Brands Taking Stands™ | Behind RAICES Refusal of Salesforce Grant

Aug 8, 2018 2:00 PM ET

Brands Taking Stands™ Newsletter | August 8, 2018


Stand-Off in Refusal of Salesforce Grant for Immigration Relief

Under the leadership of Marc Benioff, Salesforce has been viewed as one of the more progressive tech companies in a sector now widely criticized for its disengagement from social concerns. The fourth largest software firm (market cap: $79 billion) has established a strong reputation for both its innovative savvy within an innovation-driven field and for promoting social causes while doing so. “Many [of its] customers like to feel they are not only buying software but doing good for the world,” Keith Weiss of Morgan Stanley told The Economist.

Benioff has taken emphatic public positions on several social causes, ranging from gay rights to equal pay for women. At his direction, the company has handed out $168 million in philanthropic grants. After building the tallest office tower west of Chicago, he has reserved its top floor with its sweeping views of the Bay Area for meetings by nonprofits. He has announced a $3 million donation to fight homelessness in San Francisco. He often speaks as a high-level consigliere to the entire tech sector, encouraging other tech companies to join his social activist and philanthropic efforts, and challenging tech companies for donations to a $200 million fund to eradicate homelessness from San Francisco streets. “Instead of seeing us as part of the problem in technology, tech wants to be part of the solution,” Benioff said, speaking on behalf of the entire industry.

His reasons for social activism are based in a fundamental belief that as “political leaders become weaker, chief executives have to become stronger.”

So Benioff must have been surprised then, to hear that RAICES, a small Texas-based nonprofit raising funds to cover the legal costs of Latino families separated by ICE at the border, was refusing a $250,000 grant from Salesforce. In a Facebook post, RAICES (which means “roots” in Spanish) declined a $250,000 donation from the company saying that the company’s cloud software is the “operational backbone of the agency [Customs Border Patrol] and thus does support in implementing its inhumane and immoral practices.” (CBP uses Salesforce’s cloud software in its hiring process.)

RAICES said it would accept the donation only if Salesforce “would commit to ending [its] contract with [CBP].” To date, Salesforce has said it will not do so.

This standoff has its roots in an earlier request by Salesforce employees that the company cancel its contract with the federal agency, as Jan Lee, writing in Triple Pundit, noted:

“In June, some 650 employees signed an open letter to the CEO Marc Benioff calling on him to reconsider allowing Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to use the company’s cloud software in hiring processes. While the company declined to say at the time whether it would cancel the contract, it did take what some might consider innovative steps to dispel the controversy, by donating a quarter-million dollars to RAICES.”

Lee explains that “Tech companies that specialize in surveillance and cloud-based services are discovering an uncomfortable truth about this century’s new economy: Today’s skilled workers aren’t afraid to speak up, and speak up loudly, if they feel their employer isn’t living up to its ethical potential.”

You can bet that senior leadership at Microsoft, Google, and Amazon—all of whom have received letters from their employees questioning the companies’ decisions to enter into contracts that provide services to federal agencies—are watching the final outcome of this standoff over how to take a stand.


ELLE UK Dedicates September Issue to Sustainability

ELLE UK will create a fall issue dedicated to encouraging a more environmentally friendly fashion industry. “The issue addresses how the fashion industry and consumers can make meaningful changes to the way they work and shop to help the environment.” It’s the latest effort to support sustainability in the fashion industry which has been slow to change, but which now seems to be moving into high fear, as reported in a previous BTS Newsletter. The issue will be printed on 100% recycled paper, and contains “a collection of easy but meaningful changes that all of you can adopt to help make ethical consuming part of your day.” To support the issue, ELLE conducted research to assess the level of awareness among young women in the UK. Key findings: 62% are more likely to buy an item of clothing from a brand that values sustainability, and 51% want to know what they can do to become more sustainable. Said contributor Stella McCartney, “The fashion industry has been using the same ten materials for the past 200 to 300 years—come on guys: the food industry is changing, the fashion industry is doing the same old stuff, and getting away with it.”

Thomas Cook Cancels SeaWorld Trips Due to Orca Welfare Issues

Viewers of the 2013 documentary Blackfish saw a dismaying exposé about the horrific treatment of captive killer whales by their owners, SeaWorld. The brutal treatment of the animals led to the death of a trainer, which SeaWorld attempted to spin as a tragic accident rather than an inevitable outcome of its poor treatment of the animals. Five years after the PR disaster, the company seems to be recovering: revenues have risen as has attendance, and the stock price is up 80%.
The recovery could be attributed to SeaWorld’s ending of the breeding of orcas in captivity and of orca shows in its San Diego park (they continue elsewhere), and its emphasis on wildlife conservation efforts and investment in new rides, park experiences, and marketing.
For Thomas Cook, that shift in focus is not enough. The holiday travel agency giant has announced it will stop selling trips to animal parks that keep killer whales. "We have actively engaged with a range of animal welfare specialists in the last 18 months, and taken account of the scientific evidence they have provided,” chief executive Peter Fankhauser told the BBC. “We have also taken feedback from our customers, more than 90% of whom told us that it was important that their holiday company takes animal welfare seriously.”
Last year, Thomas Cook began an audit of 49 animal parks to see if they met its policy on animal welfare, based on standards set by ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents). Some 29 failed, and the travel firm stopped selling tickets.

Athletes Speak Out on Social Issues

At a time when star professional athletes compete with their leagues with identities as brands, complete with individual lucrative contracts and product endorsements, it makes sense that they would defend their brand reputation if challenged.
The brand “LeBron James” is arguably as large and influential as that of the NBA itself. When brand James was criticized by President Trump, it stirred a hornet’s nest of support from his fellow athletes. The speed and volume of these protests is a recent phenomenon, as noted by the Washington Post: “When it comes to political and social activism, athletes of all colors and genders are finding their voice and refusing to remain silent, whether in vocal, physical or social media demonstrations. The activism may not please the president or owners like the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, but it is cascading.” The latest, strongest statement came from ESPN’s Randy Moss on his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he wore a tie bearing the names of young African-Americans shot by police: “With great powers come great responsibility.” With the new NFL season starting up with a continuing controversy over protests in the offing, it’s a reminder that “sports as usual” now includes comments on social issues as part of the game.

3BL Forum’s Brands Taking Stands™ Conference Registration Open

On October 23-25, 2018, 3BL Forum will once again convene a diverse group of business, policy and NGO leaders to share insights, advance best practices and workshop forward-thinking solutions to the most pressing sustainability challenges of our time.
3BL Forum 2018 will feature the theme, Brands Taking Stands™ with a focus on 'The Long View – The Role of the Corporate Responsibility Professional as Companies Build for the Future Amid Pressure to Prioritize Profit Today.' The event will be held just outside Washington DC, at MGM National Harbor.

Click here to register.


“The images portrayed in advertising matter. They unconsciously embed bias. I think the days of general audience and general marketing are gone—and I think that’s a good thing. What people want is to see themselves. This is not a time to be unclear on what your point of view is [and] what side of history you choose to be on.”

—Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, P&G 

Source: 3BL Media


Indra Nooyi is stepping down as PepsiCo chief executive in October. She will remain as chairman of the company until 2019. Nooyi led the company for the past 12 years, directing the shift towards more health-focused foods and beverages. Since 2006, the company has reported an 80 percent rise in revenue and shareholder return of 162 percent under her leadership. “Nobody’s going to remember you for delivering earnings to stockholders; they will remember you for the lasting impact you made on society,’’ Nooyi has said. Ramon Laguarta, a 22-year company veteran, and currently president, will assume the chief executive role.

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Continue the important conversations on corporate responsibility long after 3BL Forum with the Brands Taking Stands newsletter. Written by veteran journalist, John Howell, this newsletter is published every Wednesday morning.