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Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and WEF Leader Klaus Schwab Discuss Saving the Planet and the Trust Crisis in Davos

“Over the next decade will be the Fifth Industrial Revolution and that will be about saving the planet,” Salesforce Chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff said Thursday in a fireside chat with World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab in Davos.

“We have really a lot of work to do,” Benioff said. “We can see the rising temperatures, we can see how that affects the oceans and creates acidification, changes our ecosystems.”

“We have to ask ourselves: is this the world we are going to leave our children, you know, one or two decades from now?” Benioff asked. “Especially when we can see the targets that have been set out in the Paris Accords.”

Benioff added that the current Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in technologies that can help save the planet. He said that younger generation will play a key role in doing so. “Not just the global shapers, not just the young global leaders, but really the generation still just coming in. They’re coming out of school. They have these ideas of biodiversity and leadership and it’s very powerful.”

Benioff said that corporations have to change their leadership structures to respond to today’s challenges. He said that having a Chief Trust Officer and Chief Equality Officer are essential. “If your highest value is not trust in your business, then what do you have? Because you can’t do business in the Fourth Industrial Revolution without the trust of your employees, your customers and partners.” He added that in the coming Fifth Industrial Revolution companies will need an ethical and humane use officer to ensure that their technology is being used for the good of the world. “When you put yourself above others, you are at odds with the future,” he said.

“Culture eats strategy for lunch,” Benioff noted, quoting management consultant and author Peter Drucker. “I think that today that’s more right than ever. The technology is going to constantly extinguishing itself. But the culture and the values—this is what’s permanent.”

Benioff called on business leaders and politicians everywhere to take steps to make the world a better place. “Business is the greatest platform for change,” Benioff said and pointed to values as the foundation for doing well and good as a company.

"We all need to look at how our values can create value,” he said. “We have to individually access our values or be left behind in a crisis of trust, inequality and humane use…if you adjust your values, you’ll be like a magnet and bring people to you, and that’s love."

Schwab asked Benioff what motivated him to take stands on social issues, such as LGBTQ rights and homelessness, which aren’t traditionally part of a CEO’s purview. “My motivation is my customers and employees. They are motivating me to act,” Benioff said. “We had to act on their behalf. It might appear that I’m so bold or taking these action but I’m actually I’m quite nervous and anxious but I’m doing it on behalf of employees, customers, partners and our communities who have asked me to do something on behalf of them. I take that action and kind of transcend my fear, I notice that they have my back. I recommend for every leader that they listen more deeply.”

Schwab and Benioff also discussed prioritizing saving our oceans, which is one of the themes at this week’s Davos gathering. On Wednesday, Benioff participated in a Davos panel discussion on protecting the oceans. Highlights from the panel and a video replay of the full event are here. Nine other panel discussions in Davos Thursday are addressing the many threats facing our oceans. Follow the sessions here

Watch the full fireside chat here


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