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Through the Coronavirus Crisis, This Top SaaS Stock Is Putting People Over Profits With ESG

By Dan Caplinger - Apr 14, 2020 at 6:50AM

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Some companies take ESG issues seriously. Here's one.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a tragedy, with the number of those afflicted with the COVID-19 disease on the rise daily. Economically, it's also been a huge problem, as millions of people have lost their jobs and tens of millions more are waiting in limbo in hopes that they'll eventually get called back to work.

Employers are under financial stress as well. Yet some of those that are most sensitive to the principles of ESG investing -- environmental , social, and governance issues -- are still working hard to take care of all their constituencies, and not just their shareholders. In particular, one noteworthy company is taking steps to make sure that its people get taken care of, no matter what impact it might have on its bottom line.

Graphic clouds linked by blue lines on a graph-grid.

Image source: Getty Images.

A pledge for workers

At salesforce.com (CRM 1.92%), CEO Marc Benioff has been an outspoken voice for supporting his workforce. In late March, the premier SaaS company's CEO said that every corporate leader should make a pledge not to lay workers off for 90 days. Benioff then followed that up with a pledge to Salesforce workers, specifying that it would not "conduct any significant layoffs over the next 90 days." The company also committed to continuing to pay its hourly workers even while its offices remained closed.

Benioff went a step further, acknowledging the roles that Salesforce workers play in their local economies. He called on workers to try to pass financial benefits forward, encouraging them to keep paying personal workers like housekeepers and dog walkers during the coronavirus crisis.

Going beyond its scope of business

Salesforce got its start with its groundbreaking customer relationship management software, expanding to cover a broader swath of the cloud computing industry. But it's also decided to play a more active role in trying to deal with the health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. In early April, Benioff said that Salesforce had brought more than 50 million pieces of personal protective equipment to New York and other hotspots, and it's continuing to lead efforts to work with corporate giants around the world to get more PPE to where it's needed most. Partners in helping with those acquisitions and shipments included China's Alibaba Group (BABA 2.04%), with which Salesforce already had a business relationship.

Salesforce is also stepping up its charitable efforts. On April 10, Salesforce committed an additional $1.5 million toward coronavirus relief efforts, splitting the money between New York's COVID-19 Emergency Fund, food banks in Spain and Germany, a French social service organization focusing on immigrant youth and homeless families, and Red Cross organizations in Italy, Germany, and France.

Putting tech to the test

Salesforce is also looking at ways to use its technological expertise toward furthering relief efforts. In the U.K., an app on the Salesforce platform is designed to help National Health Service staff members order and pick up essential food items wherever they are. In France, a digital service hotline allows those who are quarantined to use online resources for essential services.

To be clear, Salesforce isn't leaving its customers out. Its Salesforce Care initiative is offering the tools of its platforms free for 90 days, including live sessions and onboarding efforts, technical support, and a community of experts trying to help businesses navigate through these unprecedented times.

Just the latest in ESG from Salesforce

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Salesforce took ESG investing seriously. Coming into 2020, the company's emphasis on sustainability was noteworthy, with issues like climate change forcing Salesforce to reevaluate the primacy of shareholders over other stakeholders in companies. Investors and customers alike want to work with companies that share their values, and Salesforce has seen the value of responding to those wishes. Salesforce employees also appreciate the values-driven approach the company takes toward sustainability.

Salesforce is just one of many companies looking to help people in need during the coronavirus pandemic. It can't succeed alone, but by setting an example for others to follow, Salesforce is a driving force that could help the business world play its part in beating back the COVID-19 outbreak once and for all.

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