When I perused Fortune’s latest “Change the World” ranking of companies tackling major societal problems over the weekend, I was dismayed to see how few information technology companies made the list. I wasn’t surprised, however, by the inclusion of cloud software giant Salesforce.
Philanthropy was baked into Salesforce’s business model when it was founded 17 years ago, when the company dedicated 1% of its equity, 1% of its employees’ time, and 1% of its product toward causes around the world. Even though many skeptics suggested that this sensibility would be downplayed as the company surpassed the $1 billion mark, it’s still a huge part of the $6.7 billion software giant’s corporate culture. The specific reason Salesforce (CRM) made this year’s list? Its willingness to spend $3 million on closing its gender pay gap, after discovering that 6.6% of its employees needed an adjustment.
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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has also made plenty of headlines over the past year as an outspoken critic of state laws in Georgia, North Carolina, and Indiana that threatened gay and lesbian rights. What you might not realize, however, is that there is a whole wave of up-and-coming companies—900 and counting—eager to follow in Salesforce’s footsteps through the “Pledge 1%” movement.
Two names stood out for me, because both of them are business software companies that managed to pull off successful IPOs within the past 12 months: Atlassian (TEAM), which co-founded the initiative along with Salesforce; and Twilio (TWLO), which took its pledge to donate 1% of its equity to corporate philanthropy and social causes during the run-up to its initial public offering. Yes, co-founder Jeff Lawson convinced his backers to dilute their investment by participating in the pledge.
Would it be such a bad thing if doing business to change the world became the new normal?