Just days ahead of the COP 26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, San Francisco tech billionaire Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne are announcing $200 million in commitments to plant trees and fund ecologically-focused entrepreneurs. Salesforce, the software firm he founded and runs, will donate $10 million a year for the next decade to nonprofits working in ecosystem restoration and climate justice, according to a statement from the company.
“We’re in a planetary emergency—a climate crisis that impacts everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us,” Benioff said in a statement. “We need to apply every strategy possible to protect and preserve our planet.”
Half of the newly promised $200 million from the Benioffs will go to 1t.org, a project of the World Economic Forum launched in January 2020 to “conserve, restore and grow” one trillion trees globally by 2030. The Benioffs previously donated an undisclosed amount to launch 1t.org. Though many areas of the world can benefit from more trees, some critics say that tree planting may be more hype than solution.
The other $100 million is an impact investment rather than a donation; the Benioffs’ Time Ventures fund will back “ecopreneurs” launching companies that do things like reduce emissions, sequester carbon and protect natural resources. The couple’s Time Ventures fund has previously invested $100 million in climate-focused startups such as earth imaging firm Planet and renewable bioproducts firm Mango Materials. It’s unclear what the time horizon is for investing the newly promised $100 million sum.
Benioff, 57, and his wife have in the past supported health care in San Francisco, donating $200 million since 2010 to U.C. San Francisco’s children’s hospitals. Salesforce, which is based in San Francisco and employs 65,000 people, paid no federal income tax in 2020 despite having $2.6 billion in net income in the fiscal year through January 2021, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Forbes pegs Benioff’s net worth at just over $11 billion; he ranked No. 74 on the 2021 list of The Forbes 400 richest Americans released earlier this month. Forbes gives Benioff a philanthropy score of 3, meaning he’s donated between 5% and 9.99% of his fortune to charitable causes. The Benioffs are signatories of the Giving Pledge, a promise to give at least half of their net worth to charitable causes.