Accelerating Businesses’ ESG and Sustainability Strategies and Actions with Salesforce’s Jon Powell

May 23, 2023

Play/Pause Download

Jon Powell is an entrepreneur, technologist, academic, and chemical/environmental engineer by training and is Global Lead of the Sustainability Practice at Salesforce. At Salesforce, Jon works directly with hundreds of the world’s largest forward-thinking corporations to accelerate their ESG and Sustainability strategies and actions. Prior to Salesforce, Jon led investment funds at Closed Loop Partners, an impact investment firm driving a transition to a more circular economy. Jon has also led and founded multiple startups spanning EdTech and environmental services.

John Shegerian: Do you have a suggestion for a Rockstar Impact podcast guest? Go to and just click Be a Guest to recommend Someone today. This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit This episode of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Close Loop Partners. Close Loop Partners is a leading circular economy investor in the United States with an extensive network of Fortune 500 corporate investors, family offices, institutional investors, industry experts and impact partners. Closed loops platform spans the arc of capital, from venture capital to private equity bridging gaps and fostering synergies to scale the circular economy. To find Closed Loop Partners, please go to

John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian, and I’m so honored to have with us today my good friend Jon Powell. He’s a sustainability practice, global lead at Welcome to the Impact Podcast, Jon.

Jon Powell: It’s my unalloyed pleasure to be here. I’ve been looking forward to sitting down in this more formal setting here. So looking forward to digging in.

John: Me too. Jon before we get talking about all your important work at Salesforce that you’re doing with your colleagues in sustainability and truly a great leader there, can you get into a little bit the Jon Powell story? Where’d you grow up? Where’d you love for the environment come and what got you on this path?

Jon: Yeah, I think like most people, it’s bit circuitous and I’d like to think I’ve engineered some of it. But quite fittingly, I was born in this great state of West Virginia, and when I say fittingly, that was in the middle of a move. So my parents were in route from Virginia going up into the Midwest, but they, they stopped along the way, had me and ended up, I think, moving another 12 or 13 times before I graduated high school. So that certainly has shaped, I think the way that I adapt to new situations and find a way to get comfort pretty quickly. But the my inspiration for getting into the environment, its a really simple one. So I had a class in high school, AP Environmental Science, and I believe it was the first year that it was ever offered as an AP course. I had a a classic inspiring teacher named Dean Shaver. And he just had a boatload of stories going back into jobs that he had when he was younger, and weaving that into some of the tenets of what is environmental science all about? And I think what intrigued me, there’s so many directions in which you can go, how do we better measure what’s happening in the environment? How do we protect the environment from negative consequences? How do we deal with consequences after they’ve already happened? It’s like choose your own adventure type of thing. So that really resonated with me and really inspired me to go into the environmental field. So I earned a degree in environmental engineering from University of Florida, and that’s one of the rare pure environmental engineering programs. If you look across the landscape, many are coupled with civil engineering, so it’s like a blend of the two. But this is very, very much hardcore in environmental engineering. And so that was my backing. I think one thing that you and I share, maybe we don’t want to admit this to everybody, but we’re pure waste guys. We’ve been dealing with waste and recycling for many years, and that was the discipline and the subfield that I focused on. I got my thesis did something on an advanced way of dealing with waste, which we might dig into. But following that, ran and exited a couple of consultancies. And I took an unusual pause mid-career to earn my doctorate for a couple of strategic reasons. And prior to joining Salesforce, I was fortunate to run some investment funds at closed loop partners, the leading circular economy investment fund, and so now at Salesforce the world’s largest CRM software company that’s really helping hundreds of thousands of companies across the world get to know their customers better, serve them better. Like I said, as I look back it feels maybe there’s some moves that were deliberate, but also very privileged that certain things are happening at a certain time. And it’s a product of luck and just being there at the right time. So that leads me to where I am today at Salesforce.

John: That’s awesome. When you were growing up were your parents in [inaudible] environment also, besides your teacher? Was that something that was going on back then? As I know culturally in the United States, we were historically behind Europe and some of the Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. Was that something that was part of your learnings growing up and in your household?

Jon: Not really. Not that there isn’t a care for the environment, but I think there’s these little moments that happen over life that stick with you. I recall a fifth grade project where I made recycled paper. There was this formula where you soap things in water and you make a pulp, and then it airs out. And the quality wasn’t great, but you learned about the process. Just you add up those little things I had a strong interest in math and in science. And I think I just tended to want to apply that. I think the beauty and what I love and really what maybe you choose environmental engineering as a discipline in college is the fact that you’re really leveraging principles of physics, biology, and chemistry, bringing those to bear in a number of ways to environmental challenges. And that could be technological application. Again, that could be measurement and monitoring, and it’s all important. But I think, again, being able to weave together the hard sciences toward environmental issues, which is so something I always liked that bridge that we were building to try to have that positive impact on the world.

John: Now at Salesforce, you are the sustainability practice global lead. Now, as you know that can mean so many things over the course of this podcast, the last 17 years when we started this podcast, chief sustainability officers weren’t even a thing then, frankly.

Jon: Yeah.

John: Now, impact leaders and chief sustainability leaders, chief impact leaders they can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Because first of all, as you and I know, when you started your journey and I started mine in waste and recycling, ESG wasn’t a thing. The shift from the linear to circular economy wasn’t even a thing back then. Sustainability was only becoming part of our vernacular. So what is sustainability practice global lead at, such a wonderful and huge platform really mean for you and for your great brand that you represent?

Jon: Yeah. And thank you for calling that out. I think being intentional about what it is specifically we’re doing in a sustainability role is so important, right? Just for clarity and to ensure that this is legitimate what we’re doing, we we’re moving the needle. So it means a very specific thing, and I’m extremely privileged and fortunate again right time, right place. I joined Salesforce about a year ago, and it was a newly created team within the firm. Credit to Harpreet Koran, who’s the architect who dreamed up the not only the role but the team. But the idea was we at Salesforce, we build world-class platform software products for a variety of of reasons. We have wonderful sales teams who are engaging with customers all the time. Separate from that, we have our ESG and sustainability team doing the corporate work, the corporate function and carrying those programs out. What my role is as the global lead sustainability practice is in effect, it is a customer facing role in which we are really trying to weave together a few different things. One, to very quickly understand where our customer is in their ESG and sustainability journey. As you and I know there’s a broad spectrum, and we’ve got folks all up and down, and they all need help in a certain way. So one is very quickly get up to speed on that, given my experience. But then it’s really trying to paint the vision of where they can get to. And I think really the secret sauce that we talk about a lot at Salesforce is really not only identifying the ways in which you can have a rigorous and robust ESG and sustainability program, but what are the different ways that you can create linkages to other parts of the business? And so a lot of that is having discussions like breaking down silos and that there’s wonderful things happening at different pockets of the company. And often that sustainability function is off to the side. They’re doing their thing. And I think really on the enterprise, large company level where I work, where that magic happens is when you can have some diffusion between those different functions and use great sustainability work you’re doing to your advantage.

John: That’s so interesting. When you say there’s a wide spectrum of where your client base is in their journey, one of the things that I found, but I would love to hear, of course, your experience, because you’re dealing with so many more brands than I get to touch, is so many brands are very scared of the journey. Because they don’t know where to begin. It seems daunting.

Jon: Yeah absolutely.

John: So what you are doing is with your skillset, with your technology and with your knowledge expertise base, you’re empowering their journey to begin and you’re giving them a structured sequence to do this journey. Is this how it breaks down?

Jon: You’re spot on. And in fact we’ve got a six pillar climate action plan that we’ve published. And one of the many things that our team does really well is we’re very transparent and we have a really big megaphone where we’re sharing what it is we’ve learned. And we don’t necessarily claim to have everything figured out. But a line that I say in customer conversations all the time is that we’ve got hundreds of thousands of hours collectively of really bright people thinking deeply about hard problems. We have a lot of things in the rear view that we have figured out, and part of my goal is to really harvest those learnings in ways of doing things. Sometimes very pragmatic stuff, not so esoteric, but it’s like, how do I think about procuring renewable energy? Well, if you own buildings, do this, if you only lease buildings, here are some options that you have as an example. So a lot of the work, a as you said, as you’re engaging with the customer, and maybe they’re being nudged into it I think one really interesting dynamic happening right now that is completely unique. There’s many companies that have been reporting for many years on their ESG sustainability performance. One of your previous guests, Ron, from home depot articulating, he’s like, yeah 15 years ago we were putting out this report, that report and the place where we are right now we’re having some emerging regulations that are really forcing everybody to do things in a similar way. There’s a lot of benefits to that, which we can get into. But ultimately there are some dynamics happening both in the US, in Europe, Brazil, other countries that are really lining everybody up and effectively saying, if you’re above this threshold, business size wise, if you’re this type of business, you need to start transparently reporting on your environmental performance. You need to use the following frameworks and measurement methodologies and you need to have those looked at by a third party and validated. Again, where people are on their journey, maybe some folks have been doing that for several years, but others are brand new there. So again, the customer conversations we’re often having are trying to calibrate where are you in that spectrum, and what can we deliver to you now as a free and open sourced learning to help you accelerate. That’s literally like 80% of my job, .

John: Well, it’s a fascinating, because like you say, right time, right place, not only did you go from amazing brand at closed loop over to Salesforce, another amazing brand. but given. Let’s talk about a little bit of what you just were referring to a on an institutional financial side, Larry Fink comes out and says, you want to be a portfolio member of BlackRock and remain a portfolio member. You’re not only going to have to say what you’re going to do in ESG and circular economy, you’re going to have to do what you say and prove it up. I assume you’re referring partially to that, and then partially to some of the new SEC regulations that are coming down at the same time. So what a perfect storm for you that pushes your clients gently into your arms to say, Hey, we need help and help us now, is this how it’s going?

Jon: You’re completely right. There’s really almost a couple of components to that. For those of your listeners not familiar with the CC’S regulations, in short, essentially if you’re a large publicly traded company or you’re an investment house it’s a proposed regulation right now. But in effect, it would require financial grade reporting on your environmental and sustainability attributes on par with what people have historically done in SEC forms 10K for their financial performance. So there’s really two outgrowths of that. What are companies really thinking about one is, how do I get my data house in order to meet the SEC where they want me to eventually be? And SEC is the only one out there the European Commission passed a law late last year called the corporate sustainability reporting directive that’s going to catch 50,000 companies large and small eventually when it’s fully rolled out. And it’s kind of the same thing. There’s a thousand different data points that companies will have to report on. So one side is the data problem. So in brief, one of the ways in which Salesforce helps, we have a platform product, which is really a new software category, which is essentially wrangling, oftentimes very messy enterprise grade data, normalizing, harmonizing it so that it can comport with things like your carbon accounting, things you would report on ESG. So that’s one thing that we’re having conversations about and helping customers with. I think the other thing too and maybe following the show, I can give you a link to this work, but Salesforce did some internal research surveyed about 1200 different global professionals, not just sustainability, but global corporate professionals.

John: Sure.

Jon: On various ESG topics. The punchline is that there is a massive sustainability skills and talent gap globally. So again, we think about like wrangling the data and doing the computations.

John: Sure.

Jon: That’s one piece. But there’s like humans that have to make decisions and help drive these programs forward. What we found overwhelmingly in this, in this survey was about 80% of hiring managers said, I don’t have the talent to help execute on my ESG program. And then meanwhile, about 80% of workers were saying, my company is not providing me with the enablement and the training to have the sustainability skills that I actually want, because I want to be able to have an impact with my company. So you can see that gap there. And there’s a lot of things that Salesforce and many others have been doing to try to fill that gap. We have a platform called Trailhead, which is a free gamified online learning platform. Now it covers like all of Salesforce products. It’s massive, but there’s a huge amount of sustainability and ESG programs. And in fact, we have customers who have taken that, free training content used to say, Hey, we’ve trained like all of our sustainability function on this, or even other teams, right? So there’s all these little pockets where innovation is needed, but we just need to meet people where they are and try to bring them up to speed. Because this to me is one of the biggest challenges of our time. How do we get enough talented, motivated humans who are thinking rigorously about sustainability to carry it out at the corporate and private company level because that’s where a lot of the action is going to be happening.

John: So you’re empowering them both with your proprietary technology, but also using your proprietary technology to offer them an education as well in sustainability.

Jon: Yes, that’s absolutely correct.

John: Unbelievable. For our listeners and viewers who’ve just joined us, we’ve got Jon Powell with us today. He’s a sustainability practice global You can also see all the great things him and his colleagues are doing in sustainability for their clients at I’m on your website now. Are the six pillars that you just referred to a couple minutes back, the pillars that are right here in terms of your priorities for sustainable future in terms of emissions reduction regulation and policy innovation, education and mobilization, trillion trees ecosystem restoration and carbon removal. Is that it?

Jon: That sum it up, Powell. Absolutely.

John: Oh my God, if I could just stop stuttering a little bit, that would be wonderful. For our listeners and viewers, it’s all there and it’s fascinating. In terms of Salesforce, how has the first year been? What were you expecting that actually happened because you’ve been doing this so long, there’s some pattern recognition I’m sure you saw, and some things that you were fully expecting that actually played out. What weren’t you expecting also that shocked you a little bit and has been fun to take on new challenges with regards to things that you weren’t expecting in this new role?

Jon: That’s a great question. I think one of the biggest bright spots and I came to Salesforce very deliberately, I think the one common thread throughout my whole career trajectory has been to identify the ways in which I just one person can have the maximum impact. Of course your podcast name resonates with me very much, but that was really going from closed loop partners, which is just a wonderful organisation. They just put out their last year’s impact report and they’re just absolutely crushing it. But as I reflected on, on where things were, I said circular economy, I’ve been doing a lot of that stuff for years. And while the investment experience was just such a force multiplier and an amazing one as I considered the ways in which we’re going after the market and supporting at massive scale, and you just outlined our six pillar climate action plan. I think this is a next logical step and just the audience that we have as a global company with very loyal customers was super compelling. I think that the top positive thing I would say is like the impact I had hoped to have in terms of deeply understanding, but then seeing every single day moving the needle with various organizations, large and small has been very, very satisfying. I think what I didn’t appreciate and the company moves extremely fast in a lot of different ways. So it’s exciting, but there’s these rhythms to the year, and we have a lot of really big events but meanwhile, there’s just this like undercurrent where things are just like moving very, very, very quickly, right? Some of it were, our response to like external trends in stimuli. Other things were creating and developing thought leadership. So it’s always a matter of prioritization and figuring out what the most important things of the day are. And then what things we might ,let see it play out. But that’s life at a 75,000 person company too.

John: Yeah. I love on this part of your website, the one I just referred to it, again, for our listeners who want to catch it again, What I love in terms of the empowerment, and I’m going to just pick one or two of these things in terms of what’s going on right now in the zeitgeist, net zero is so much of what you hear about today, and people are chasing this net zero. So it says here, we’re bringing the full power of Salesforce to accelerate the world’s journey to net zero, go net zero now with NetZero Cloud. Explain what that would even look like. If I’m a client of yours and I want to net zero. I want to be able to get to net zero, get it into my impact report, get it to my analyst, my C-suite, my board of directors, and get my company on the right track here. How does that even look like? How does that journey look? We’re going to just take one or two of your six pillars here.

Jon: Sure. What better source than to say how we’ve done it at Salesforce our self.

John: Exactly.

Jon: We choose our words very deliberately. What do we do, is we say we have net zero residual carbon emissions today. And you notice there’s one extra word in there, residual emissions. What does that mean? So we have two things, and I think this is just a wonderful model, and we speak, to a lot of our customers about this model and why we’ve elected to go this way. But we have, on the one hand, a very rigorous emissions reduction plan. For my money the investment that we have made in our own program probably without peer, I would say. Now we have a whole emission reduction team at Salesforce. Their job is to figure out of all the levers that we have at Salesforce, how do we decarbonize? And so we have very aggressive plans. We’ve got, rigorous targets, and we’re tracking toward that, sharing very transplantly as good companies do. But then what we say also is that, listen, we’re on a path to hit our decarbonization goal. However, in the meantime, we also feel it’s critical to support what we call ecopreneur that are out there innovating in the market, that are creating carbon removal technologies, other types of high quality offset projects. So we feel that we don’t need to sacrifice the support of these, which are sometimes nascent technologies, or maybe it’s efforts being done in developing countries. So this is providing means for, small land holders. There’s a whole whole assortment of potential projects that are out there. But we’re advancing both of those. So it’s reduce all that you can for right now, but then also offset what you can’t eliminate right now. And then continue down that decarbonization pathway. I know that out in the market and in some good analyses and maybe some not so careful analyses, there’s some debate over the merits of carbon offsets as a strategy in a corporate. But its it’s my belief personally that if you are doing the rigorous work and you’re on a pathway to get to a net zero carbon emission future, but then you’re doing other things today to address challenges that we have, I think that’s a pretty good formula for success.

John: I love it. Switching topics, going back to your comment of a few moments ago about right time, right place. It seems though, Jon, when we were starting in sustainability, it was a little bit of an upheld battle. There wasn’t wasted recycling, sustainability wasn’t a thing, even once Al Gore did Inconvenient Truth back in five, it went through fits and starts, but I’m getting a feeling that the last 3, 4, 5 years, ESG, the shift from the eliminator circular economy and sustainability are mega trends to borrow term that are here to stay, and now going to continue to just keep going in the right direction. So if you take those trends and you’re at the right place, right time with what a wonderful 75,000 employees, some of the best technology in the world to be able to help others make the right changes, so we can all make the world a better place collectively, because we’re all tied, this is a borderless problem that we all have to be involved with to help get us to where we want to go. Take another huge trend in technology and merge it with sustainability. The AI, the, the ChatGPT thing, that’s every day in the news. And now Alibaba I heard is the launching their new version of theirs, and Microsoft’s got theirs and Google’s got theirs. And it seems as though we’re in a space race of ChatGPT and AI technology. Now, what does that look like, applying that to stainability, and does it apply to sustainability? And does that help us move the needle in our goals with regards to sustainability, ESG and circular economy?

Subscribe For The Latest Impact Updates

Subscribe to get the latest Impact episodes delivered right to your inbox each week!
Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you or share your information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Jon: It completely does, and, geez, John, we might need to do a part two just on Chat GPT.

John: No problem. You’re always welcome back here.

Jon: I can nerd out on that stuff all day, but it’s a great question, but we’ve covered just a moment ago one of the things that I don’t know if I’d say it keeps me up at night, I’d say drives me. It’s this sustainability skills and talent gap. As an, educator, historically that’s something I’m very passionate about. I think I’ll take the positivist view of ChatGPT and similar technologies on helping us get that scale that we ultimately need. Sometimes in the new tech landscape it’s hard to suss out what might have some staying power versus versus not. But I’ll just say for my own personal experimentation and use of the technology you could really legitimately see some interesting applications. There’s a professor at University of Toronto who has this really interesting framework for looking at AI enabled technologies, not just ChatGPT. And it’s you got point solution, which is, oh, there’s quick advantages we can get from this technology right now. Then there’s this like application layer where maybe there’s something that’s a little bit more robust and structured that’s changing things. And then you have like fundamental systems upheaval, so there’s some debate over where does Chat GPT as an example, fall. But I’ll give you an example. I think you’ll like this. Imagine your a busy sustainability professional, and you’re going to be going on a great podcast and you say, okay I’ve listened to a bunch of past episodes, but like, how can I accelerate my preparation for this? Powell, you like this. I went in your Paul Augustine interview with Lyft had a sustainability at Lyft [inaudible].

John: Sure.

Jon: So I threw the link to the show notes in ChatGPT, and I just said, please gimme a four sentence summary of this podcast interview. And its quick four sentence.

John: Oh, yeah. I want to hear it. Yeah, this is great.

Jon: During the interview, Paul Augustine from Lyft emphasized the company’s commitment to sustainability and reducing carbon emissions. Lyft plans to transition to a hundred percent electric vehicles by 2030, and is partnered with organizations to increase access to EV charging infrastructure. Augustine highlighted the need for government support in making electric transport more accessible and affordable, and the potential for ride sharing, to reduce traffic congestion and improve mobility in cities. Conversation shows Lyft is taking significant steps towards achieving their sustainability goals, while also recognizing the importance of policy and regulatory support in driving sustainable transportation.

John: That’s a great synopsis, by the way.

Jon: That’s spot on, right?

John: Spot on.

Jon: What does it mean? I always like to try to distil things in like simple terms someone can understand, but it took me three seconds to paste that into ChatGPT. It took me 45 seconds to read this and absorb it, take a couple notes myself, and it was a 36 minute podcast. So you do the math. That’s pretty powerful. That’d be in the point solution, but one of the companies don’t buy Salesforce or that’s part of the Salesforce family is Slack, and there’s some native integrations happening with slack and ChatGPT itself. I’m an older guy. I’ve always had email open for every job that I’ve had for my entire career, when I came to Salesforce, you learn, oh, we use Slack, we hardly use email at all. The way it’s set up, you’ve got all these different channels for like, different projects that you’re working on, right? And so imagine that you’re a new hire and there’s this project going on for six months. You joined this Slack channel, there’s a thousand messages there. Well, there’s an integration now where you’ve got the ChatGPT app and you say, Hey, give me a summary of what’s happened for the last six months, and you get a paragraph, and now I’m all caught up. So again, there’s a lot of interesting and exciting things. There’s a lot of things about security and lots of other concerns. But, again, we’re thinking of the op shot and the positive impact here, Powell,

John: Talking about the positive,

Jon: Pretty bullish on it.

John: Speaking of the positive impact, you just did a great thing when I asked you about how you help, since you are outward facing to the client base in terms of sustainability practice, global lead my question of net zero, how you’re getting them net zero, and you related it back to how Salesforce is becoming net zero, Jon, do that also for me with regards to the yin and yang[?] of, you are outward facing and you’ve got a team working on empowering your clients on their sustainability journey. How does that look inside? Who the Jon Powell on the inside working on the sustainability journey on the inside, and how is that journey going on the inside at

Jon: Yeah, and actually you bringing that up, I think I partially didn’t respond to a bit of your question, so I’ll cover both of those. I am adjacent to the team that is running the sustainability program at Salesforce. They’re doing doing a bang up job, fantastic work. I believe over the next week or so, we’re going to be releasing our latest, we call it our stakeholder impact report. And it’s a great dynamic page where you can see all of the targets that we’ve said, all the accomplishments we have, and there are many but they’re keeping pace. So we’ve got aggressive goals, that’s by design. And I think those that choose to visit and take a look at that, we’ll see that work because we’re on track.

John: Does your work with that leader and that division crossing inform each other? Do you got crossing inform an you tell them what your clients are asking for what’s hot, what’s not, and vice versa. Does he do the same?

Jon: That’s exactly it. So if we almost imagine we’ve got our pod of sustainability, ESG professionals here we’ve got my team, which is where we’re called the sustainability customer engagement team, and then we have our sales function, right? So we’re very deliberately a conduit going in between those because, imagine we’ve got thought leadership that my team or our extended team would develop. There’s almost this sustainability whispering that we do to translate maybe the hard science, maybe it’s a little esoteric, maybe it’s a little technical, but we translate in that in a way that is going to resonate, with our customers. An example of that, the new SEC regulations, it’s 500 pages. I love reading that kind of stuff, and really understanding the finer points, but then you bring that up to an elevation where it’s very broadly helpful. So one of the wonderful things that I get to do is write up these communications. How do we engage with our customers in a very credible and thoughtful way, but also in a way we’re not bogged down in the weeds and saying here’s the 10 page implementation timeline of the SEC rule. No. It’s really like, this is coming, this is what it means. Here’s how Salesforce can help. Do we want to have a conversation. On the net zero part of your question from before, Powell? One of the things that, again, I think drew me to Salesforce is in part A, the software we have, which is called net zero Cloud. The way I like to describe it, if we imagine a sustainability team at a large corporate, let’s say global, it could be a retail consumer goods company. There might be, I don’t know, three, four or five people, let’s just say running that program. The status quote today, if a team is to really put together like a robust and rigorous, incredible account of their carbon emissions looking at risk models, looking at projections going forward, what’s our decarbonization pathway? Putting that together digging into last year’s data might be like a six month effort, seven month effort, right? So we think well, 2022 ended, it’s January one, let’s start working on last year’s report, and we finish in August. You can see where that compresses the amount of time that sustainability professionals have to carry out their program. Now, I’m presenting it in simplified terms, but that’s a trend that we see a lot. So part of the value proposition of our software, and there’s other software out there too, but the idea is rather than taking six, seven months to wrangle data and a low value way, why not try to automate and harness all these various data and systems that you have run it through the appropriate computations that are aligned with global standards for carbon accounting, for example, right? Now you’ve compressed that maybe into a matter of weeks. And so you’ve freed up all of this time to like really act and like do the hard things. Again, I expect your Home Depot conversation. There’s some hard problems and it isn’t just necessarily carbon emissions. There’s waste, there’s water management, there’s all these other things that a a busy chief sustainability officer is thinking of. If you’re able to again compress the maybe dollar and less value add parts of things by automating and connecting data system, that’s a really powerful message. And we’ve seen a lot of success with our customers taking advantage of that.

John: Yeah. One common theme that I’ve gotten over the last 17 years of doing these interviews Jon, is that everybody who sits in your seat or adjacent to your seat, always says to me, Jon, in sustainability, there’s no finish line. And there’s always more to do. And that’s the wonderful part of what you do. But like you said, you got to roll up your sleeves and get to that hard work. But let’s talk about something more practical. Because you bring up a brilliant point about speed and leveraging technology to get the impact report out, even just at a relatively small company like ours, with regards to the size and scope of a Salesforce and other great companies like Salesforce that exist, that want to put out impact reports. We have found, and tell me if this is something that’s part of your coaching and leadership with the clients that you touch, getting the report out in April is a lot more important than getting a report out in December, because timing matters, not only so the report is done in an efficient and resourceful way, but also, frankly speaking, it’s more sociable and commercializable if you get it out and use it with your client base, your investor base, your potential client base, you have a whole runway of eight months as opposed to putting it out during the holiday period where then you’re already on to next year’s report and you’ve lost that whole year of opportunity to radically transparent shout from the rooftops of all the good and hard work that you’re working on. Is timing that important? And is that part of your coaching and leadership to your, to your client base?

Jon: To totally fair. There’s a number of ends and I think a number of advantages to having things a little bit more in real time. Again, that’s part of the value that we’re trying to bring to bear, with the software and the technology solution. But we hear lots of different things from customers. I think very encouragingly, one of the top things that I hear in my customer conversations is that part of our governance committee, we have a quarterly board meeting. It’s hard and frankly unacceptable for me to say, Hey, at the end of 22 of Year X, we’re going to be able to report to you on what we did last year, right? And so what they’re looking for is how do I get these data streams flowing in, again, run it through all the computations so that I can have some picture where are things going, right? That’s particularly important as we look at the actions and activities. And I think far less about like the actual impact report. I think that’s an output. That is a thing that a box that has to be checked, we’re in an Arab, that’s table stakes for transparency, right? But to me its reducing your time to action, right? And you’re enabled by that. If you’re equipped with the data and you’re seeing the results coming in from various initiatives, at the end of the day as you’re looking at decarbonization pathways at in a corporate context, it’s all a stack of projects. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but how do we start to see the fruits of that if we’re doing AB testing for some energy reduction program for our different buildings or what have you. There’s a number of things we need to start monitoring that have that single source of truth so that the right stakeholders have the right visibility to say, let’s accelerate investment in these areas because this is really working, right? A lot of examples in circularity we’ve got customers who track a few dozen different circularity experiments. Where they’re setting things up in different parts of the world or different parts of the country. And allowing those sustainability teams to have that window paned view where everybody’s able to see things as opposed to exchanging things over email or some other less efficient needs.

John: That’s so fascinating. Jon, let’s go back down to Jon Powell. Jon, we have lots of young listeners in the United States, but actually, frankly, around the world, we track our listeners, they send us emails, they tell us where they’re listening from, and they tell us what they’re interested in. And a lot of the questions always come back to the guests themselves. So obviously you’re unbelievably credentialed in terms of a PhD and you’ve worked in education, you’ve worked in finance, and now you’re working in the pinnacle of the corporate world in sustainability. What’s the right path for the next 16 year old, or 15 year old, or 21 year old to follow, to become the next Jon Powell and other great leaders like you who sit in the seats that you sit in that really do make the world a better place and get to move the needle?

Jon: I think probably the top advice I share and I’m very privileged to have lots of wonderful conversations with many young professionals that are just coming up, or maybe they’re mid-career and they’re pivoting. I paraphrase some advice that I got actually when I came back to grad school from one of my mentors, and her advice was, and this is most appropriate in the context of school, I think there’s other analogues, but when you’re in an environment, either you’re getting your undergrad degree or gearing up toward that do the hardest thing that you’re willing to handle, you can always level up to something that’s maybe a little higher level. But if you really just put yourself through that pain, frankly, it’s always easier to level up. I think a trend that I tend to see, that I would like to see less of is this idea of being a sustainability generalist. It’s hovering at this elevation where it’s like, I know about a lot of things and can speak intelligently about a lot of things, but the details are what matters, right? Keep hearing up Ron Jarson in his thing, but there was a lot of great messages there, which is like, you have to interrogate the details, details matter. To the extent that you’re able to do that within your educational context, I think that’s great. I put a lot on my trajectory just candidly, like on luck. It is literally right place, right time, but I think something that I’ve been pretty successful at doing is keeping my eyes open and maybe not being afraid to mix things up. I’ve exited a startup that I was helping to lead to go back to grad school, which is like, why would you do that when you’re in your early thirties? But I had a gut instinct that says, I want to take this time to reset, reflect the big data was like all of the rage. And so I did my dissertation on big data applications for, informatics as it relates to circularity and waste. Again, I think keeping your eyes open for these macro trends sustainability is a universal thing. Part of it, I think too is disaggregate. A lot of folks will say like, I’m really interested in climate tech, or I really want to do something in ESG. So it’s like, okay, take that categorically, break it apart into its 30 component parts underneath that. What’s interesting to you and try to just try to marry up what feels exciting in her gut to those various subdivisions underneath you

John: Become a subject expert if you can be.

Jon: Or at least put yourself in an environment where you can get a deep enough sampling. Oftentimes a consulting pathway can be very effective because you’re able to sample, a bunch of different things, and there’s different kinds of sustainability consulting contexts. But that’s one area that we’re seeing exploding. There’s a lot of acquisitions, there’s a lot of, growth in that sector. Because again, companies and other organizations need help from people who have that subject matter expertise. Position yourself to credibly demonstrate that is always a great thing.

John: What’s the value in 2023 and beyond of apprenticeships and internships? High value still?

Jon: Yeah, I think so. There’s always context. Are you fetching coffee or are you [inaudible] some meaningful things. I think maybe part and parcel to that, if you are able to like, really get your hands dirty, you really roll your sleeves up and have some some tangible outputs that’s something I always try to take pride in when I have, younger professionals working under me. It’s like, coming to them and saying, okay, let’s think strategically at the end of this engagement this summer or just as you’re working along, what are those two or three bullets on the CV or on the portfolio website that you would build or whatever, what would those be? And let’s work backward from there. So it’s always keeping your eyes open for someone who’s supportive of your journey. And so hopefully there’s good fit there for the very first.

John: Jon, you’ve got tremendous vision and also lots of energy, and you’re brilliant. Obviously you’ve been at Salesforce for a year. What’s next on the horizon? When you go to bed at night, what do you dream about the months and years to come on what you’re working on at Salesforce? What’s the horizon look like?

Jon: I feel like we’re really just getting started and navigating a big organisation and, there’s so many wonderful stakeholders that you’re wrangling to set the pieces up for success. But really what’s next? You’re going to use some rough numbers, but there’s probably a hundred thousand people out there that we need to have some level of ESG and sustainability expertise that currently do not possess that. So what are the things in my radius of control that I can do to move that forward? So I think another wonderful benefit of the position I’m in right now is that I get to create a lot of thought leadership content internally to help people have those credible conversations with sustainability professionals. I think that’s the frontier for me. There’s a a hundred thousand people to go. Maybe I’ll keep a little ledger next to my monitors easy. It take stats every month. John.

John: You’re a big data person, so keep the number. I love it.

Jon: Yeah, We’re going to automate that, of course.

John: Jon there’s so much more you and I could talk about. I want you to be able to come back on the show. You’re always invited back on here to share the sales force journey in sustainability, both inside and outside and how you’re bringing all your client base along on this journey so we can all together make the world a better place. So find John and his colleagues and learn more about the sustainability practice that they’re doing at Please go to Jon Powell, I love what you’re doing. I’m so grateful that you’re making the world a better place for all of us. Thank you again, and I look forward to having you back here on the Impact Podcast.

Jon: Done. Pleasures all mine. Really appreciate the conversation and super, super fun. So look forward to coming back.

John: This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform, revolutionizing the talent booking industry with thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs and business leaders engage as the go-to spot for booking talent, for speeches, customer experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit let’ This edition of The Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit