Last week we wrote that Salesforce plans to launch an NFT Cloud offering. On Friday, Thomson Reuters reported that 400 employees signed a letter objecting to the initiative over environmental and scam concerns. Next week, the company plans to engage its team in a “listening session” to communicate its plans. Meanwhile, co-CEO Marc Benioff owns TIME Magazine, which holds Ethereum’s cryptocurrency on its balance sheet.
Someone on Twitter noted that it’s 400 out of 56,000 employees. However, Salesforce goes out of its way to build a mission and purpose-oriented culture. For example, the company provides seven days of paid volunteer time. It offered to cover relocation expenses for Texas employees following the enactment of anti-abortion laws. And after Covid is over, staff can work from home at least part of the time or full-time if they’re not close to an office. Plus, during the Super Bowl it ran an ad promoting sustainability.
Co-CEO Marc Benioff has a 90% approval rating. With this sort of culture, a letter signed by 400 employees might carry more weight than most.
Salesforce is not the first company to encounter an NFT backlash. The games industry has seen a significant pushback over NFTs, particularly Ubisoft, which is forging ahead despite resistance. Some independent publishers have declared they will never get involved in NFTs. That’s in part over scam and environmental concerns and because some games will become play-to-earn with different kinds of gameplay.
On the flipside, NFTs might have a long term position in the social space as a way to express one’s identity. And Salesforce sees itself as a social company.
At the time of Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack in 2020, Benioff said, “We’ve always had the vision of the social enterprise at Salesforce. That’s been for more than a decade. We’ve had Dreamforces entirely dedicated to the vision of what a collaborative interface.”
When it comes to environmental issues, some blockchains use the energy intensive proof of work for security, but many now use proof of stake. However, the most popular blockchain by project count is Ethereum which has not yet migrated to proof of stake. Some Ethereum scaling solutions use separate proof of stake blockchains and claim they are energy efficient.
Earlier this month, the UK branch of the WWF pulled its NFT offering after launching it on a proof of stake Ethereum sidechain Polygon. The WWF had estimated that each transaction used roughly one-fifth of a gram of CO2. But a blockchain researcher concluded it was closer to 430 grams of CO2 or more than 2,000 times the WWF estimate.
That’s because as a sidechain, Polygon has to interact with Ethereum to checkpoint, plus crypto gets moved between Ethereum and Polygon.
Arguably other blockchains such as Solana, Tezos and Flow, might not suffer these issues.
However, Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff also controls TIME Magazine, which uses the main Ethereum network to mint tokens, including last week. The company also holds Ethereum cryptocurrency ETH on its balance sheet.
Benioff is also a fan of the NFT marketplace OpenSea (Time invested early), which currently only supports Ethereum compatible tokens.
A significant group of people believes that cryptocurrencies are Ponzi schemes and hence anything related is a scam. For now, it might be hard to change the minds of that group.
Turning to fraud, there’s no question that NFTs where owners self-host wallets make users more vulnerable. On the one hand, self-hosted wallets support the decentralization ideal but also mean users need to know what they’re doing. Several OpenSea marketplace users had NFT’s stolen through a phishing scam in the last few days. The fraudster didn’t use email and at the time of publication, the source website for the scam was unknown.
Another issue is scammers copying NFT projects and portraying themselves as the original. Given Salesforce’s corporate client base, the company could create offerings to combat these sorts of scams and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
That’s a point raised by some other employees raised when talking to Thomson Reuters.