“I think everybody realizes we’re in a planetary emergency and we need to make changes, and business is the greatest platform for change.”
—Marc Benioff, founder, chair & CEO, Salesforce
ACCELERATING NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS TO CARBON REMOVAL
The Sahel region of Africa is arguably the planet’s most climate-devastated area. The enormous land belt stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, touching more than one dozen countries. While once a fertile strip of nearly 1.2 million square miles, the region is grappling with accelerating desertification and drought, which threaten the area’s delicate food security and employment opportunities. Effects are felt globally, due in part to the rise in human migration these conditions have caused.
But what if the Sahel could be rescued—by trees? The Great Green Wall is an ambitious plan to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land in the region. Once complete, it would be the largest living structure in the world.
The Great Green Wall in the Sahel is just one of four regional hubs supported by 1t.org, a multi-stakeholder platform launched by Salesforce, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other partners in January 2020 to aid an ongoing global initiative to conserve, restore and grow one trillion trees by 2030. This 10-year timeline aligns with the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, which scientists have signaled is our last chance to avert catastrophic climate change.
Forests are critical to the health of the planet. They provide a natural barrier of protection against air pollution, soil erosion and flooding. And they are one of the most effective nature-based solutions for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Yet in the last 8,000 years, human activity has led to the loss or degradation of half the Earth’s forests, accelerating climate change and biodiversity collapse. Disturbingly, the science journal Nature reported in July 2021 that parts of the Amazon rainforest (another of the four regions targeted for support by 1t.org) are releasing more carbon than they are absorbing.
But the One Trillion Trees effort could capture an estimated 200 gigatons of carbon over the coming decades, an amount equal to two-thirds of the pollution produced since the Industrial Revolution.
If we are to save our planet—and ourselves—from irreversible climate change, we need to recruit everyone, everywhere in this mission. This includes embracing a powerful climate solution that can be delivered by anyone, anywhere: trees.
—Marc Benioff and Jad Daley, President & CEO, American Forests
Salesforce has long recognized the environment as a key stakeholder, which is formalized in its core values and reflected in its ambitious sustainability strategy. And since 2017, the company has invested in nature-based solutions for carbon removal. Founder, chair and CEO Marc Benioff deepened this approach through a personal and company-wide commitment to reforestation—a journey informed and inspired by the work of scientist Thomas Crowther and his team at Crowther Lab in Switzerland. In 2020, Salesforce made its own commitment to grow, restore and conserve 100 million trees by 2030.
Marc Benioff, founder, chair & CEO, Salesforce
“Planting one trillion trees won’t be easy, but each one of us can make a difference in this fight.”
“What is your highest priority? What is your highest value? What is truly important to you? If trust is not your highest value, then your company is going to be in a crisis of trust.”
Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer & EVP of Corporate Relations, Salesforce
“We all have a role to play, based on our unique skills, resources and core competencies. I challenge you: what can you do with what you have in your toolbox to deliver impact that planet Earth might actually notice?”
DEPLOYING KEY STRENGTHS TO SUPPORT A GLOBAL NETWORK
The Salesforce team’s approach toward supporting the trillion tree community began with listening and learning from experts, advocates and practitioners—from Crowther to Jane Goodall to American Forests, the oldest conservation organization in the United States. Only then did Benioff understand how he might best leverage the company’s key strengths—technology, capital, and a dynamic community of employees and customers—to supplement the many conservation and reforestation efforts already underway. This led to Benioff and Salesforce’s commitment to co-develop 1t.org, which is not a new initiative but a unifying infrastructure for mobilizing investment and collaboration among diverse partners around the world.
In addition to the 1t.org platform, Salesforce technology powers the US Chapter of 1t.org, which was launched in August 2020 and today is co-managed by American Forests and a team at WEF. The chapter’s US Stakeholder Council, which consists of government, business and civil society leaders and activists, has standardized a pledge process for corporate investors.
Salesforce also co-developed and powers Uplink, a digital platform for crowdsourcing UN Sustainable Development Goal innovations. Uplink connects “ecopreneurs” around the world to resources, professional expertise and capital. To date, the platform has received over 350 climate action solutions to the global Trillion Trees Challenge. The community continues to grow.
Now more than ever, it is of vital importance for businesses to become climate advocates. We need all businesses to use not only their influence but also their core competencies and rapid innovation to create meaningful solutions for tackling climate change. One of them is investing in nature-based solutions like trees and joining the 1t.org global movement, so everyone has the health, economic and climate benefits that trees create.
—Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer & EVP of Corporate Relations, Salesforce
Salesforce is catalyzing bold action beyond its technology. Its employees are mobilizing and inspiring others through Earthforce, the company’s 9,000-member green team. Earthforce members are key ambassadors of the One Trillion Trees initiative, designing innovative ways to support reforestation and pushing Salesforce leadership to do more. One example is the digital tree tracker, which was built by employees in collaboration with Plant-for-the-Planet, a youth-led group of climate justice ambassadors who teamed with the UN to launch the Trillion Trees Campaign in 2018. The tracker enables donations, highlights reforestation projects and monitors the community’s progress, providing transparency to stakeholders. It currently tracks the tree-planting progress of more than 170 global projects, from Reforestemos Patagonia in Chile to Boongarri Creek in Australia. This technology is available for other companies and organizations to replicate and use. Salesforce customers who care deeply about sustainability have also created their own white-label versions of the digital tree tracker.
Committed to grow, restore and conserve 100 million trees by 2030
19 projects supported globally
13.1 million trees conserved, restored and grown (as of August 2021)
MOVING, AND IMPROVING, WITH URGENCY
As a corporate grantmaker, Salesforce deploys capital and supports tree conservation and reforestation projects around the world. In-house teams use a targeted set of criteria, including an assessment of a project’s social and ecological responsibility, to help identify sustainable projects that can yield measurable outcomes.
Streamlining the investment process and democratizing access to both markets and science will help scale the effort, particularly among corporate grantmakers. While academic literature on ecosystem conservation and restoration is in abundance, it remains part of the journey to efficiently embed the science into a standardized RFP process and scoring rubric for grant proposals. 1t.org and other communities of practice are working together to guide faster, well-informed and transparent grantmaking decisions.
Benioff and his leadership team have learned important lessons in the initiative’s first year. Worthy projects are ready for investment, but it’s not always easy to find and support them. It can be challenging to assess which projects are growing the right trees in the right place for the right reason. Salesforce continues to refine its programmatic efforts and methodology, leaning heavily on experts and external collaborators to identify and evaluate these endeavors. The team places a premium on understanding the local community context and ecological suitability of certain trees, while working to ensure that Salesforce-funded projects pay quality wages to workers on the ground.
The Salesforce community’s dedication has the company on track to meet its own internal goal to grow, restore and conserve 100 million trees by 2030. In March 2021, the tree tracker passed the 10-million mark—with millions more to come in the critical years ahead.
Marc Benioff | Success of 1t.org and UpLink. Watch Now