In a recent review of an interview between Mark Zuckerberg and Fast Company’s Robert Safian, Leah Fessler, Editorial Fellow at Quartz Ideas, focuses on the portion that addresses how Facebook approaches corporate social responsibility, or CSR. The point of view Zuckerberg expresses is less and less surprising, as we have noted in our recent newswires about corporate activism. However, it does leave us having to grapple with the questions raised about mixed motives.
Though corporate social responsibility may include philanthropy, its realm is far greater, including such stuff as lived values, ethical standards, and norms. At NPQ, we’ve recently observed a new kind of CSR that’s manifesting as various boycotts, litigation, and other non-philanthropic but definitely civic choices. For every silver lining, though, there is a cloud, and that sometimes shows up as some combination of chutzpah, rhetoric, and lack of transparency.
Facebook does not see the need to release an annual CSR report like its corporate peers; through Zuckerberg’s stances, the company maintains that it is always on high alert to CSR concerns. To help understand Facebook’s approach to CSR, it is instructive to read Zuckerberg’s most recent open letter on “Building Global Community.” As you do, keep in mind Facebook’s $400 billion market cap and its nearly 2 billion global users. For Zuckerberg, being “a work in progress” is an integral part of the Facebook business model and Facebook is not slowing down.
History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever-greater numbers—from tribes to cities to nations. At each step, we built social infrastructure like communities, media and governments to empower us to achieve things we couldn’t on our own.
Today we are close to taking our next step. Our greatest opportunities are now global—like spreading prosperity and freedom, promoting peace and understanding, lifting people out of poverty, and accelerating science. Our greatest challenges also need global responses—like ending terrorism, fighting climate change, and preventing pandemics. Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community.
Who else has the confidence to talk like that as a single human being? The global community Zuckerberg discusses is first and foremost Facebook members. How does a conventional conversation about CSR fit into that world changing/controlling vision? True, Facebook connects only two billion of the seven billion people on the planet, but Facebook considers that barrier merely something to be hacked. A more sobering understanding of the threats and opportunities Facebook, Inc. faces each and every day in its march to bring the world together in peace is available in its Form 10-K, the annual financial performance report businesses file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Good luck finding a link to Facebook’s CSR report or grantmaking guidelines
Another day, another potential self-appointed emperor.—James Schaffer and Ruth McCambridge