Pressure mounts on Salesforce's 'social enterprise' trademark

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank. Copyright: World Economic Forum

Pressure mounts on Salesforce's 'social enterprise' trademark

Finance | Vibeka Mair | 3 Sep 2012

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, has joined a number of social sector heavyweights in asking technology giant Salesforce to stop using the term ‘social enterprise’ to describe its products and services.

Professor Yunus, the shadow equalities minister Baroness Thornton and Lord Adebowale, chief executive of Turning Point, are among the signatures of a letter to Marc Benioff, CEO and chairman of Salesforce, asking him to stop using the term ‘social enterprise’.

The letter follows concerns amongst the global social enterprise sector about Salesforce’s attempts to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’ in the US, EU, Australia and Jamaica.

While the term 'social enterprise' broadly means a business which tackles a social or environmental issue for the civil society sector, Salesforce uses it to describe social media and technologies business strategies.

Professor Yunus said: "As a lifelong advocate of the power of enterprise to create good for the poor of the world I respectfully ask that Salesforce stops its attempts to trademark the phrase ‘social enterprise'. It brings unnecessary confusion to the marketplace.”

Social Enterprise UK has co-ordinated the mounting global campaign against Salesforce’s actions. The campaign, called Not in Our Name, has rapidly gained pace through Twitter.

The letter to Salesforce CEO Benioff has been signed by the Social Enterprise World Forum Committee and associations in countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Brazil, USA and South Africa.

In the UK, membership organisations representing charities and social enterprises have lent their support, including NCVO and Acevo.

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“For Salesforce to adopt a term that has been used by a global movement of businesses that exist to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems – poverty, inequality, unemployment and global warming – could do untold damage to an important, rapidly growing sector.”



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