In a speech commemorating the opening of Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff celebrated all those who contributed to developing the city’s tallest, most high-tech building, which will serve as the company’s headquarters. He also called for action to address rising inequality, homelessness and unsanitary conditions in San Francisco.
“We see a city undergoing great change, but also facing urgent challenges. Great progress — neighborhoods and businesses that are booming — but also communities and people that feel forgotten. We see extraordinary wealth, a community with over 70 billionaires, but also grinding poverty in the shadow of this building,” he said. “We see companies unleashing incredible innovations, but also families in deep distress, struggling to survive another day. The experience of cities in other parts of the country teaches us that successful cities and successful businesses go hand-in-hand. If a city fails to invest in its people — their education, their well-being, their safety — over time, businesses flee. And the opposite is also true. If businesses fail to recognize their obligations to their community, if they are disconnected and fail to give back, over time, cities suffer and decline.”
Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of Salesforce, today announced it will donate $1.5 million to Hamilton Families’ Heading Home Initiative to end long-term family homelessness in San Francisco. This gift will be matched by Marc and Lynne Benioff, who will give $1.5 million to the initiative. Since 2016, Salesforce.org has given $3.5 million toward Hamilton Families’ Heading Home Initiative, and the Benioffs have given $11.5 million. Heading Home, which has now surpassed $30 million in funding, aims to address family homelessness in San Francisco by providing housing for 800 families by 2020.
“We need to reach our next goal, raising the $200 million we need to get every homeless individual off the streets,” Benioff said. “And it’s why I’m calling on every part of our community — government, residents, companies, especially tech companies — to step up and help end homelessness in our city. This is a solvable problem.”
Regarding education in the city, Benioff said, “We have an obligation to give every child an equal opportunity to a world-class education! That’s why Salesforce has partnered with San Francisco and Oakland, and we’re seeing great progress. Every CEO, every business, every community can adopt a school — or a district.” He pointed to rising math scores and increasing numbers of young women taking STEM classes. Salesforce employees will volunteer 100,000 hours in Bay Area schools this year, and plans to invest $100 million in local schools.
Benioff also addressed unsanitary conditions in some San Francisco neighborhoods and streets. “Just a few months ago, a study by UC Berkeley found that some parts of San Francisco are more unsanitary than the poorest neighborhoods of impoverished developing countries,” he said. “This is unacceptable. The mayor and the city deserve credit, because we’ve seen some cleanups. But as we all know, there’s so much more to do. We shouldn’t have to look up — to buildings like this — to be inspired. We have to come together, as one community, to make sure that our streets are as stunning as our skyline.”
Benioff also challenged tech companies to step up to address the chronic issues facing the community and for others not to scapegoat the tech industry.
“The truth is, many of them are chronic issues that have not been addressed enough for many, many years. So just as I’m challenging tech companies to step up, I’m challenging others to not scapegoat the tech community. Throughout our history, industry leaders like Levi Strauss, Isaias Hellman and Don and Doris Fisher and their companies helped to build up this city into a global symbol of diversity, equality and opportunity. Instead of seeing us as part of the problem, know that tech wants to be part of the solution. This is the model for tackling so many of our most urgent challenges–all of us working together.”
In his closing remarks, Benioff called Salesforce Tower a “symbol of hope.”
“Kids in schools across the Bay Area, families walking down the sidewalk, families and children in shelters or sleeping in cars. They’re all looking up at this Tower. I want you to know you are not alone — we are thinking of you. I hope you see this tower as a beacon, a symbol of hope and know that there is a company and a city, a group of people and organizations all together as one San Francisco that leads with our core values.”