The world’s political and economic elites met Tuesday for the first day of the annual World Economic Forum. Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief, Andy Serwer, is covering the event in wintry Davos, Switzerland, and sat down with Salesforce (CRM) founder and CEO Marc Benioff to discuss his thoughts on the conference, whether Salesforce should advocate public policy and if Benioff will work with President-elect Donald Trump when he’s sworn into office.
“This is a place that you can get all kinds of knowledge of what’s happening in the world,” Benioff told Yahoo Finance. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for personal growth.”
The World Economic Forum is meant to help politicians and business leaders address some of the world’s most pressing social, political and environmental issues.
Benioff subscribes to the WEF stakeholder theory, which posits that an organization is beholden to its employees and community members, as well as its shareholders. He believes the conference is a place where people can commit to improving the state of the world.
That’s not just a hollow talking point, either. Benioff explained how he threw his weight behind an effort to fight Indiana’s proposed religious freedom law in 2015, which critics said would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals by refusing them service.
“Our employees were calling us and saying, ‘Look, the governor just signed a law that’s going to discriminate against gays in Indiana, are you going to step in, or are you not going to step in?’ We had no choice but to step in,” Benioff said.
The Salesforce CEO, who supported Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign, said he will continue to advocate on behalf of his company and shareholders regardless of who’s president.
“I’m not changing how I operate my business,” Benioff said. “I’m continuing to operate my business for all of my stakeholders, exactly like I said, including all of our employees.”
Benioff said he is moving forward with an open heart and open mind with regard to Trump.
“One thing that I certainly hope [Trump] does is to take a good, hard look at how all of our agencies operate,” he explained. “I know that they are still using a lot of on-premises software in the government. And I hope that they’ll be looking to go to the cloud and to some of these next-generation solutions that companies like Salesforce and others offer that help them to lower costs and make things easier for all of the citizens of the United States.”
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