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Salesforce Ramps Up Investments in Global Fight Against Climate Change

By Gary E. Frank
Climate Change

Salesforce is giving a total of $11 million to 12 global nonprofits in the first round of donations from its $100 million Ecosystem Restoration and Global Justice Fund. The donations, which were announced April 12 at the company’s Net Zero Summit, support key programs that have embarked on various strategies to tackle climate change, including ones that enhance natural carbon sinks, protect biodiversity and create green jobs.

“We believe that philanthropy can be a powerful tool in fighting climate change,” said Naomi Morenzoni, senior vice president of philanthropy at Salesforce, in a public statement. “Climate change impacts everyone, and it disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable communities. Through our philanthropic donations, we aim to support organizations that work with local communities to find meaningful, nature-based climate solutions.”

The organizations receiving the funds include American Forests, the Arbor Day Foundation, Conservation International, Fundación Natura, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, One Tree Planted, Restor, Save The Bay, the Nature Conservancy, the Ocean Foundation, Wetlands International, and the World Resources Institute.

A shift from traditional philanthropy

“Our investments are focused on locally-led innovation and supporting projects with multiple impacts,” Morenzoni told TriplePundit. “We will be measuring the impact of these donations through metrics such as number of trees and mangroves planted, metric tons of carbon dioxide reduced, and the economic value of ecosystem services provided.”

In vetting these organizations, “We worked with them to understand what kind of support would be most meaningful and where they would be able to infuse our capital,” Morenzoni said.

She added that Salesforce looks to support “trusted organizations that work closely and have longstanding relationships with local communities.”

“We spend a lot of time doing deep listening with our partners to understand where our dollars can have the greatest impact,” Morenzoni explained. “We also have regular check-ins with our partners to learn how projects are going and assess our investments.”

Philanthropic donations generally provide “risk-tolerant capital” to nature-based climate change solution projects, about half of which fail, Morenzoni claimed.

“Philanthropy can play a distinct role in supporting early-stage innovations that have immense potential, but no guarantee,” she said. “The projects may not always pan out as expected, but if they support the understanding of what works or doesn’t work when it comes to climate innovation, it’s helping to move us forward.”

Supporting the climate change fight on the ground

Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, said the Salesforce donation is “game changing” for the nonprofit in several ways. For example, the funds will allow for the extension of the organization's Tree Equity Score, which calculates how much tree canopy and surface temperature align with income, employment, race, age and health factors in the United States. In addition, American Forests said it will develop a Tree Equity Score program for the United Kingdom to serve as a pilot for other countries. Other initiatives include the opening of a new Hawaii field office to accelerate reforestation efforts there, as well as expanded development of climate-informed reforestation of lands lost to forest fires across the western U.S.

“We are also using Salesforce’s leadership to draw in other corporate partners and philanthropies who share these goals,” Daley told TriplePundit. “That support covers a wide range of needed investment, from science and planning, workforce development, and coalition building to funding the actual costs of tree-planting projects.”

Further, the funds from Salesforce will enable the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Global Restoration Initiative to expand its efforts to support small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) working in sustainable agriculture and forestry.

“Less than 10 percent of the SMEs in developing countries get the capacity and capital they need, compared to more than 60 percent in developed nations like the United States,” said Sean Dewitt, WRI’s global restoration initiative director.

A focus on climate action in the Global South

WRI launched its Land Accelerator in 2018 to build the capacity of hundreds of entrepreneurs working to restore degraded forests and farmland across Africa, South America and South Asia. So far, Land Accelerator graduates have received more than $2 million in seed capital funding, improved the livelihoods of more than 10,000 people and brought 30,000 hectares under restoration, Dewitt said.

“With local communities managing more than 9 percent of land across India, and Indigenous people safeguarding 12 percent in Brazil, organizations that engage these communities will be at the forefront of the growing restoration industry,” he added. “Salesforce funding allows us to deploy the Land Accelerator to target micro enterprises in India and mid-growth SMEs in Brazil.”

Both Dewitt and Daley said their nonprofits will be communicating with Salesforce on a regular basis to report on the progress of their work addressing climate change.

Within its own ranks, Salesforce says it is tying executive bonuses to progress made in advancing the company’s initiatives in sustainability and equality. In February, Salesforce announced that it would tie a portion of executive variable pay for executive vice presidents and higher within its organization chart to four environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measures to build greater accountability and accelerate the company’s various social impact and sustainability initiatives. For this fiscal year, the measures at Salesforce focus on equality and sustainability.

Image credit: Ron Lach via Pexels

Gary E. Frank headshot

Gary E. Frank is a writer with more than 30 years of experience encompassing journalism, marketing, media relations, speech writing, university communications and corporate communications. 

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