plastics, etc.)?
There are so many things we can do to leave a smaller footprint! Initiatives can be started by anyone and in any region. The Sustainability team works with stakeholders to help scale programs across our business, and Earthforce champions play a critical role.
For lanyard recycling specifically, we aim to recycle them whenever possible, but some regions have facility limitations. Plastic pollution and waste are a global issue. Because we’re a cloud company, 90% of our emissions actually come from our electricity consumption, but that doesn't mean we won't make shifts in our offices to reduce plastic where possible.
The Real Estate and Workplace Services team is also doing a fantastic job: installing reusable dishes where possible, ordering in bulk, and shifting snack options. Unfortunately, sometimes these shifts are hard to make, whether it's a health and safety issue, accessibility concern, or it might not make sense. Asking questions and proposing solutions is a great way to start a conversation and make change happen.
We also know there’s tremendous impact when each employee bring sustainability into their home and personal lives. That’s why we published the Sustainability at Home Guide to share some best practices.
If Salesforce is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, is our relationship contradictory to our stance on climate change?
Even though individual action is important, it seems like a drop in the ocean compared to the change that’s needed in the world. How can we as individuals have more influence?
Advocacy is a key way for everyone to have impact outside of Salesforce. And, educating yourself as well as those in your family and friend circles has a viral effect! Be creative and use your individual skills to make a difference.