3 Salesforce Employees Who Turned Sustainability Into a Career
Eighty-two percent of the global workforce wants to help their company operate more sustainably. But if you take a peek inside the org chart of most large businesses operating today, you’ll likely only find one or maybe a handful of sustainability-focused titles.
Then there’s Salesforce. The company has a whole department devoted to environmental sustainability, and even hired tech’s first oceans director.
But Salesforce’s commitment to climate action goes well beyond the sustainability team alone. In fact, no matter the department, no matter the job description, and no matter the level, everyone at Salesforce is working toward a separate and somewhat aspirational title: Chief Sustainability Officer.
Everyone at Salesforce, whether you’re in Finance or any other part of the company, everyone needs to be a Chief Sustainability Officer.
That sentiment was embraced by Joe Allanson, who in 2021 took on the brand-new role of Finance ESG, EVP after nearly two decades at Salesforce (he was employee #380) thanks to a create-your-own-role adventure that Marc Benioff, the company’s Founder and Co-CEO, and Amy Weaver, Chief Financial Officer, put before him.
The culture of encouraging everyone to take accountability for climate action is also evidenced in Salesforce’s newest core company value — sustainability — and among a workforce showing their passion for fighting climate change. Take Salesforce’s Earthforce team, which has nearly 10,000 members across the globe and is united by the mission to make a positive impact on the environment through volunteering and other initiatives.
Or, Benioff himself, who has a longstanding vision of helping fight climate change.
The cumulative weight behind this effort combined with a climate emergency playing out across the globe requires passion and urgency. That means sustainability careers are an option for Salesforce employees who may have had more “traditional” roles in the past. Marketing? There’s now a sustainability job for that. Comms? Developer? Procurement? Same – the opportunities are there to create a planet-friendly career path, no matter your experience. The only prerequisite is passion.
Here are three stories of people who steered their passion into full-time sustainability careers at Salesforce.
A boomerang carving her own path
Avery Schlicher first came to Salesforce by chance after the acquisition of Buddy Media. She left that role, but then, something lured her back.
“I came back because Salesforce was really leading in sustainability,” she says of her decision. “The company was walking the walk and talking the talk, and I wanted to be part of that again.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that the walking and the talking struck a chord for Schlicher.
“Sustainability is my passion in life – always has been,” she says. “I was the ‘don’t waste paper kid’ in school, and really all I’ve ever wanted to do in life is somehow, in some way, save the world.”
With ambition aplenty, Schlicher started off her second Salesforce tenure in a more traditional Success Manager role, but got involved in sustainability efforts where she could — joining Earthforce, where she became one of the NYC hub leads, and in the following year, elected to the global leadership team. But then another opportunity presented itself, and Schlicher turned that ambition into initiative.
“I actually invented this job [to bring Net Zero Cloud to market] two and a half years ago,” she explains. “It didn’t exist at Salesforce.”
That role is Director of Sustainability Solutions, which she describes as “a combination of a salesperson and a marketer and to go-to-market person” all with an eye toward providing Salesforce customers with the technology, solutions, and strategies they need to get to net zero and achieve their sustainability goals.
And with programs like Trailhead there to educate and empower those passionate about creating climate-centric journeys, the tools and exposure are there for anyone interested to also get involved. As Salesforce’s Global Head of Sustainability Patrick Flynn put it: “We need everyone to do what they do best” to fight climate change.
It’s that very passion that opens up doors and keeps people happy, and it’s what Schlicher believes has helped her thrive in her role. And if you’ve got that Capital P type of Passion but maybe don’t have the direct experience yet, don’t sweat it, according to Schlicher.
“You can learn anything, but you can’t fake passion. You can’t fake caring about something,” she says, and that’s what she reminds others – and herself – each and every day. Because she’s got a big end goal in mind, and she needs all the help she can get from other like-minded people.
“At the end of the day, the point is to save the world.”
When sustainability is all about community
It all started when Bianca Williams was a teenager in Philadelphia. Those please-don’t-litter flyers posted around the neighborhood? Williams put them there. She was also the one rallying her friends to clean up her local community. But leaving extra garbage cans in parks and picking up loose wrappers on her block was just the beginning.
“That translated later into just being much more conscious of the environment holistically,” Williams says.
But, she never thought of it as a career. After kick starting her career in marketing, though, the pandemic got her “thinking much more about public policy and sustainability and really making a social impact” with her career.
She saw an open role at Salesforce, and the rest is history: Since April 2021, she’s been the company’s Strategic Marketing & Engagement ESG Manager, where she focuses “primarily on the mobilization and engagement of our nature-based solutions initiatives.”
For Williams, that means helping the 1t.org initiative, which Salesforce co-founded with the World Economic Forum to grow, conserve, and restore one trillion trees across the world. She’s also looking for employees like her – the anti-litter kids – “who are looking for ways to engage around the world, and want to do their part to protect the environment.”
Essentially, she’s trying to create a community to keep a bigger neighborhood – the planet – clean, because for Williams, nature equals community.
“I love nature, but I don’t love nature just for the sake of nature,” she explains. “I love how people connect with nature and depend on nature, and I love taking care of nature because nature takes care of us. That’s why I love talking about sustainability – it’s the connection with people.”
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Creating a universal language for sustainability
Aside from recruiting all the Chief Sustainability Officers that he can, Joe Allanson has another tall task that he’s trying to tackle. And it’s one that, if done right, has an impact that goes far beyond Salesforce.
“If I say the word revenue,” Joe Allanson says in his always-upbeat way, “I don’t care what part of Salesforce you’re in or what part of the business community you’re in, we would have a common understanding of what that is.”
Sustainability and all of its components, though, are a little bit squishier.
“There’s a common language that we’re missing in our ability to communicate with investors and with other constituents when we’re talking about sustainability,” he explains.
Allanson’s been there and done this before, having redefined accounting standards for SaaS business models during his two decades in traditional finance. So, he decided that leading the charge to create sustainability’s universal dialect would be central to his role as EVP of ESG Finance. Think revenue and earnings reports, but for sustainability – which has even more utility than you’d imagine.
More than 90% of global employees surveyed in Salesforce’s latest research think easier-to-understand sustainability reporting would help build trust in companies’ commitments.
So a little more than a year ago, Allanson traded in his guidebooks on revenue for ones on greenhouse gas and trees.
“I candidly wish I paid more attention to my science classes in high school and in college,” Allanson says of the transition. “A large part of my job early on was trying to reskill myself here.”
Urgency forced him to not only be a quick study, but served as motivation for diving right in and getting things right.
“We’re dealing with a planetary emergency, so we don’t have 10 or 20 years to figure a uniform set of standards out. We’ve got to go now, and that’s what makes this thing very exciting and very dynamic,” he says.
“Salesforce people are all about doing the impossible,” he reflects. “I’ve never seen us shy away from a challenge. That’s what makes this thing inspiring and exciting for me.”
When sustainability meets opportunity
The idea that, with the right training, anyone can be a Chief Sustainability Officer may be a critical one in the race to net zero. As businesses struggle to source qualified sustainability talent to meet increasingly ambitious sustainability commitments, data shows that looking inward is a promising strategy.
In a recent survey, Salesforce found that nearly 7 out of 10 global workers wish they had sustainability-related qualifications. And yet, 88% said a lack of investment in training towards those qualifications is what’s stopping companies from reaching their sustainability goals.
As it turns out, people all over the world want to be unofficial Chief Sustainability Officers. That’s what’s called an opportunity — and one no business can ignore.
- Dive into a report highlighting how businesses can close the sustainability talent gap.
- Learn more about Salesforce sustainability careers.