One of Silicon Valley’s most opinionated CEOs says it’s time for more companies to be vocal about important social issues.
“You should have a point of view, you should be clear on what your point of view is,” Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, said on Monday at the Code Enterprise conference in San Francisco. “You have to be clear what your company stands for.”
His comments come less than a week after Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election — a victory that has hit hard at the liberal core of Silicon Valley and left some of America’s most wealthy corporations asking about their role in the outcome.
Benioff said the election has underlined that need for companies to be more vocal. Benioff himself has been leading corporate America all year in a push against several issues.
He was one of the first to speak out against a law in North Carolina that restricted LGBT rights and was a leading voice against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, proposed by Governor Mike Pence — now the vice president in waiting. He also fought a Georgia bill that allowed faith-based organizations to discriminate against people based on their beliefs.
He said CEOs owed it to their brand and stakeholders to stand up or lobby for things.
“I don’t think that CEOs should be political,” he said. “CEOs should understand that employees and customers and consumers have a choice of products and brands that they do business with and [the CEO] represents those people, all the stakeholders.”
“We are shifting from CEOs who are all about shareholders and I think it’s becoming all about the stakeholders.”
Asked what he would do in the wake of the election, Benioff said the result hasn’t changed him.
“I need to do everything that I have been doing,” he said. “My values and believes don’t shift. I need to advocate.”