Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is one of the most vocal activist CEOs, earning the nickname “corporate bully” in some circles.
And Benioff once again made it clear that he’s not afraid to make his political voice heard at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, slamming the UK government leaders for the way they handled the Brexit crisis.
Benioff thinks they failed to be more assertive about the potential downfalls of a Brexit, even though they had a chance to address it in the beginning of the year at the Davos World Economic Forum.
“In Davos, the discussions were not forceful around Brexit. In fact, they were somewhat ambiguous, I would say even tentative,” Benioff said.
“Even the leaders of the United Kingdom who were there, including David Cameron, in their specific comments to CEOs, which I personally attended, were kind of, I would say, unremarkable in their content.”
Benioff noted that a group of CEOs had finally placed an advertisement in a London newspaper just a few days before the vote to warn the potential threats of a Brexit. But it was simply “too little, too late,” he says.
“I believe it was a little bit too little too late when finally they realised that there was a real situation and it could really turn in the wrong direction,” he added.
Benioff believes this is just another symptom of today’s leaders failing to be more straightforward with their positions on certain issues out of fear of hurting their reputation or existing relationships.
Benioff, who runs a company that’s now worth $50 billion, is famous for using his business reputation to drive social and political change. He helped reverse an “anti-gay” legislation in Indiana last year by threatening to move his company out of the state, while pressuring Georgia’s governor to veto a bill that would have allowed sexual discrimination.
He believes other leaders should step up and be more forceful with the way they stand up for certain issues. Otherwise, more people will “pay the price” the way the UK did with Brexit, he warns.
“Us as the leaders have to step forward and we have to step forward with more strength, more clarity, and more articulation of what we actually care about and what we mean. And this is going to be scary for a lot of people like myself who are CEOs of companies where it’s not always appropriate or encouraged to speak out,” Benioff said.
“And if you don’t, then you will pay a price which is what we just witnessed last week.”