Salesforce 'social enterprise takeover' protest hots up as sector heavyweights join in

BusinessZone
Dan Martin
Former editor
BusinessZone.co.uk
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Social entrepreneur and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus is among the high profile figures from around the world who have signed a letter criticising Salesforce's attempts to trademark the term 'social enterprise'.

The letter is the latest development in the furore surrounding the application by the cloud computing software company to trademark the phrase in the EU, US, Australia and Jamaica. 

The company uses the term to describe businesses which successfully embrace social media to engage with customers but social enterprise is also widely understood to describe businesses that exist to tackle social and environmental issues. Well known examples included Jamie Oliver's Fifteen and The Big Issue. 

In the letter to Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff, social entrepreneurs say: "Time, energy and resources have been invested into the social enterprise movement, a thriving and a powerful force providing solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems – poverty, inequality, unemployment, disadvantage, climate change and global warming.

"Your organisation’s attempts to take over the term are very damaging to our movement.  We ask that Salesforce ceases to use the term ‘social enterprise’ for private profit.

"The movement is achieving so much and growing rapidly but is still in its relative infancy. Its potential for future generations has yet to be realised. Diluting the term and confusing its meaning is only going to be harmful and any successful attempts to trademark the term will close doors for genuine social enterprises."

In the UK, the protest has been led by lobby group Social Enterprise UK (SEUK). The organisation launched the Not In Our Name campaign to voice its concerns.

Marc Benioff has responded to insist his trademark attempts are connected to enterprise software only but social entrepreneurs believe it would be damaging if Salesforce's applications were successful.

The letter in full:

Dear Marc Benioff

Social enterprise is widely understood to describe businesses that exist to tackle social and environmental issues, whose surpluses are principally reinvested to do so, rather than driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.

The social enterprise term has been used for nearly two decades by a worldwide movement for social justice that has support from governments and civil society organisations all over the world.  Time, energy and resources have been invested into the social enterprise movement, a thriving and a powerful force providing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems – poverty, inequality, unemployment, disadvantage, climate change and global warming.

Your organisation’s attempts to take over the term are very damaging to our movement.  We ask that Salesforce ceases to use the term ‘social enterprise’ for private profit and:

  1. Withdraws its current applications to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’, and makes no other attempts in the future;
  2. Stops using the term ‘social enterprise’ to describe its products / services; and
  3. Stops advocating that its customers, many of which are private companies, are social enterprises, when they are not

The movement is achieving so much and growing rapidly but is still in its relative infancy.  Its potential for future generations has yet to be realised.  Diluting the term and confusing its meaning is only going to be harmful and any successful attempts to trademark the term will close doors for genuine social enterprises.

Rather than jeopardise its progress, please take the steps to support the social enterprise movement on its journey to build a socially just economy and a more sustainable society for all.

Yours sincerely

Professor Muhammad Yunus 
Founder, Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Price Laureate (Bangladesh)

Professor Richard Wilkinson
Emeritus Professor of Social Epidemiology and co-author of ‘The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone’ (UK)
 
Professor Kate Pickett
Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Health Sciences, The University of York and co-author of ‘The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone’ (UK)  
Lord Adebowale
CEO, Turning Point (UK)
Baroness Thornton
Shadow Equalities Minister, House of Lords and Honorary Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise (UK)
Claire Dove MBE DL
Chair of Social Enterprise UK and CEO, Blackburne House (UK)
Peter Holbrook
CEO, Social Enterprise UK (UK)
Sir Stuart Etherington
CEO, National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) (UK)
Sir Stephen Bubb
CEO, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) (UK)
Liam Black
Co-founder, Wavelength (UK)
Social Enterprise World Forum Members
Gerry Higgins
Chair
David Brookes
CEO, Social Traders (Australia)
Lee Davis
Co-Founder NESsT (Brazil)
David LePage
Enterprising Non-Profits & Social Enterprise Council of Canada (Canada)
Kevin Lynch
Social Enterprise Alliance (USA)
Kevin Robbie
Social Ventures Australia (Australia)
Jim Schorr
Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbuilt University (USA)
Peter Stadler
Fachberatung für Arbeits- und Firmenprojekte (FAF) (Germany)
Dr. Susan Steinman
University of Johannesburg, Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (South Africa)
Steve Wyler OBE
CEO, Locality (UK)
Ed Mayo
Secretary General, Co-operatives UK (UK)
Dr. Peter Kyle
Deputy CEO, ACEVO (UK)
Cliff Prior
CEO, UnLtd (UK)
Rod Schwartz
CEO, ClearlySo (UK)
Pooja Warier
Director, UnLtd India (India)
Jan Olsson
Co-President, REVES (UK)
Filippo Addarii
Executive Director, Euclid Network
Fraser Kelly
CEO, Social Enterprise Scotland
Claire Greenwood
Director, Papilio Limited
Emma Worley FRSA
COO and Founder, The Philosophy Foundation
Frank Buckley
CEO, Down Syndrome Education International
Charlotte McConkey
Director, Big Bird Media
Theresa Burton
CEO & Co-founder, Buzzbnk
Professor Rob Paton      
Centre for Public Leadership & Social Enterprise
Trisha Lee
Artistic Director, MakeBelieve Arts
Dr Iyabo Fatimilehin
Executive Founder, Just Psychology CIC
Karen Lynch
CEO, Belu
Pradeep Jethi
Co-founder and CEO, Social Stock Exchange Ltd
Paul Young
Founder of Emerging Padoyo
Denise Davis-Boreham
Chief Executive, Make a Difference Community Interest Company
John Clarke
Director, Social Telecoms CIC
Sue Quinn 
Director, se2 and Visual Revolution CIC
Andrew Tilling
Director, Preseli Partnerships Ltd
Chris Dabbs
Chief Executive, Unlimited Potential
John Burgess
Chairman and co-founder, Destiny Enterprise Solutions
Kate Welch OBE DL
CEO, Acumen
Heather Wilkinson
CEO, Striding Out CIC
Tony Blunden
CEO, Siawns Teg
Will Nixon
CEO, PM Training
Nick Comley
MD, Brew On The Social Enterprise Brewery
Peter Lovell
CEO, North London Community Finance
Clive Hirst FRSA
Chairman of Social Enterprise Solutions CIC
Mike Bryan
Founder, brycom
Jean McVann
MD, Gateway Primary Care CIC
Brendan Martin
Managing Director, Public World 

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