In an op-ed in The New York Times, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff called for a “new capitalism” that would be brought about by taxing billionaires and gearing businesses up to fight global issues like climate change. The charismatic founder argues that companies should use their power to advance important causes and says that the way our current capitalist system operates- prioritising solely profits- has to end. Making this argument for the planet and people, Benioff joins the small but rising list of major industry leaders, such as 80-year old Patagonia Founder Yves Chouinard and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who are speaking up against the very system that facilitated their rise in favour of necessary structural change if we are to stand a chance against the world’s most pressing issue, climate change.
Unlike other leading multinational corporations, cloud software tech company Salesforce was committed to more than profits since day one. Twenty years ago, Benioff had already pledged early allegiance to the 1% for the Planet movement, declaring that one percent of equity, products and employee time would be dedicated to philanthropic projects. And that didn’t stop the company’s exponential growth – it has over two decades generated billions in profits with 64 offices across 28 countries. Despite capitalism being the very system that enabled the company to thrive and generate massive amounts of money, Benioff is saying “what we all know to be true: Capitalism, as we know it, is dead.”
The Salesforce CEO doesn’t end there. He enlists a series of reasons why our current system is failing the planet, and the majority of the people inhabiting it from “horrifying inequality” to the “relentless spewing of carbon emissions [that] is pushing the planet toward catastrophic climate change.” To his critics, Benioff’s views are extreme. But to those familiar with the current crisis our planet is facing, from biodiversity loss to food insecurity, global warming to mass climate displacement, Benioff’s words are merely reflective of the situation that we are in and that most businesses are neglecting.
Unlike Salesforce, few companies have managed to commit to comprehensive measures like running net zero carbon operations. Instead, most companies have chosen to ditch responsibility with green campaigns that amount to little more than empty PR efforts. Coca-Cola, for instance, has been outed recently for being yet again the top polluting brand on earth, even after their supposed pledges to reduce ocean pollution.
In an attempt to pressure other industry leaders to step up to the plate, Benioff offers damning war-cry: “We can no longer wash our hands of responsibility for what people do with our products…if our quest for greater profits leaves our world worse off than before, all we will have taught our children is the power of greed.”
The fix, says the CEO, is a new form of capitalism that values fairness, equality and sustainability – one where businesses large and small must leave a positive impact on earth. This will inevitably require taxing billionaires and a total shift in business strategy. All stakeholders must be considered: employees, customers, communities and the environment.
Lead image courtesy of Justin Sullivan / Getty Images.