Culture & Mindset41

Cultural Agility May Be Our Best Chance for Living Our Value of Sustainability

Cultural Agility May Be Our Best Chance for Living Our Value of Sustainability.

Brent Barton

June 15, 2023


Sustainability is a wicked problem. For tens of thousands of people to strive to live our newest corporate value of sustainability, along our existing ones (trust, customer success, innovation, and equality), we had to create the collaborative space with leaders. Attend this talk to see how a team from our People org and an agile coach from technology ended up collaborating with our most senior leaders to work on this the midst of war, inflation, and a budget of 300 gigatons of carbon per year. And we are over-spending that budget by producing too much carbon.


Cultural Agility May Be Our Best Chance for Living Our Value of Sustainability.(PDF)


Sustainability Guide for Salesforce Technology(PDF)



About the Speaker(s)

Brent Barton
Director Agile Delivery, Salesforce

As a Salesforce employee in an Agile coaching group, we serve over 1000 teams, many product lines, and a plethora of managers and leaders. For over 15 years, our pragmatic implementation has led to a unique organization that makes us a great place to research agility. Prior to my role at Salesforce, I founded and led multiple product startups, one of which was acquired by a company that later had a successful IPO. I have held diverse roles throughout my career, from developer, product director, CTO, and now influencer without direct reports. As always, I am better when I am part of a highly collaborative team that pursues excellence in whatever we believe is the right next action, be it true north or believing tactics is our best strategy, for now.


Video Transcript


I was shocked when I learned this. I learned that from digitalization, through technology information, the communication sectors, that we produce more greenhouse gas emissions than aviation and also shipping.

I remember a long time ago, I was a marine safety officer. I was overseeing 12,000 gallons of lubricating oil being transferred from shore onto a container ship so that it could go from the San Francisco Bay, through the Panama Canal, barely fitting through, and then end up in Europe, where it would need to load more lubricating oil. That wasn't even talking about the bunker fuel, that tar that they basically burn. Technology is putting out more greenhouse gas emissions than that. I was shocked.

I'm Brent Barton. I work at Salesforce, as you heard. I'm an enterprise agile coach. I want to talk a little bit about sustainability, then talk a little bit about living the values, and some of my stories about an internal full-time employee at Salesforce. One of the things this will work…

There we go.

One of the things I like is that we have values that align to me. Trust, customer success, innovation, equality, and a new one, sustainability. And you know what? We fall short. Most importantly is when we fall short, we talk about it. That makes a big difference to me because it makes it real and I love that. So sustainability, what is living a value of sustainability mean? That's actually kind of hard to wrap around my head, right?

I'm one person. I don't necessarily have this big impact. I have a little impact, but I don't have a big impact. So what does it mean as a company to live sustainability?

I call this next section, that I'm going to talk about before my stories, the Vinny's slides. That's because Vinny said, "Why would I listen to Salesforce about sustainability at all?" So I want to introduce that before I get into my personal story about are we living the values. And of course, this comes next. We encourage you not to make any financial investment decisions based upon any forward-looking statements I would make and instead refer to public official communications.

Keeling has been studying the amount of carbon in the atmosphere since the late 1950s. Over in Mount Aloa, which is the top mountain there in Hawaii. What we're learning is that carbon in the atmosphere is going up steadily and it keeps going up.

Oops, I know why I'm pushing the wrong button.

Okay, now I'm better at this tool. So it so happens that how did we get here is that we started burning fossil fuels and putting out a lot of carbon starting from the Industrial Revolution, and we put 271 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere. At the same time, we're cutting down a lot of trees. We've cut down 3 trillion trees, which is half of the trees on the planet, which tends to sequester or remove carbon from the atmosphere. Because carbon isn't created, it just is transformed in where it lives and so what you have is carbon going up into the atmosphere. It's warming up our air, it's going into the oceans and warming up our oceans. That's creating some challenges for us. So we have three things that we believe are important about sustainability.

One is need to go to net zero now. Because if we don't offset the carbon we produce as businesses, and I think businesses are the ones that make the biggest difference, if we don't remove… Offset by buying, sequestering, planting trees, doing all these other things you can do, we will continue to add more and more carbon into the atmosphere, and we'll run into trouble. One of the things that we've done is we've opened up this net zero marketplace. Our number one value is trust, and the net zero marketplace allows you to buy carbon credits from ecopreneurs, entrepreneurs who focus on the ecology.

The reason we did that is because we know there's bad actors out there. You're buying credits as a company that aren't necessarily having the impact that you want. So this way, we have third-party organizations that are monitoring and rating these systems. The majority of all CEOs say that sustainability is important in their organization. It matters a lot. Yet, most companies are not prepared to be able to manage their sustainability goals. Governments are adding more and more regulations. Very quickly, you will be asked or told or regulated and forced to have your climate and sustainability things reported, not just financial reports.

So that's happening all over the world today. So this is challenging organizations, and I believe organizations are the ones that can make these kinds of difference. So how do you know if you're on your sustainability goals? Well, we have the same challenge. We started focusing on sustainability as well, and so we couldn't figure out how to really focus on our sustainability, and what we did was we actually added a net zero cloud so we could allow you to use the tool that we use for managing our sustainability goals. And that's available, and it's great because it allows people to see where they're going. So as a result, we're net zero now, with residual emissions, and we have 100% renewable energy today. We have a goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. We're carbon neutral in our clouds for all customers. That feels pretty good, I like that. However, being net zero is not enough. We need to also be nature positive.

Nature positive means that we need to be able to remove carbon from the atmosphere. That's what sequester means. Also, our oceans are capturing it, it's a big carbon sink. That's what's warming our oceans. We've done an $88 million investment with University of California Santa Barbara to help us find ways to improve the challenges that we have in our oceans. We also have planted 44 million trees, which we're very proud of, Vinny. We are confident that we can plant 100 million trees by 2030. We need your help to plant a trillion trees. So the nonprofit,,, is a place that you could choose to help and support as organizations. Together we can sequester 200 gigatons of carbon.

There is a third piece and these are the ecopreneurs. We want to energize ecopreneurs, and so we've created an Impact Venture Fund that helps fund ecopreneurs, whether they're from using artificial intelligence to help understand strategies so that we can have better impact on the planet, sequester carbon, better management of forestry, and other sources that are important. So those are the three things that we believe make a big difference for sustainability.

So now that I'm done with Vinny's slides,

I want to make it a little bit more personal because I am an employee, and I have to live this value of sustainability and it's new for all of us. So what does that mean? Well, if this were the end of the story, I'd say that we value sustainability and we put a lot into it, and we have a sustainability office, and we do other things as well. That's where I would say we value sustainability. However, I think there needs to be more in order to start living those values of sustainability. This is where I, as an FTE internal agile coach, really starts exploring this. So how did I get involved with talent experience?

Now, talent experience is part of our people organization. HR might be your name for human resources. Talent Experience focuses on helping build and grow leadership, whether you're an individual contributor or all the way up to the tops of the organization. How did I end up partnering with them? Well, this is the cultural agility that I love, is that we don't really feel like we have to stay in our silos. We're able to pull across to those different silos. Suzanne Coonan reached out to me and she said "Hey, we need some help." I said, "Oh, that's interesting. You need some Miro design, okay." We had a pandemic. I was an agile coach, I learned Miro. "Okay, I can help maybe" because we wanted to have a full hybrid experience through this entire program. So I got together with them and talked a little bit about what that might be and everything else. On our side of the group, because we're working across these groups, we have to say, "Does that align with our strategy?" Does that align with our strategy? We use something called V2MOM, Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. That is how we define our strategy.

You may use OKRs or any other kind of strategic piece. What I did was go back into it where we… I call it hacking the V2MOM. How do we put experiments in there? These are a couple that we had written in our V2MOM, is to provide custom approaches to leadership needs as MVPs, minimally viable products, for consideration. To work in other parts of nontraditional areas, which is what that second one is. So I go, "Aha, I can see this." And there's more to this story a little bit later, but I was able to say, "Yes, we actually have this, and I can go do this." So off we go. What did we do? Well, you see this little sort of dotted box? That's the LFP recharge, leading for purpose. This is for our senior vice presidents and above. So senior vice presidents, executive vice presidents. This is their pathway for growth and building capabilities within our top leadership of the organization. We were focused there on really understanding sustainability, how we start living that value. But at the end of the day, it was really impact through that lens of sustainability, leadership, performance and environment. So that's where we went. We're working on a wicked problem as part of what leadership does.

Oh, that slide's easily read. Let me help just a little bit. What does this say? Says it used to be a nice to have, now it's a must have. That's what we're hearing. And why? It's because the folks, our customers and customer success is, of course, one of our values, are telling us that it matters at their board level. Since it matters at their board level, it matters a lot. So therefore, this is what we need. Then that big one on that bottom right, someone predicting that the digital disruption, and the digital transformations and all the digitalization that you all deal with, yeah, that was big. ESG and sustainability, environmental, social, and governance. This is going to be much bigger than that. So we have to get out in front of it. That's what was being told to us as we were doing listening tours with all those executive vice presidents and stakeholders. The dual practice of systems thinking, I'm zooming in to talk about what happened inside there as we try to sort of figure all of this stuff out. Systems thinking, sometimes we think about, "Hey, I'm looking at that system over there. Not me in this." No, we're talking about us in that system.

Many people say systems thinking, that's how we look at the whole. However, we also have, not just that systemic piece, we also have a systematic piece. That systematic piece is the messy space of our real lives day to day. I thought this was very interesting because… What Sammy, who was one of the faculty, said was, we have this systemic that's like the top balcony looking over on the dance floor. The systematic is the dance floor. The challenge that we have with leaders is we don't have a ladder to go between the dance floor and the balcony so that we can get into that complex messy stuff. That was our shared challenge. We need to operationalize the fifth value of sustainability to achieve positive impact for the planet and how do we do that day to day? That's our system and focus, that middle piece, notice we're still in it. Then we also recognize there's a containing system, that big thing out there, that's the rest. We can't always make sense of that big thing out there if we can't say what is our system in focus? This was an exercise where we had all of the leaders, all working in small groups, doing breakouts in Miro, in Zoom. It's kind of like youth often think, "Leaders don't do that stuff." Yes they do. They actually like it.

We actually talked about what were all those external forces so we could start to see the system. Then we said what are the influences, and you could see some of these breakout groups started saying and where did those things actually happen? We were able to say what our system was, which is leadership. That's our sustainability office and others that are focused on that, our company, that's me and our other folks that are doing that as well. Also our customer and partners. Then there's this ecosystem of United Nations, NGOs, ecopreneurs, and others, that we can say, "Hey, that's part of that system as well." So at the end of the day, there was a lot of other things that went on. You can imagine four days plus two other days out there in the middle. A lot of other things happened. But at the end of the day, most people agreed that we were able to enhance knowledge, we were able to build confidence to lead from a multifunctional global perspective. We are a growing company learning how to be better globally. That was also important, I thought that really was powerful.

This is a personal quote from one of our SVPs and EVPs, "I'm going to research more into what Salesforce has. I'm going to think about systems thinking and how I apply that to my own complex messy challenges." Which might be if we don't function well, we can't help others in sustainability in the environment. So a system within the system. That triggered the notion that we have more work to do because we have a new person trying to work on that. So that's that part of the story that I was thrilled to learn about, and had so much personal growth that I could stand up here talking about are we living our value of sustainability because it's new and I feel small in this big wicked problem.

This is a quote, and this is something I'm really super excited about, because this quote, "We need a just and equitable transition to a net zero nature positive world. At Salesforce, we believe everyone has a role to play." That is a quote and that quote comes from this, Sustainability Guide for Salesforce Technology. Now, why I'm so excited is because this has not publicly launched yet and I got permission to share this ahead of time with you. So it's in the QR code. You can download it now. This is so hot off the press and it is so cool. That first quote that blew my mind was from there. This last quote that I just had is from there. This has got so much highly referenced information that I love it. So I'm going to send out… that last slide has a QR code, so you get another chance.

This is Srinivas Tallapragada. He's our Chief Engineering Officer and President. I love this, in the middle, he says, "At the end of the day, sustainable engineering is simply good engineering." It's true, there are so many things that we can and should be doing that helps the entire system. One of them is about design, designers have an impact on sustainability. There's so much positive things through stuff that you may already know, like design thinking and five whys that we put training together and it's available publicly on our Trailhead, which is our learning platform that's widely available. So you can learn about that. The one that I really am excited about is Carbon to Serve.

Can we build a Carbon to Serve which says, "We can measure the cost of providing services out there to the world." That is really powerful. One of the reasons this guide came out, just to finish up, is because we have platforms that many, many organizations around the world also write code and do all kinds of work on, and that can impact how the sustainability. 120 kilobyte little piece of software created the same carbon emissions as 73 flights from New York to Paris. That's the impact that we can have.

So are we living our value of sustainability? Well for me, it feels like it.

Thank you.

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