Social Enterprise UK's most recent letter to


Salesforce tries to reassure the movement after being challenged on its attempts to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’ in the EU, US and Jamaica. Unsatisfied, Peter Holbrook writes to Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff.

On 16th August, a blog was posted by Steve Garnett, Chairman and Co-President of EMEA Salesforce and its CEO, Marc Benioff, sent replies to all those who had emailed him directly expressing their concerns.

Social Enterprise UK's Chief Executive, Peter Holbrook has written to Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.


Link to Salesforce blog, with comments from people around the globe:


Letter from Peter Holbrook to Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce:

17 August 2012

Dear Marc, 

Thank you for responding to my fellow campaigners. I have been copied in on many of your comments and we are confused about what you are saying to us. 

Most of your comments in response to the ‘not in our name’ campaign say you only want to trademark ‘social enterprise’ for enterprise software. Many of us have read your application and it is very wide and varied in the products it describes, but I will take legal advice on this. I would like to get back to you on this once my lawyer has advised. 

In the meantime, what has confused those of us who have received your replies is: 

You say that you are only using the term social enterprise to describe the software you make. Yet many of your corporate communications materials directly say that by buying into your campaign/method/product, businesses are ‘becoming’ social enterprises. 

In your Dreamforce 12 event communications you say that speakers will talk about 'how they are turning their companies into social enterprises'. The speakers the brochure refers to are Richard Branson and Angela Ahrendt. We have contacted them separately to see what they say about this description of their businesses and whether they have collaborated with Salesforce on it. They, like you have strong track records on corporate philanthropy, but I think they will agree with me that this does not make them social enterprises. 

You also say that you would do not want to stop others from using the phrase 'social enterprise' in ‘unrelated fields such as philanthropy, social responsibility or community involvement’. This seems to fundamentally misunderstand what social enterprises are. Yes, they are socially responsible (that's their reason for being) but they are not unrelated to any business sector - they are businesses and they work in all industries and sectors around the world. They are not confined to 'philanthropy' products. They make cars, provide energy, provide healthcare, manufacture goods and deliver services of all descriptions. This includes software development, content management systems, cloud computing. We do not want you or anyone else to try to legally close off any sector to social enterprises. To many millions around the world social enterprise is the way all business will be done in the future. Let me repeat, we do not want you to close off ANY line of activity to social enterprises, anywhere in the world. Your reassurance that if you won a trademark you would not try to use it in many sectors offers us no comfort at all. 

You also say that social enterprise is just a term that you personally 'came up with' to describe your product range. A small amount of research or due diligence before you used the name or tried to trademark it would have told you it is already taken by a populous, worldwide movement for social justice that has structural support from Governments and civil society organisations in most countries including the USA. Perhaps you didn’t realise this but you have almost certainly heard it before in its genuine context and subconsciously recalled it. We all know how easily this sort of thing can happen and it is entirely forgivable from our perspective. Pressing on is not. 

As one of my fellow campaigners has explained to you, we are painfully aware that the misuse of other social-responsibility terms (such as use of ‘Green’) has caused  much wasted time and efforts to create legislation – in many countries - because of  misappropriation of the term by those wishing to subjugate, leverage or otherwise take advantage of the goodwill inherent in the term. There are politicians in many countries including the UK already pressing for this to happen to protect the good name of ‘social enterprise’. It will certainly happen if you persist with your confusing use of our name and your attempts to legally appropriate it. 

You say in one of your responses that “In my opinion, there is no misappropriation of the term because in no case has anyone, including you, or anyone who has emailed me, confused a social enterprise for a social enterprise.” What does this mean? 

As always, we remain hopeful that we can find a positive solution to all of this, and we are very grateful that you are now personally engaged in the debate with representatives of the Not In Our Name campaign. You have an excellent track record in corporate philanthropy - if this issue can be resolved, we think Salesforce could be a fantastic ally for the real social enterprise movement. We ask that you drop your trademark applications and stop using social enterprise to describe businesses that are not social enterprises, or to describe your products and services. We believe this is misappropriation of our name. We believe that your behaviour will encourage others to do the same. Social enterprise is achieving so much but it is still in its relative infancy. We will not let it be destroyed people who want to appropriate our name for private profit. 

I would be very grateful if you would let me know what steps you plan to take to address our concerns and those of everyone involved with #notinourname. 

Yours sincerely,

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK


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