MR. IGNATIUS: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to Washington Post Live. I'm David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post.

This afternoon, it's my special pleasure to welcome Marc Benioff, who is the legendary founder, CEO, Chairman of Salesforce; and in addition, is widely known in the corporate world as somebody who takes corporate philanthropy, the social responsibility of companies very seriously.

So, I'm looking forward to a conversation with him today about the path forward and focusing on the new future of work and our workplaces.

Marc, welcome. I want to ask you to begin by talking about the issue that I think every American is focused on this week beyond the pandemic, and that is, in the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd, we are all thinking about racial justice in America, about issues of police brutality.

I know you talked with your employees last week, had some intense conversations. Tell us a little bit about what you heard and what you think corporate America ought to be doing.

MR. BENIOFF: Well, thank you, David.

You know, I really have had a heavy heart, I have to be honest with you, and this has been very difficult for me. I am outraged and angry, just like so many of my friends are, my employees are, I think so many Americans are, and others around the world. And it really started when a good friend of mine sent me that video and I just, you know, would--just grieved horribly when I saw the murder of George Floyd.

And of course, it brings back the memories of Breonna Taylor, of Ahmed Arbury, and all these other Americans that have been so unjustly denied their freedoms, their liberties. And you know, to come back to that video, to see that video, it was, I think, unlike anything I've ever had to witness, and it just causes me a moment to reflect, to look back, and to say, you know, what can we do? What actions can we take to improve the state of our country? What actions can we take, you know, just looking personally, myself. But also, the company, what actions can the company take?

And this is not the first time we have to look at that, it will not be the last time, but we look at it as, first and foremost, what are we doing with people? Representation matters. You know, we listen so closely to our black employees, but also, we ask, are we building our pipelines? Are we doing the right things for equality?

I mean, for us, you know, we so strongly believe that business is the greatest platform for change, and it's one of the reasons why one of our core values is equality.

We have a chief equality officer. We have strong ally programs for our black employees. But at the end of the day, representation matters, and we have to look at what are our core numbers. We've improved them. We have to continue to focus and improve on those.

But those are not the only things we can do. We can do other things as a business. We can also look at our purchasing. We can say, are we buying from black-owned businesses? Our head of purchasing is one of our top black executives, and that's my question to him: What more can you be doing to improve that? What about investing in black entrepreneurs? What about philanthropy? Of course, that is extremely important, as well right now, especially in some of these critical causes that we see illuminated.

And even our core processes, even our policy in terms of how we deal with our country, or states, what we're advocating for, all of these things have to be looked at through the lens of that video.

And we are doing that at Salesforce. We take this very seriously. You know that Salesforce is a top-five global software company. We have 52,000 employees. We're going to do more than $20 billion in revenue this year. We certainly have a responsibility to be the best practice, to do whatever we can. And so, I even built a new taskforce and got our top black executives together, individual contributors, and said, what more can we do? And so, we are making and continuing and expanding our investments in this area.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, Marc, those are powerful ideas. And I want to ask you to just say a little bit more about the way in which you at Salesforce might make racial justice--movement towards a fairer, more just America, better police relations. You might make that a metric for your company and orient your purchasing, your customer relations more with that in mind.

Just say a little bit more about how that might look.

MR. BENIOFF: Well, that already is a core metric for our company. You know, we have four core values at Salesforce: trust, customer success, innovation, and equality.

And we so strongly believe in the equality of every human being, and we've always fought for that at Salesforce. Maybe that's because we're, you know, here in San Francisco. You know, we're deeply committed to that. That's at our core of who we are as--at our community and how we started our company.

And when we look at equality, we have a chief equality officer, as I mentioned, but there's still many things we can do. In fact, one of the revelations that we had this year was to combine our equality efforts and our recruiting efforts. We always struggle with our pipelines. This is a critical part of achieving equality in a business. And then, all of a sudden, it was clear we can combine equality with our recruiting efforts. So, we took our chief equality officer, Tony Prophet, amazing executive, very highly regarded, we said, "Will you please also now manage recruiting?" That was an idea we probably should have got to much faster.

And of course, equality goes into many other areas, not just racial equality like we're talking about, but also gender equality. You know, we've had to focus and look at dramatically impacting the number of female employees we've had. We've had to look at pay equality. Do we pay men and women equally for the same work? We had to look at LGBTQ equality, especially in our work in Indiana, where we're the largest employer, tech employer, in Indiana and in Indianapolis. We had to look there.

And we look to how do we operationalize our value. We can say our core value is equality, but it better be backed up by actions and metrics, and it better be constantly improving, because we so strongly believe we want to be better, better, better, but never--we're never going to be best. We're going to just keep improving, doing whatever we can to be better. And at the end of the day--well, there's no finish line, David, when it comes to the pursuit of equality. We can see that especially here in the United States.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, as an author, I'm just going to give a little plug for Marc's book, "Trailblazer." And there's a story that he tells in the book about when he was still working at Oracle, before he founded Salesforce, went to India and met with a woman who sounded like a kind of guru. And she said, "Marc, in your quest to succeed and make money, don't forget to do good for others." And it's obvious that you didn't forget that and it stayed with you, but it's a wonderful story in the book.

MR. BENIOFF: Well, you know, it's kind of interesting. I was, of course, working in the tech industry for decades. And then, when I got ready to start my own company in 1999, I realized there were three things that I wanted to do: One was a new technology model. We call that now the cloud. We had a new business model--we actually stole it from your industry, David: subscription.

And three is a new philanthropy model. When we started at Salesforce, you know, our mind was on let's take 1 percent of our equity, profit, and time and, you know, dedicate it to others. And now, of course, we can look back. I mean, at the [audio distortion], we had no product, we had no employees. We had nothing, just an idea.

But today, with 52,000 people, we've also done 4 million hours of volunteerism, we've been able to give away a billion dollars of product, we've been able to give $300 million in grants. We've run 40,000 nonprofits and NGOs for free on our service. There's things that we can do. Business is the greatest platform for change and you can build great products and you can sell products, but you can also use your business in smart ways to improve the world.

And even in San Francisco, I'll tell you a very important part of equality is public education, and I so strongly encourage everyone to do what I've done: Adopt your local public school. That's very important.

San Francisco is an incredibly important school district, as is Oakland. Salesforce has adopted both of those. We've given almost $100 million in philanthropy to dramatically improve, actually, the state of public education in San Francisco. And that's probably one of the most important things we can do to get our kids off to the right track.

You know, but even in San Francisco, I'll tell you, you know, I fund something called our Preterm Birth Initiative. I just received a text from our leader there, Larry Rand, who's at UCSF, our public hospital. You know, we have ZIP Codes where preterm birth in San Francisco is as--the numbers are as bad as some of the most impoverished places on the whole planet.

So, you know, sometimes in the United States your ZIP Code can define your destiny, and that's something that we still, I believe, struggle with so deeply when we look at this core word of equality and how do we move equality forward.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, Marc, let me take this conversation to the other issue that's on everyone's mind, and that's the pandemic that continues to haunt the United States and the world, and the ways that we're going to try to get back to work, as the rate of disease declines.

You've been a leader in that, working with Governor Raimondo in Rhode Island, and many others. And you created a website,, that's really sort of a meeting point, a sharing point for information about how to reopen business safely and successfully.

And maybe you could run through some of the practical things that you've learned as America begins to get back to work, about things as simple as scheduling, spacing in the office, how people go up and down the elevators.

Just walks us through the basics of how we go back to work.

MR. BENIOFF: Well, you're right, David, I mean, here we have another crisis. We have kind of four simultaneous crises all happening at the same time: We have a pandemic; we have an economic crisis; we now have a racial, social justice crisis; and we have a leadership crisis.

And we need to, as leaders, I think project our answers in all of these areas. I mean, this is unlike any time that I've ever been through. And I think in regards to getting back to work, this is also an area where we all have to do something.

Salesforce has created, as you've mentioned. This really came out of our initial works in the pandemic, where we acquired more than 60 million pieces of PPE for more than 300 hospitals, all over the world. We realized that PPE, personal protective equipment, things like masks and gowns and gloves, which is critical to stop the spread of the infection--was critical. But then, we knew there was a fourth thing, which was testing and tracing. We have to be able to test, but we also have to be able to trace, which means that if you have a positive test, we need to let you know and ask you who you've been with in the last couple of weeks, to call those people and tell them, "Hey, can you self-quarantine?"

The thing that's amazing is in the United States, of course, we have privacy and civil liberties and we're not going to do automated testing--or I should say, we are not going to do automated tracing, like we can see in some Asian countries. We're going to do manual tracing.

So, we need to build the databases. To be able do that, we have now deployed that in 35 states, including, like you mentioned, with Governor Raimondo in Rhode Island or State of Illinois, State of Texas, State of California, State of Maryland, but also, many companies.

So, as I was saying to you earlier, you know, soon you will back in the office at The Washington Post. And then, maybe that night you'll get a call and they'll say, "Hey, David, you know, Judy was in the office today but she got a test because she wasn't feeling well and she's got a positive PCR test and everyone who's in the office that was near her, they need to stay home now for 14 days." That's manual contact tracing. So, every company is going to need to do that.

And not just that, everyone is probably not going to be in the office at the same time like we used to be, or newsroom. Maybe we'll be half as full. So, that shifts scheduling. That's critical. You're going to have to have a command center. You're going to have to do many things, and working with many companies, to build an ecosystem to help our customers get back to work safely now. And that's something we've been working on., you can find out about it by going to that URL. We’re deploying that for customers today, we’re deploying that for states. We’re even doing all of New York City, their contact tracing, on this platform. This is very critical because, look, there aren’t that many [technical difficulties] and testing and tracing. And those are the only four things that we know that work.

So, we're very committed to building and deploying for our customers this technology platform because we do think technology can mitigate what's going on with the virus, and we want to get back to work safely.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, Marc, your company has been a leader in creating the tools through cloud computing that allow us to share information easily, that make it possible for many Americans to work from home.

I'm just curious whether you think the future of work is just going to have a lot less face-to-face contact or whether, over time, we'll find ways to be together with more space between us, with, you know, bigger elevators. I don't know what the list would be.

So, will the future look more like the past or will it look really quite different?

MR. BENIOFF: Well, we're in the future, David. We are just in denial that we are in the future.

So, just look at this interview. You're at your house; I'm at my house. We are working anywhere. We're in an all-digital environment. We're doing this over Skype. This is the future. That's our current present reality.

And I think this needs to kind of awaken in us that we're in all-digital, work-anywhere environment. And so, for our customers, their sales forces have to exist anywhere; their customer service organizations have to exist anywhere; their marketing organizations have to exist anywhere. And everyone needs to be able to work from anywhere, and that is a critical part of how we're going to achieve productivity right now.

Yes, we're going to get our offices reopened. Yes, we're going to be able to have meetings. Yes, we'll be able to go back, but not all at once. We know we're in a new world with, you know, a virus that we're going to coexist with for probably some time, and probably not our last virus.

By the way, this is just the first--I don't know about you, David, this is my first pandemic, I have to be honest with you. But that wouldn't be true if we were, like, in South Korea or we were in Taiwan or we were in Hong Kong or China. You know, this is not their first pandemic, which is one reason why they're doing so well.

You read the Journal of the American Medical Association article on Taiwan and what they did and why they've handled this so perfectly, well, they wear masks. They wash their hands. They use information technology to limit the spread.

Japan, when people get sick--you know, you look what's going on in the subways in Japan right now, they're all wearing masks. They're all using, you know, very extreme hygiene.

So, we're learning, I think, right now, as a country, how to handle a pandemic, because this might be our first major pandemic, but it will not be our last.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, Marc, are you--just thinking in the most practical terms, are you likely to shake hands with people in the future? Are you going to give people hugs? Are we going to live in a world where we are just more distanced no matter what, because that's the future?

MR. BENIOFF: Well, I don't know if I'm going to be doing the deep bow that I learned in Japan. You know, but when I do go to Japan, there isn't a lot of back-slapping, "Hey, great job." There's not a lot of hugging and kissing. You know, it's not a hugging and kissing culture in Japan, and it's one of the reasons why they're a lot healthier right now than we are. They wear masks. They practice social distancing, which means it's not a big American smooch. You know, you're practicing a different level of interactions with others that--when you're meeting with them.

So, I think things will change. I certainly hope that we can get back to many parts of the world and normalcy that we had. But the reality is, as I said, we have to be ready to grieve the past and let it go and, you know, welcome our new future and be healthy and happy and successful and safe inside it.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, let me ask you, Marc, a question that I think many of our viewers must ask, and that is, in this future that's upon us, in this new world of work, if you work in hotel business or the airline business, or a kind of clerical business that could easily be replaced by AI-driven systems, you ask yourself, is there going to be work for me to do? What's my role going to be in this increasingly digital, to some extent distanced, economy that's ahead?

How do you answer that when people ask you?

MR. BENIOFF: Well, I think your job is safe, David. I think we're going to need strong journalists like you, and great authors.

Of course, there's going to be changes in work. Artificial intelligence, I think, maybe will initially augment many of the jobs that we see today. A great example, in the hospitals, radiology, for the first time, is being augmented by artificial intelligence. Not only are radiologists and human beings reading your scans, but computers also then read them simultaneously and work with those radiologists so that they don't miss something and they can apply best practice.

I think that's going to be true for oncologists, too. They're going to be able to rapidly look at, you know, cancer samples and be able to type those cancers and know immediately what's happening. That's through artificial intelligence.

So, artificial intelligence, step one is augment and extend, you know, amplify, strengthen human behavior, but there will definitely be some jobs that we can see that will be replaced. We can see that--you know, where I live, in San Francisco, there's cars that are driving around the city without drivers. I mean, the drivers are there to watch the steering wheel make turns, but many of those cars are going around the city without any human intervention at all. Now, that was not possible just 5 or 10 years ago, and it is today. So, you have to project now out into the future 10 years or 20 years and say, "What does that mean?"

The technology does not stop. It is a continue--it moves forward. It is constantly getting lower cost and easier to use. And look, that's what makes so many exciting things happen. We just saw this incredible rocket take off and dock at the space station, but a lot of it was done through artificial intelligence and an augmented space program through AI. And that's very different than what the rockets looked like in the first generation. We all know that.

So, we're in a new world, and it is a world where software has a very critical part of everything we do, as evidenced by this interview. And AI is probably going to be--well, I already know it's absolutely going to be a huge part of our future.

I tell you, by the way, that's one of the reasons at Salesforce, we've been investing so heavily in something called Einstein. And you can learn more about that, but whether it's our customers selling things on line, like Adidas, or whether it's providing customer service or bots, Salesforce Einstein is there to help our customers be more successful with their customers.

MR. IGNATIUS: And I should just note for viewers, Einstein is an AI system that Salesforce is offering to customers to help them with these issues.

So, just before we leave this subject, Marc, I just want to ask your thoughts about, in this future that's here and will accelerate, some analysts--Andrew Yang, a presidential candidate, for example--has argued we really ought to give people some basic income they can count on when work is more problematic, certainly have a stronger safety net for people.

What do you think about that?

MR. BENIOFF: Well, I certainly think that that's something that we--actually, I think we're doing it right now. We just gave everybody $1,000 in the country. I wish that, when they sent everyone $1,000, they also sent them 10 N95 masks. I think it would have helped reduce the spread even more dramatically in our country, since we know that masks are critical to do that.

But you're absolutely right that, you know, I think that basic income will be part of our future. We can see the need for that, right now. There will be other needs for that, as well. And we can learn from this. This is a major test that we're running in our own country of a type of stimulus.

It's been run, by the way, in other countries. There are even small tests that have been happening in our country, but never at this size and scale.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, I want to close with two questions about the media, and this is a business that you've gotten into. Our viewers may not realize that Marc, a year or so ago, became the owner of Time Magazine, one of the great legacy journalism brands.

At The Washington Post, we like technology entrepreneurs who take an interest in preserving great news brands. But I want to ask you first about Time, and as you think about this venerable institution, what's your vision of the "news magazine"--and I'll put that in quotation marks--going forward? What do you see for Time in the 21st century?

MR. BENIOFF: Well, thank you for mentioning Time Magazine. I do love Time Magazine. I actually keep one right here on my desk. I don't know if you've seen our current issue, but it's really excellent and I hope it's something that you are willing to read with your family and encourage them to look at the tremendous journalism that is happening through Time Magazine.

And you know, I think the free press is so important. I think we need to have skeptical journalists. We need to ask hard questions. We need to present multiple sides of the issue. We need to, you know, unleash the power of fact-checking and to look at all aspects of journalism.

And I think that, you know, one of my probably biggest disappointments in the last couple of weeks, besides this--horrors that we've had to watch in the videos and all that, another one is--I mean, there's been a list of them. I mean, it's--we kind of went through many of them. One more is journalists being shot at and attacked by the police. I was horrified to see that. And that is something that, you know, is really just, I think, something that should not be tolerated. I think our Constitution, we need to come back and look at the importance of free speech, the ability to, you know, have that free press, the ability for journalists to say and write and report on issues as they're happening in real time, and to be able to do that safely.

And you know, this is a moment in time, this racial equality crisis that we have to go back and we need to look at many issues, some we talked about at the beginning of this interview; some we need to talk about now, again, because I don't think there's ever been a more important time for journalism, which is why I made the investment in Time Magazine, because I believe that we need to prop that up. It's also why, at Time Magazine, we took a 90-day no-layoff pledge, just like Salesforce did at the beginning of this crisis and said, "We're going to hold it together, here, and we're going to invest and we're going to build a stronger company through this."

And that's how I look at this. I think this is something very critical for our future. I think Time is a very important brand, 95 years old, a tremendous lineage. Not everyone is going to agree with everything that they're going to write. I do not get involved with their editorial, at all. I draw a very strong line, there, but I will get involved in their business and tell them to grow, invest, and to do everything they need to--they can to sell their product, because I believe the product is so important right now.

MR. IGNATIUS: Well, I know we at The Washington Post feel we're lucky to have an owner that believes as you do in supporting good journalism. We're trying to look for new ways. This conversation with Marc Benioff is an example of how we're trying to experiment in this period with sharing information, sponsoring conversations, having dialogue with people.

We've come to the end of our half-hour. I just want to thank Marc for his answers and for the passion that I'm sure every viewer can see he brings to his work at Salesforce, but to the larger mission that he has as Chief Executive of this company.

So, Marc, thank you for joining us. Thank you for all the things that you do as a businessperson, as a citizen--citizen of the country and of the world. So--

MR. BENIOFF: Well, thank you, David, for everything you do, as well, and especially as a journalist. And also, your new book is fantastic. So, thank you for that.

MR. IGNATIUS: Well, I appreciate that.

So, we are pleased to have had Marc Benioff with us today. I want to just remind our viewers that we'll be continuing our conversations about race in America tomorrow in the morning at 9:00 a.m., Eastern Time, with Valerie Jarrett, who was President Obama's Senior Advisor. She'll be joining us in conversation.

And then, tomorrow, at 12:15, I will be talking with Brad Smith, the President of Microsoft, who is deeply involved in his company's efforts to deal both with issues of racial justice and the pandemic and economic shutdown.

So, we thank our viewers for joining us. We especially thank Marc Benioff for being our guest, and good afternoon to everybody.

[End recorded session]