Avoid Ethical Missteps
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Describe how you can help protect Salesforce's confidential information.
- Identify bribes and kickbacks.
- Recognize conflicts of interest.
Protecting your business’s confidential information is a big deal for Salesforce. And in return, we expect our partners to protect Salesforce’s confidential information. Do not disclose such information without our express authorization.
Let’s say you’re developing an app that works alongside a particular Salesforce feature. As part of your development process, you’re in touch with the Salesforce product manager who’s building that feature. In a meeting, the product manager chats with you about new features Salesforce has not yet launched, but which are protected under a nondisclosure agreement. Exciting!
Remember: You can’t share the confidential information with other parties, speak about it publicly, or use it to gain an unfair advantage.
The same thing goes for any other company information you come across during your partnership with Salesforce, including:
- Terms and conditions of your agreement with Salesforce
- Salesforce business and marketing plans
- Salesforce intellectual property and technical information
- Salesforce business processes
- Personal employee or contractor information
- Salesforce customer information
Salesforce and its partners are committed to conducting business ethically. This means achieving success based on the quality of our products, our competitive prices, and our outstanding customer service. This also means not relying on improper payments, luxury gifts, or lavish entertainment to influence a potential customer in an unethical manner.
No matter where you conduct business for Salesforce, you must follow anticorruption laws. These include the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act, and similar laws around the world. And the Salesforce Supplier Code of Conduct prohibits bribery in both the commercial and public sector.
First things first: never pay a bribe to anyone while working on Salesforce’s behalf. And we really mean anyone—a government official, a customer, third-party developer, a customer’s relative, or anyone else. A bribe is anything of value offered or given, directly or indirectly, to improperly or corruptly influence the recipient’s actions. The consequences for offering, paying, or accepting a bribe can be severe!
(Who exactly is a “government official?” A government official can be any employee of a government department or agency or anyone acting on the government’s behalf. Employees of state-owned enterprises, such as large government-owned utilities and hospitals, are also considered government officials.)
Note that routine business courtesies or holiday gifts are generally not considered a bribe in the private sector. But giving or accepting luxury items during a request for proposals (RFP), whether governmental or commercial, creates problems.
Meet Elena. She is the CTO of a government agency. And here’s Fausto. He works for a Salesforce reseller. Fausto calls Elena and gives a compelling sales pitch. When he finishes, Elena says to him, “It sounds like a great product. Give me the weekend to think about whether to include it in our upcoming RFP.”
The next day, at her home, Elena receives an envelope from Fausto with a gift certificate for an all-expenses paid spa weekend at the city’s most luxurious resort, valued at $1,100. The note inside reads, “While you’re thinking about the RFP….”
Is this permissible? No! A bribe is anything of value given or offered to corruptly influence a business decision for an improper purpose. Think of it as a quid pro quo, or “something for something.” Luxury vacations and VIP sports tickets are just a few examples of potentially unethical business-influencers. Again, a routine, commercial sector business meal is generally okay; a $500 bottle of wine is probably not.
Accepting or offering a kickback also violates the Salesforce Supplier Code of Conduct. What’s a kickback? It’s the return of a sum paid (or due to be paid) as a reward for fostering a business arrangement.
Resorting to bribery or kickbacks is a sure way to end your relationship with Salesforce.
Homer and Herb are twin brothers and best friends. They tell each other everything. Homer is the lead developer at a Salesforce AppExchange partner. Herb works on the acquisitions team at Salesforce.
Is there a problem here?
Homer and Herb’s relationship can easily lead to a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is any situation where an individual gains an unfair advantage that benefits that individual personally but isn’t in the best interest of the employer or partner organization—in this case, Salesforce.
Examples of potential conflicts of interest include:
- Loans or favors that a partner, employee, or family member receives through your relationship with Salesforce
- Learning about business opportunities that belong to Salesforce
- Partners and suppliers that employ or are controlled by Salesforce employees or their family members
- Large gifts to Salesforce employees (that benefit the employee, not the company)
For example, let’s say Herb tells Homer that Salesforce is making a major acquisition that has a big impact on the partner ecosystem. Homer takes this information back to his partner company. They immediately start planning an app that integrates with the acquisition’s platform. That way, when the acquisition is complete, the AppExchange partner will be well-positioned ahead of competitors with a solution.
This situation represents a clear conflict of interest. The AppExchange partner has an advantage over other AppExchange partners in the Salesforce ecosystem because of Homer’s family relationship with Herb, and because the brothers failed to protect Salesforce’s proprietary and confidential information.
We expect our partners to avoid potential and actual conflicts of interest. In this situation, Homer should have disclosed his relationship with Herb to Salesforce immediately and shouldn’t have acted on Herb’s information. Herb shouldn’t have shared the information, and he shouldn’t be managing the relationship with Homer’s company.
Bottom line? Disclose actual or potential conflicts of interest relating to your Salesforce partner activities to your internal resources and Salesforce. This is an ongoing obligation during the course of your relationship with Salesforce.
Partners must use caution when providing gifts and entertainment to Salesforce employees, to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. In general, while it’s sometimes appropriate to exchange business courtesies in certain locations, never give or accept a gift or offer of entertainment if:
- It is extravagant.
- It creates a sense of obligation.
- It is given with the intent to influence a business decision.
We understand partners and Salesforce employees may occasionally wish to demonstrate personal or professional appreciation with gifts or entertainment. Therefore, partners and Salesforce employees can exchange certain modest gifts or entertainment, especially if the gifts are branded or seasonal or the entertainment involves a discussion of business. But don’t offer any gift or entertainment valued at over US$150 to Salesforce employees.
Never offer gifts or entertainment to Salesforce employees at any time during a request for proposal (RFP) or other vendor-selection process. And never give a Salesforce employee cash or a cash equivalent (such as a gift card), regardless of the quantity or amount.
Remember that you can always report ethical concerns, including violations of Salesforce policy or national laws addressing bribery and conflicts of interest. In the last unit, we show you how to do this using our EthicsPoint Hotline.