Feb 7 2023 - San Francisco, CA, United States

Three lessons on building a sustainable business

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Ray Rogers

Senior Reference Manager at Amazon Web Services

On the AWS Fix This Podcast, Patrick Flynn, senior vice president and global head of sustainability at Salesforce, shared his top enterprise sustainability lessons.

After college, Patrick Flynn didn’t set out to start a career in sustainability. Trained as a mechanical engineer, his career began with designing high-rise buildings and their heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. During this time, he noticed that not all buildings were constructed with efficiency in mind. “You have situations, like with a developer who's really focused on minimizing the construction costs, even if that means trimming on energy efficiency, which, over the long term, would be a financially great thing to optimize,” says Flynn. “And I felt a responsibility as an engineer to try to improve that, to fix that puzzle, whether it was the misaligned financial incentives or disconnected information, and that was really what set me on my career of sustainability.”

Most recently, Flynn was senior vice president and global head of sustainability for Salesforce—a global leader in customer relationship management (CRM), and a signatory of The Climate Pledge. At Salesforce, he defined and lead the company’s environmental strategy with the shared goal of a just transition to a 1.5-degree future as quickly as possible.

On the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Fix This Podcast, Flynn shared a few lessons learned from incorporating sustainability into all aspects of business:

Financial Optimization Can Go Hand-in-Hand with Sustainability

Every digital activity—from the emails we send to the webpages we refresh—requires energy and emits carbon into the atmosphere. By identifying areas of financial optimization, such as how data centers are constructed with water use, cooling, lighting, and more, enterprises can also tap into opportunities to eliminate emissions.

Flynn says: “All of those different engineering dimensions carry opportunities to do more with less and to think about elegant design. The incentives of financial optimization, doing more with less, making things happen efficiently, those are really well aligned to the environmental objectives. Previously, I led sustainability for a data center company. I actually didn't find myself speaking about the environmental implications of what we were trying to do all that often. I could speak like a finance person and talk about financial optimization, knowing full well that there was such high alignment with the environmental objectives that everything we did from energy efficiency to renewable energy to higher utilization was all having tremendous environmental benefits as well.”

Salesforce runs on AWS and uses services such as the AWS customer carbon footprint tool to reach its sustainability goals. AWS is committed to building a sustainable business for our customers and for the world we all share, with data centers designed to provide the efficient, resilient service our customers expect while minimizing our environmental footprint—and theirs.

Collaboration is Key: Go Faster, Together

Organizations can amplify their sustainability progress by working together, collaborating, and sharing best practices. As a signatory of The Climate Pledge, Salesforce is committed to working with other enterprises. “This next wave of forward progress, I believe, is going to come from those strategies that really require two companies or more working together in close partnership, and complementing what each other can bring to the table,” Flynn continues. “And some of the best parts about joining The Climate Pledge have been these moments of actually getting together in person, whether that was in New York or at COP, coming together and having really transparent conversations among ourselves and with other companies to try to figure out how we can go faster together.”

The Climate Emergency Offers Ample Opportunity to Innovate on Behalf of the Earth

Climate change impacts everyone and everything, but a challenge of this size also offers opportunities, both big and small, to have a positive impact. At Salesforce, there is a guiding ethos of “superpowers” at the individual and organizational levels that can help drive positive impact.

“We need every company to think about what they do best and to bring that to bear in the climate emergency. For Salesforce, I think what we do best is put digital tools in the hands of our customers to help them navigate successfully into the future. We've done that with mobile and social, IoT, AI, and we need to do it with climate change, too,” explains Flynn. “That's why we've created Net Zero Cloud, not just a single source of truth for greenhouse gas emissions, but also a place to find insight and to know what actions to take with forecasting and goal-setting and a carbon marketplace. We're trying to help all of our customers accelerate their own journey to net-zero carbon now and using our technology superpowers to do it.”

Listen to the full conversation on the AWS Fix This podcast.

Salesforce joined The Climate Pledge on September 8, 2021. Learn more about Salesforce’s sustainability initiatives here.