Leading to Net Zero: 6 Key Priorities for Your Business's Sustainability Strategy

Creating a more sustainable future is everyone’s responsibility. Here’s what business leaders can do to use their power for good.

Time to read: 6 minutes
 
Patrick Flynn 
Global Head of Sustainability, Salesforce

Look around on a peaceful day with a clear blue sky and it's easy to connect emotionally to our beautiful planet. At the same time, Earth needs our help. Climate change is an emergency we must work together to fix, right here and right now. Whether it's a moment of fearful preparation for an oncoming storm, a whiff of wildfire smoke, the loss of the year's harvest, or a deep and personally devastating tragedy, each of us is deeply connected to the climate emergency. Our children deserve a healthier and more just future. In order to deliver for today and for the next generation, we need to take bold action now.

Business leaders, especially CEOs, shoulder a unique responsibility in this unprecedented moment. After all, the strength of their business depends on it. A productive and resilient economy can only operate within a healthy society, and a healthy society needs a stable and flourishing environment as its base. Ask your employees. Listen to your customers. They are calling for climate action in greater and greater numbers. And the cries will only become louder.

At Salesforce, our climate strategy begins with the recognition that there's only one, single, shared global goal — a just transition to a 1.5 degree Celsius future — and we are committed to doing all we can to reach it. We will decarbonize our operations and align our full value chain to that goal, compensating for all emissions we cannot avoid or reduce each year from now on. But we're aiming much higher because the planet needs more than that. That's why we use our voice, mobilize others around us, and use our technology to accelerate others on their own journey to net zero.

 

Now more than ever, it is of vital importance for businesses to become climate advocates. We’re facing irreparable harm to our planet, so we need all businesses to use not only their influence but also their core competencies and rapid innovation to create solutions that will tackle climate change.”

Suzanne DiBianca | Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce
As the Head of Sustainability at Salesforce, I feel a profound sense of responsibility. After all, Salesforce is one of the most admired, innovative, and successful companies in history. What’s more, the next wave of climate impact will depend on unprecedented collaboration between customers and their suppliers. Since we’re the world’s leader in customer relationship management, we can show CEOs how to blaze a path forward to solve climate change together. Our Climate Action Plan gives business leaders a practical model to follow that will help us save our planet, starting today.

The Six Priorities of Climate Action

At Salesforce, we began our Climate Action Plan by asking ourselves how we could use the full power of our business to effect meaningful change:

  • What we do. How can our products, services, and mission amplify climate action?
  • Our operating model. How can we align our full value chain to a 1.5 degree future?
  • Our influence. Which stakeholders can we influence, and how, in order to catalyze the global change the planet needs?

The answers enabled us to devise a framework that spoke to our unique core competencies: customer success and digital transformation. But the approach is universal, and we offer it as a blueprint for others to take action to accelerate their journey to net zero.

 

We all have a role to play, based on our unique skills, resources, and core competencies — I challenge you; what can you do with what you have in your toolbox to deliver impact that planet Earth might actually notice?”

Suzanne DiBianca | Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce

Priority 1: Reduce emissions

Everything your business does likely generates greenhouse gas emissions, from manufacturing to digital infrastructure to offices and travel. To reduce those emissions in a meaningful way, embed sustainability into operational decisions using a practical, iterative approach. Most importantly, undertake all emissions reduction activity with system change as the end goal. At Salesforce, we monitor, avoid, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our operations and value chain, aiming to do so in a way that spurs systemic changes that will achieve emissions reductions at a globally relevant scale.

To do this, we have taken the shared global goal and set out to internalize it. Our aim is to reduce our full value chain annual emissions by 50% by 2030 and near zero by 2040, using 2019 data as a baseline. We will integrate sustainability into our built environment program, reduce the carbon intensity of our infrastructure, reduce business travel emissions and enable sustainable travel, and engage our suppliers to set their own science-based targets.

We can’t meet our emission reduction goals on our own, and we don’t have all the answers for how we’ll succeed. It will take unprecedented cooperation, especially up and down the value chain. The next big wave of climate action will come from innovations that span the customer-supplier relationship, and as the world’s leader in customer relationship management, we know we have an important role to play.

Priority 2: Remove carbon

To accelerate your journey to net zero, reduce your emissions and draw down the carbon in the atmosphere. We need these solutions in combination to deliver the greatest impact and progress toward a 1.5 degree Celsius future. There’s increasing stakeholder pressure from investors, governments, individuals, and businesses to act today, and there’s no time to waste. Some emissions can't be avoided or reduced in the near term, and that's why Salesforce compensates today for all emissions across Scope 1, 2, and 3 that we cannot avoid or reduce — not as a distraction from the longer-term and more systemic work, but in addition to it. We take a portfolio approach, investing in high-impact projects that aim to improve people's lives, deliver environmental impact, and avoid or remove carbon emissions today. Over time, we will transition to removal credits only with the same focus on quality and impact.

Priority 3: Restore our ecosystem

Identify ways your organization can make the biggest impact on climate-restoring natural resources. Trees, for example, naturally remove atmosphere-warming carbon from the air. At Salesforce, we’re proud to be a founding member of 1t.org, where we support and mobilize the conservation, restoration, and growth of 100 million trees by the end of 2030. Oceans — the largest ecosystem on Earth — are another critical tool. Not only do they remove carbon from the atmosphere, but they also create over half the world’s oxygen supply and are a food source for billions. The Salesforce Ocean Sustainability Program promotes sound ocean stewardship as a mitigation strategy in the fight against climate change.

Priority 4: Educate and mobilize

Give your employees opportunities and resources to take action on climate issues. Research shows that individuals feel powerless to stop climate change, so your company should leverage opportunities to connect with experts in the climate community on best practices and new strategies. You can do this by collaborating directly with like-minded peers or by partnering on a companywide scale with industry groups that are taking positive action. Provide continuous learning opportunities for your employees using tools like myTrailhead.

Priority 5: Innovate

Prioritize innovation by supporting ecopreneurs — purpose-driven entrepreneurs who are driving and scaling meaningful climate action. Accelerate the path to decarbonization in your company by increasing investment in sustainability research, development, and infrastructure. Partner with players along your entire value chain to multiply the force of your investment. Find and invest in ecopreneurs on UpLink, a digital platform that connects local innovators with the people and resources that can transform their ideas into reality. At Salesforce, we’re investing $10 million by 2025 in ecopreneurs through venture capital funds. Grant-making, philanthropy, and buying carbon credits are more ways to make an impact.

Priority 6: Advocate regulation and policy

Put science first by using your influence. Business leaders often have a seat at the table with world leaders who set critical governmental policies. At Salesforce, we advocate for clear and consistent science-based climate policies that facilitate a just and equitable transition to a 1.5 degree future. We are formalizing climate policy as a public priority and building a global presence on the issue in areas where employees live and work.

How to Do Your Part

The truth is, planet Earth cannot scream more loudly for help than what we’re seeing today. As the scientists of the world agree, this is code red. We are in the greatest crisis our species has ever faced.

But even with all the devastation – from fires, floods, droughts, storms and smoke – there’s a positive way to look at it.

There’s never been greater positive impact available to any human being, like that of time spent on climate action today. Your children and grandchildren, all the future generations of the world, will wonder what it was like to be part of the success story we’re about to write. It has to start today.

If not now, when?

Let’s get to net zero faster, together.

Read Salesforce’s playbook to accelerate your journey to Net Zero.
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