Salesforce Sustainability Director Patrick Flynn got the bug for sustainability early in his career as a mechanical engineer, when he did systems designs for high-rise commercial and residential buildings. “I saw there was a great opportunity to design our buildings more thoughtfully and with a longer-term vision,” Flynn said. This led to positions in clean tech investing and eventually to his current role at Salesforce.

Flynn spoke with us about the role of innovation and collaboration in sustainability and his aspirations for BSR’s Future of Internet Power initiative.

Eva Dienel: What are Salesforce’s top sustainability priorities for the year?

Patrick Flynn: At Salesforce, we’ve made two recent significant commitments: to power all Salesforce operations with 100 percent renewable energy and to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This year we want to make swift, steady, and thoughtful progress in achieving these goals.

Dienel: What steps are you taking to achieve those goals?

Flynn: Recently, we made our biggest step yet to achieving this goal by signing two large wind energy agreements on grids in West Virginia and Texas, where we have data center loads. Energy production at those two wind farms will be larger than our most recent fiscal year’s total electricity consumption companywide.

We lease our data centers, so we had to think about adding renewables on grids where we have a footprint but are not the owner. We pursued virtual power purchase agreements, which allowed us to meet our goals and add energy to the grid without being a direct energy consumer. This creative approach provides a blueprint for other companies to make forward progress as well.

We aren’t stopping there though. We’re continuing to focus on what else we can do to reduce our footprint and accelerate our shift toward renewable energy.

Dienel: Salesforce worked with BSR to conduct a materiality assessment. Tell us about how that fits into your approach to sustainability.

Flynn: We constantly engage with our stakeholders to understand and evaluate opportunities to lead and innovate. In doing this, we’re confirming what we have always known: The best sustainability strategies start by recognizing what it is you do, where you have influence, and how you can use your core strengths as a business to drive positive change. It’s also important to be sure you collect feedback from a broad set of internal and external stakeholders.

This year, I’ll be thinking about how Salesforce can really continue to lead by example and how we can use our core strengths as an innovative, growing company to define what a sustainable software company is going to look like.

Dienel: You also work with BSR through the Future of Internet Power initiative. How is that helping you meet your sustainability goals?

Flynn: We believe the Future of Internet Power has tremendous potential to redefine what it means to be a technology leader, particularly when it comes to how companies like Salesforce work with service providers and how they in turn work with utilities. We’re thrilled to join some of the most innovative companies in the world to help push forward environmental progress.

 

This blog is one in a series highlighting BSR members and their sustainability stories. To learn more about BSR membership, please contact memberservices@bsr.org, visit the BSR Membership webpage, or join the conversation at #BSRmember.