- "For CEOS who only focus on shareholders, let them be warned, they will not be CEOs very long," Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff says.
- The billionaire entrepreneur says CEOs have to adopt a wider perspective that includes the well-being of community stakeholders.
- "This is how to have a company that customers want to do business with, that attracts employees, that develops partnerships, that integrates local communities, that saves the planet," Benioff says.
"For CEOs who only focus on shareholders, let them be warned, they will not be CEOs very long," Benioff said, promoting "Trailblazer," the new book he co-authored with Salesforce executive Monica Langley.
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Instead, the billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist said CEOs must embrace a wider perspective that also includes the well-being of "stakeholders" — such as employees, public schools, people who are homeless and communities writ large.
"This is how to make a great company," said the co-CEO and chairman of Salesforce. "This is how to have a company that customers want to do business with, that attracts employees, that develops partnerships, that integrates local communities, that saves the planet."
Benioff held up Salesforce, which he started in San Francisco in 1999, as an example.
"Look at our financial return since we went public, right here in 2004," he said, sitting on the "Squawk on the Street" desk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
"Look at how we rank against everyone else over the same 15-year period. I'm sure that you'll see we are in the very top echelon. And I'll tell you how we did it: We valued stakeholders as much as shareholders," he said.
Over that same time, Benioff said, Salesforce has given $300 million in grants and its employees have volunteered over four million hours of their time. He added that 40,000 nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations are using Salesforce's customer relationship management software for free.
"The homeless are a stakeholder for me, that's why I was fighting for Proposition C, a tax on our self, because we have to deal with the homeless situation in San Francisco," Benioff added. "If, as the largest employer in San Francisco, I'm not focused on that, if they aren't one of my key stakeholders, then what is?"
Benioff, who bought Time magazine last year for $190 million, has in recent years been vocal about the need for companies to reorient their goals away from simply maximizing shareholder return. In an earlier interview with CNBC, he called for a "new capitalism."
On Wednesday, he pointed to the Business Roundtable's August statement, in which nearly 200 CEOs said shareholder value is no longer their main focus.
The Salesforce chief also said he believes there are ways to put in place systems to ensure companies are serving both shareholders and stakeholders. In particular, he said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission could make companies disclose who their stakeholders are and "what they're doing for others, not just themselves."
"If we're not all in to improving the state of the world, then what are we all in to?" Benioff said.