The non-fungible token (NFT) market has had a controversial rise to prominence. The idea of having a digital receipt of a copy of an item (usually an image) has created a debate about ownership, art, and the immeasurable value of a screengrab.
Salesforce told its employees of its plans to explore the NFT market, including a so-called NFT Cloud which would facilitate the selling and buying of these tokens. Very quickly it became apparent that employees disagreed with this move, and over 400 staff signed a letter opposing the plans.
The letter notes that NFTs are “unregulated, highly speculative financial assets“. This is a valid concern since de-centralized markets like cryptocurrencies are usually used to purchase them, and the actual worth of the digital content is largely unrecognized. This has led to concerns about NFTs simply being a celebrity Ponzi scheme.
Additionally, the letter noted: “The amount of scams and fraud in the NFT space is overwhelming.”
Ethics and employee satisfaction
It is possible that the ethics involved in this decision could also have a negative impact on Salesforce’s staff retention.
One Salesforce employee, who asked not to be named, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that: “I’ll find a company that lives by its stated values.”
This is an important point as NFTs damage the environment and Salesforce recently made sustainability its fifth value. Salesforce has committed to sustainability initiatives, even employing Matthew McConaughey to promote its initiatives in this year’s SuperBowl commercial.
The storage required for NFTs is huge and high in emissions. A neighboring technology like cryptocurrency has led to Bitcoin generating 38 million tons of CO2 per year, this is more than the carbon footprint of Slovakia.
Ignoring pledges and going against previous commitments can cause distrust. As a result, comments like that which came from the unnamed employee can increase in frequency. Not only that, but the ‘Great Resignation‘ has shown just how costly it is to lose employees.
Comment on the situation
With the dangers associated with NFTs, Salesforce has placed itself in a difficult position. In fact, John Reed, the former chief of the US Securities Exchange Commission Office of Internet Enforcement, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that workers should be concerned about getting involved in such a volatile and loosely regulated financial asset.
He noted: “I would certainly think about working somewhere else.”
A Salesforce spokesperson told UNLEASH about the ongoing situation: “Our core values guide everything we do, including the development of our products.
“We welcome our employees’ feedback and are proud to foster a culture of trust that empowers them to raise diverse points of view.”
The company now intends to host a listening session to “strengthen our path forward“.
Whether the company will make significant changes to its plans remains to be seen, but it needs to think carefully about its decision since this situation could affect its retention rate and leads to questions about the commitments to ESG policies it promotes.