Salesforce, Google and others aim for "climate accountability" in the cloud

Salesforce is making sustainability a core company value, reflecting the way corporations are reconsidering their environmental impact.

Salesforce on Wednesday announced it's putting a greater focus on tackling climate change, making sustainability one of its core company values. In practice, that means taking steps to hold executives, suppliers, and customers accountable for their carbon footprint. 

To help customers measure their carbon footprint, Salesforce is making its Net Zero Cloud 2.0 product generally available globally. The Net Zero Cloud helps companies across industries report and track sustainability data, helping them become "net zero" organizations that eliminate as much carbon in the atmosphere as they produce. 

Salesforce's efforts are part of a larger trend -- a growing number of enterprises are prioritizing sustainability measures. They're facing pressure to reduce their carbon footprint from employees, investors, customers, and regulators representing different levels of government

"The pressure on organizations to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria is more widespread than most finance leaders might realize — 85% of investors considered ESG factors in their investments in 2020," Gartner noted last year. 

For cloud service providers, that means their own sustainability initiatives can help raise their reputation within the corporate world. Offering "climate accountability" tools can lead to a new source of revenue. 

"In this new era of climate accountability, companies' carbon data will need to be as trusted as their financial data," Salesforce said in an announcement Wednesday. "Organizations will also need to know how to reduce emissions in a credible and meaningful way."

To demonstrate that its own efforts are meaningful, Salesforce is making "sustainability" a core value, alongside the values of trust, customer success, innovation, and equality. The company is integrating this value into its business with a variety of steps: Suppliers, for instance, have to meet Sustainability Exhibit requirements. Additionally, Salesforce's executive compensation programs are now tied to the success of ESG initiatives. 

For Salesforce customers, the Net Zero Cloud 2.0 has been revamped with new reporting and supplier management tools, as well as new analytics and forecasting capabilities. It incorporates analytics and dashboards from Tableau that visualize an organization's fastest path to net zero. 

Customers can set goals in line with Science-Based Targets and measure their progress. They can also track scope 3 emissions generated by suppliers across their supply chain. Scope 3 emissions, also known as value chain emissions, often represent the majority of an organization's total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, the Net Zero Cloud lets companies upload and track hazardous and non-hazardous waste management data and treatment methods.

While Salesforce is offering the SaaS tools for climate accountability, other major players in the cloud ecosystem are rolling out their own new products. 

Google on Wednesday unveiled the Carbon Sense suite -- a collection of features to help customers accurately understand and report and reduce carbon emissions, and reduce them. The suite includes products like Carbon Footprint, which helps measure the gross carbon emissions of an organization's Google Cloud usage. It also includes low-carbon signals that let users choose cleaner regions to run their workloads. 

The suite also includes a new tool, Active Assist for sustainability recommendations, which proactively suggests ways to reduce cloud emissions. Google says there are over 600,000 gross kgCO2e in seemingly idle projects across Google Cloud that customers can now more easily identify and remove. 

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Microsoft extended its Emissions Impact Dashboard (EID) tool Microsoft 365, allowing organizations to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their usage of Microsoft 365 applications. Back in October, Microsoft made the EID available for Azure. 

According to Microsoft, the preview of EID for Microsoft 365 is a precursor for the upcoming general availability launch of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, a SaaS solution that organizations can use to record, report, and reduce emissions across their enterprise.

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