Victory in global campaign to protect social enterprise

Victory-in-global-campaign-to-protect-social-enterprise withdraws ‘social enterprise’ trademarks and vows to stop using the term.

Following five weeks of sustained campaigning by the world social enterprise movement, US company Salesforce has publicly announced it will withdraw its applications to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’, and remove any references to ‘social enterprise’ in its marketing materials in the future. 

The #notinourname campaign, launched by Social Enterprise UK, has drawn support from across the social enterprise world, involving global leaders including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, and has brought the social enterprise movement into public dispute with high-profile private companies including Virgin.

Social enterprises are businesses with a primarily social or environmental purpose but a trend has emerged recently among technology companies to claim that their clients can become ‘social enterprises’ through their use of tech and social media products.  Salesforce applied for trademarks in the EU, the US, Australia and Jamaica.

Yesterday Salesforce CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff said:

“It was never our intention to create confusion in the social sector which we have supported since our founding.  Benioff’s personal message to the social enterprise campaigners who have been in touch was that “Peter Holbrook [Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK] made a crystal clear case to me that we were confusing people with the use of “social enterprise.”

Poll reveals concerns of worldwide social enterprise movement

Social Enterprise UK surveyed 625 social enterprise organisations from 34 countries across the globe.  An overwhelming 94% believed that Salesforce’s attempt to trademark the term social enterprise would have had a negative effect on the social enterprise movement, and 80% believed that it would have had a detrimental effect on their own organisation. 

In response to Salesforce’s actions: 

  • 87% felt they could have resulted in reduced funding and investment in the sector
  • 94% felt they would have confused customers and reduce customer loyalty
  • 88% felt they would have undone all the hard work that has gone into building the sector so far 

In a statement today Peter Holbrook said:

“I would like to thank Marc Benioff for his personal engagement in this issue and his concern for the welfare of the world’s growing social enterprise movement.  We are delighted that Salesforce has made this decision and it’s absolutely to their credit that they have taken it publicly, offering an unequivocal statement of their future intentions.  We have been impressed by their honesty and integrity.  We know that this is no small deed.  Much time and effort has been put in by Salesforce and some of their customers to developing and marketing their version of ‘social enterprise’.

“Our intention now is to ensure that this respect for the name and the mission of the social enterprise movement holds beyond the Salesforce family.  Other tech companies are using the term to describe non-social enterprises and they too must declare their intentions to desist, following the lead of Salesforce.  The social enterprise term is highly valuable and the worldwide social enterprise movement must protect it. We will continue our efforts.”

Holbrook thanked the many people who have been involved in the campaign, saying it was a ‘watershed moment’ in the history of social enterprise: 

“Social enterprises are growing and reaching immense scale around the world, but we always know that we can draw on our powerful grass-roots.  Social enterprise is good business and the sustainable answer to the global economic crisis.

Social economy organisations in the UK have become increasingly vigilant about businesses using ‘social’ terms to market their goods and services, and A4E was recently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority from describing itself as a ‘social purpose business’, on the grounds that it was misleading when A4E is a standard for-shareholder-profit business.  The UK has 68,000 social enterprises [1].  The #notinourname campaign has received support from the national social enterprise organisations in other countries including the US, Australia, Canada and South Africa.

Find out more about the #notinourname campaign.