Not In Our Name

Following five weeks of sustained campaigning by the global social enterprise movement in summer 2012, US company Salesforce publicly announced to 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, drew support from across the social enterprise world movement, 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.

In a statement Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK CEO, 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’.

#notinourname - how it began

On the 24 July 2012, Salesforce, the giant US-based software and content management company, applied to trademark the term ‘Social Enterprise’ in the US, EU, UK and Jamaica, and claimed that if companies use its products they will become social enterprises.

Social enterprise in all of these territories, and in most parts of the world, is already understood and widely used to mean a business with a primarily social purpose, that reinvests or gives away most of it profits. The world social enterprise movement is growing, gaining strength and causing excitement among opinion-formers and grass-roots communities everywhere. 

In response, Social Enterprise UK led the #notinourname campaign on behalf of the social enterprise sector to counter their actions. After five weeks of dedicated campaigning, The Not In Our Name campaign has successfully protected the social enterprise name, with Salesforce agreeing to drop their attempts to trademark the term, and remove references to it in their marketing materials in the future.

On this page you can find out more about the campaign and the action Social Enterprise UK took.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Price Laureate, pledged his support for Not In Our Name:

'As a lifelong advocate of the power of enterprise to create good for the poor of the world I respectfully ask that Salesforce stops its attempts to trademark the phrase ‘social enterprise'. It brings unnecessary confusion to the marketplace.”

Global figures, associations, professors and NGOs support #notinourname

People & organisations from across the world, including Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, co-authors of The Spirit Level, signed a letter to Salesforce chief, Marc Benioff, asking the company to stop using the term ‘social enterprise’ for private gain.

See the full letter here.

The campaign's objectives

1. To ensure that Salesforce’s attempts to trademark use of the term ‘social enterprise’ in the UK and EU were not successful;

2. To persuade Salesforce to desist from applying for further trademarks and putting ‘TM’ next to the words social enterprise inits external coms as it has no trademark or trademark pending – this is misleading; and

3. To raise awareness of REAL social enterprise – what it means, what the movement is trying to achieve, and to get morepeople supporting it. We mean to ensure it is a less attractive target for anyone who wishes to legally appropriate our name forprivate commercial  gain in the future, by defending it robustly.

How did we achieve these objectives?

  • Research – we looked into all possible milestones and activities related to the trademarking issue
  • Social Media campaign – we used the sector’s social media clout to try to communicate with Salesforce and Dreamforce (Saleforce conference in SanFrancisco in September 2012) customers, targeting them with #notinourname activity
  • Business engagement – we contacted third parties and Salesforce customers, including Richard Branson, who is billed as a speaker at the Salesforce Dreamforce event, and asked that they support the real social enterprise movement and urge Salesforce to stop using the term
  • Political engagement – we used UK parliamentary activity to gain statements of support for REAL social enterprise and On the Record information at a political level
  • Media engagement – we proposed letters, opinion pieces and the campaign's multimedia content to business, national and trade press, to help raise awareness of our campaign with the public and in the wider business world
  • Member engagement – we harnessed the support of our members. We created a series of activities that members engaged in as the campaign unfolded
  • International social enterprise engagementwe worked with social enterprise and opinion leaders around the globe to get them to support #notinourname
  • Spread the word – we contacted other campaigns organisations and asking that they help spread our message far and wide

#notinourname survey

Poll revealed 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 

Disclosure: Social Enterprise UK is a customer of Salesforce. Like much of the social sector, we use their CRM system to store our data.