Salesforce's Sustainability Cloud aims for carbon accountability

With consumers and industry players alike looking for ways to curb carbon emissions, Salesforce is introducing a new platform for tracking and reporting reliable environmental data.

The tech industry embraces sustainability ZDNet's Stephanie Condon tells Karen Roby about Salesforce's new Sustainability Cloud, as well as ways the tech industry is working to reduce its carbon footprint. Read more: https://zd.net/30fvhqE

As the climate crisis looms over our collective future, consumers, investors and executives alike are asking what can be done to curb the corporate world's carbon footprint. With that in mind, Salesforce on Wednesday announced a new cloud service that aims to bring some carbon accountability to the enterprise. 

The new Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, currently in beta with customers, is designed to help organizations track, analyze and report reliable environmental data. Customers can track KPIs like renewable energy use, overall energy consumption and carbon emissions over time. With this kind of data in hand, organizations can demonstrate to their own customers and investors how they're attempting to limit their carbon emissions. They could also gain insights to drive carbon-cutting plans across the business, Salesforce says. 

The platform uses Salesforce Einstein Analytics to surface relevant data and create dynamic reports and dashboards, for audit purposes or executive engagement. It's expected to be generally available by December. 

"At Salesforce, we've always believed business is the greatest platform for change. Addressing climate change with speed and at scale is critical to see a turning point by 2020," Suzanne DiBianca, chief impact officer and EVP of corporate relations at Salesforce, said in a statement. "Businesses must work together to be the greatest force for climate transformation the world has ever seen." 

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Salesforce is rolling out the Sustainability Cloud ahead of  Climate Week NYC, which is taking place in New York alongside the UN General Assemby and the UN Climate Action Summit. On Saturday, Salesforce plans to participate in the first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit to support young leaders who are pushing for climate action.

As a headline sponsor of Climate Week NYC, Salesforce is also announcing a series of new sustainability commitments. It's one of multiple organizations, for instance, that has committed to set 1.5°C science-based emissions reduction targets aligned with a net-zero future. The company is also giving a $250,000 grant to EcoRise, a K–12 school-based nonprofit, to expand environmental STEM education programming in New York City schools. 

Salesforce has already committed to reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2022 and delivering a carbon-neutral cloud to all customers.

Several other major tech companies have also adopted sustainability goals. Earlier this year, for example, Microsoft said its data centers will run on 60 percent renewable energy by 2020. To curb its emissions, Microsoft has had an internal "carbon tax" in place since 2012 that puts the onus on individual business divisions to cut their own carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, Google last year began purchasing more energy from wind and solar farms than the electricity its global operations use. Amazon continues to expand its renewable energy projects and reached a 50 percent renewable energy target in 2018. Apple claimed to be operating on 100 percent renewable sources in 2018 and is trying to clean up its supply chain as well. 

At the same time, workers at these big tech companies are demanding even more. Employees from Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are all expected to stage a walkout on Friday for "climate justice." They have specific demands -- the Amazon workers, for instance, want the Seattle-based company to commit to zero emissions by 2030 and pilot electric vehicles in communities most impacted by pollution.

Concern over climate change isn't just impacting the tech industry. As Salesforce's new platform suggests, people across the enterprise are questioning their practices and how climate change will impact them. 

In a global KPMG survey released earlier this year, CEOs cited climate change as the top risk to their organization's growth. Meanwhile, global sustainable investing grew to more than $30 trillion in 2018, a 34 percent increase in two years, Salesforce says.

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