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Salesforce commits $25 million to ‘steep learning curve’ of carbon removal

The company also signed its first renewables contract in Europe with projects in six Italian regions.

Truck spreading rock power on field.

One of Frontier’s biggest contracts is with Lithos Carbon, which removes carbon dioxide by spreading crushed rock on soil. Source: Frontier

Salesforce has committed $25 million to Frontier, a corporate buyers group founded by Alphabet, Meta, Shopify and Stripe that pledged $1 billion by 2030 for carbon removal purchases.

The move, announced June 18, is part of a promise Salesforce made in May 2022 to spend $100 million on carbon removal contracts by the end of this decade when it joined another buyers group, the First Movers Coalition

Salesforce is working on carbon removal deals of its own, but joining Frontier will accelerate a "steep, steep learning curve" when it comes to evaluating approaches, said Jamila Yamani, director of climate and energy for the San Francisco-based company. Salesforce started matching its energy consumption with renewables more than a decade ago largely through virtual power purchase agreements that generate renewable energy credits. The company ultimately wants to be able to measure its impact beyond tons sequestered and to model the trajectory of cost decreases over time.

"It took us two years to learn what our money should be doing," Yamani said.

The power of corporate buying signals

Frontier and First Movers Coalition use advance market commitments to finance new climate tech and to encourage corporations to buy credits for CO2 removal through nature-based and engineered methods. The commitments help startups raise financing and scale commercially. Frontier prioritizes "permanent" carbon removal approaches that store CO2 for at least 1,000 years; First Movers Coalition supports low-carbon approaches to steel, cement, aluminum, chemicals, shipping, aviation and trucking.

Salesforce co-founded a third advance market commitment related to nature restoration, the Symbiosis Coalition, on May 22 in collaboration with Google, Meta and Microsoft. The four companies have pledged to contract for up to 20 million tons of carbon removal credits by 2030. They plan to  issue a call for applications later this year. Eligible projects will focus on afforestation, reforestation and revegetation (including agroforestry). 

To hold global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate scientists estimate we’ll need to remove at least 10 gigatons of CO2 annually by 2030. The current methods available fall far short of that. "We need many different approaches to get to gigaton scale," said Julio Friedmann, chief scientist for Carbon Direct, which brokers carbon removal contracts. 

Carbon removal by sea, air and rock

Frontier is seeking applications for a fourth cohort of carbon removal companies. The group has signed $288 million in contracts to remove 510,203 metric tons of carbon dioxide. One of Frontier’s biggest contracts to date is with Lithos Carbon, which removes carbon dioxide by spreading crushed rock on soil. It also has deals with Heirloom, CarbonCapture and Charm Industrial.

Frontier’s latest round of contracts focuses on projects that can be dropped into existing industrial facilities; are sited in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America; or that use marine carbon capture and enhanced weathering, which accelerates CO2 absorption by rocks, water or air.

As of January, the 96 members of the First Movers Coalition have signed contracts worth $16 billion in annual demand for low-carbon tech by 2030, representing about 31 million metric tons in emissions reductions.     

Also new: First European renewables deal

The company also announced on June 18 its first deal in Europe: a 27-megawatt portfolio of solar projects in Italy. 

The Italian plants will come online starting in late 2024, said Megan Lorenzen, director of climate and energy with Salesforce. More than a dozen countries were considered. Italy is still a nascent market for renewables. Natural gas is the country’s predominant energy source, and its government hopes to eliminate imports from Russia by 2025. 

By spreading the investments across several regions, Salesforce reduced pricing risks for the developers. "These are projects that would not have happened without our contract," Lorenzen said.

[Supercharge your impact alongside other visionaries, experts and innovators leading the way to a regenerative future at VERGE 24, Oct. 29-31, San Jose.]

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