This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Suzanne DiBianca, chief philanthropy officer and executive vice president of corporate relations at Salesforce, was among the first employees at the company and has championed social impact from the beginning. Building a $50 million impact investing portfolio is her latest initiative.
She led the creation of Pledge 1%, an effort to get corporations, with Salesforce in the lead, to commit 1% of their equity, time, product or profit. More than 8,500 companies in 100 countries have joined the pledge, she says. Those companies have donated more than $250 million and even more in the value of product donations.
In that spirit, DiBianca has led the effort to build an impact investment portfolio within the larger Salesforce venture fund of more than $1 billion. She notes that Salesforce is typically a series A or B round investor and won’t lead deals.
The impact fund features 18 portfolio companies, 70% of which are women or minority-led. While she acknowledges that the percentage may creep down over time, she says, “We’re really committed to that as a core principle of the fund.”
Matt Ellis, CEO and founder of Measurabl, a startup that provides real-time monitoring of energy consumption, allowing enterprise-scale companies to address problems and reduce consumption more quickly, commented on the investment the company received from Salesforce.
He was connected to Salesforce through a referral from Impact Engine. After a standard diligence process, it closed on a $7 million series A round that included Salesforce. Camber Creek led the round, which included Concrete, Divco West, Sway Ventures and follow-on investments from seed round investors Borealis Ventures and Impact Engine.
“Measurabl’s goal is to make ESG data easy and accessible for all. Anyone who owns, occupies, leases, invests, or insures buildings gains value from our software platform,” Ellis said. “Sustainability is a core tenant of Salesforce as a company and a focus area for impact funds via Salesforce Ventures, so we are a perfect pair.”
“Actually, we’re looking for more founders is in the sustainability and climate space,” DiBianca says. “I feel like we need to move faster there.”
Speaking of the need to arrest climate change, she noted, “We have a deadline.”
At Salesforce, DiBianca’s scope of responsibility includes the company’s climate change mitigation efforts. She’s proud that the company now reports all its energy usage in its 10Ks filed annually with the SEC.
“I hope it will be a mandate for companies to do disclosures in that area,” DiBianca adds. “But I actually think business can move significantly faster than government in some of these areas.”
Impact investing is a strategic part of a broader effort for Salesforce to be good corporate citizens, donating 3 million volunteer hours, pledging 1% of the company’s equity to nonprofits, giving 300,000 nonprofits use of its products and donating cash, too.
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