Hundreds of Salesforce employees around the world are revolting against the US enterprise software giant’s plans to enter the non-fungible token (NFT) market, according to internal documents seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Salesforce told employees last week that it was exploring a number of NFT initiatives, including an “NFT cloud” that could help companies around the world create and sell NFTs, a type of digital asset often linked to an image or a work of art, which is generally purchased with cryptocurrencies.
More than 400 employees signed an open letter that was written after the company’s announcement and shared on internal messaging channels.
It is aimed at the co-CEOs of Salesforce and raises concerns about the environmental and economic impact of NFTs, calling them “highly speculative and unregulated financial assets.”
The NFT market has skyrocketed over the past year, with NFT sales topping $24.9 billion in 2021, up from just under $95 million the year before, according to market tracker DappRadar.
Celebrities are increasingly buying and launching their own NFTs, and brands like Pepsi, Universal Music, and the National Basketball Association are also entering the market.
NFTs have been criticized for their carbon footprint, as well as for facilitating risky speculation and having lax fraud protections.
A Salesforce employee who signed the letter threatened to resign if the NFT plan went through. “I will find a company that lives up to its stated values,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, asking not to use his name to protect his identity.
Some employees expressed dismay in internal chats that the plans were announced just as Salesforce debuted a major Super Bowl ad featuring actor Matthew McConaughey and touting a commitment to sustainability.
Other workers expressed support for the plan, saying Salesforce could help responsibly expand the NFT ecosystem and guide its customers through the emerging market.
A Salesforce spokesperson said in emailed comments that “our core values guide everything we do, including the development of our products. We welcome feedback from our employees and are proud to foster a culture of trust that enables them to raise different points of view.
Tech experts who have been critical of NFTs were not surprised by the setback against Salesforce.
“There is a risk for any organization that considers NFT,” said Alex de Vries, an economist who tracks the environmental impact of blockchain, whose research was cited in the employee’s letter.
He pointed to a recent decision by the conservation group World Wildlife Fund to abandon an NFT project after coming under fire from environmentalists.
But there are ways to build NFTs responsibly, he added, such as avoiding blockchains that consume a lot of energy and instead using so-called “proof-of-stake” blockchains that consume a fraction of the energy.
John Reed, former head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Internet Compliance, said workers should be concerned about becoming involved in such a volatile and poorly regulated financial asset.
“I would certainly think about working elsewhere,” he said in a telephone interview.
The employee letter lists how the NFT market could undermine each of Salesforce’s five stated core values: trust, customer success, innovation, equality, and sustainability.
“The amount of scams and fraud in the NFT space is staggering,” he says, also criticizing the carbon footprint of NFTs and citing research showing that the financial benefits of NFTs are unevenly distributed.
“We implore you to reconsider,” the letter continues, noting that employee pushback “could result in further attrition.”
The Salesforce spokesman said the company planned to hold a “listening session” with employees next week to inform its future plans and would not comment on specific criticisms against the NFT proposal.