Salesforce Defends Use of 'Social Enterprise'

Global cloud computing giant, Salesforce.com has defended its plans to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’ world wide, in an online company blog.

The company chairman of the Europe, Middle East and Asian region, Steve Garnett says the company is not seeking to restrict descriptive uses of the phrase ‘social enterprise’ by others in philanthropy, social responsibility, community involvement or mission-driven organisations.

“We’ve been following a lively conversation on the use of the term “social enterprise” in the technology and nonprofit sectors,” he said.

Last week Pro Bono Australia revealed that Not for Profits in the social enterprise space in Australia and the UK were challenging attempts by the multinational cloud computing company to trademark “Social Enterprise”

Members of an alliance of 14 Australian Not for Profits have described the move by Salesforce.com as hijacking the term that is widely used by the sector.

Salesforce’s Steve Garnett responded in his company blog saying “there is a social revolution happening - the number of social networking users has surpassed e-mail users and nearly a quarter of all time spent online is spent on social networks.

“Companies are looking for new ways to connect with their customers, partners and employees and salesforce.com is empowering them with what we call social enterprise technologies.

“That’s why salesforce.com has applied to register the trademark for “social enterprise” in the information technology sector.

“When it comes to trademarks, businesses or organisations in different sectors can use the same trademark.

“Salesforce.com does not own or intend to own the trademark rights for the term social enterprise within the nonprofit sector, and is not seeking to restrict descriptive uses of the phrase by others in philanthropy, social responsibility, community involvement or mission-driven organisations.

“Salesforce.com applauds and actively supports the efforts of organisations who work for social change and to improve our world.

However, Salesforce’s assurances have not impressed Not for profit organisations in the social enterprise space around the world.

Infoxchange Australia is a Not for Profit competitor with Salesforce.com.

CEO Peter Walton said the term ‘social enterprise’ has made its way into mainstream dialogue and, whilst there is no commonly agreed definition, it is very clear that Salesforce’s description clearly falls well outside anything that is understood within the broad community sector.

“Salesforce’s attempt to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’ hinders the work of genuine social enterprises in Australia and risks undermining the positive perception and impact that has been achieved over many years.

“If the patent application is successful, the significance of the term will be significantly devalued and diluted. It will become part of the lexicon of misleading “marketing-speak”, certainly detached from any altruistic attempt to address a social issue or create positive community change,” Walton said.

Director of Social Business the Centre for Social Impact, Assoc Prof, Cheryl Kernot said
that the timing of the move is pretty unfortunate for Australia in that the broader population is just starting to hear more about the traditional understanding of social enterprise.

“Salesforce’s move adds an unhelpful level of confusion and misapplication,” she said.

The Salesforce.com blog headed “Best of Both Worlds” has also received a storm of comments from the Not for Profit sector from both the UK, USA and Canada.

US author and social entrepreneur, Auren Kaplan responded to the blog saying “the trademarking of "social enterprise" by Salesforce degrades the work of social entrepreneurs all over the world, and is unacceptable.”

Many responses to the blog have described the Salesforce.com moves as absurd, ridiculous, foolish and brand suicide. 

In Europe there are moves to strengthen the use of the term ‘social business’.

The European Union has launched a Social Business Initiative.

The EU describes Social Businesses as companies that have a positive social impact and address social objectives as their corporate aim rather than only maximising profit.

It says the social economy represents 10 per cent of all European businesses and employs over 11 million paid employees.

The Social Business Initiative proposes ways to improve social businesses' access to funding (including EU funding through the Structural Funds and the future setting-up of a financial instrument to provide social investment funds and financial intermediaries with equity, debt, and risk-sharing instruments), measures to improve their visibility and a simplified regulatory environment.

Find out more here.

Check out our cartoonist Simon Kneebone's take on trademarking social enterprise

 

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