During the question-and-answer segment, I asked, "Has Facebook given any thought to creating a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy to institutionalize programs which alleviate the adverse impacts of its expansion on neighboring communities, namely, Belle Haven and EPA?" According to Mr. Salazar, Facebook's public policy manager, the answer was "no."
Last June, I attended another meeting in EPA, asking the same question. Facebook's VP of communications and public policy, Elliot Schrage, answered, "We don't have a CSR department because all departments should be socially responsible."
When Ms. Bradshaw highlighted my question in her article, a Facebook spokesperson delineated that the corporation has a "community engagement team (e.g. Juan Salazar, Bernita Dillard) akin to a CSR team that meets regularly with people in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven and North Fair Oaks."
After considering all three answers, I realized: (1) corporations aren't innately socially responsible, (2) a community engagement team isn't a codified CSR policy, and (3) Facebook isn't interested in creating one and it's better that it admits this, rather than give ad-hoc additions to job descriptions or insulting responses to longtime EPA and Belle Haven residents whose families are being displaced daily, because of the tech giant's expansion.
While Facebook spokespersons downplay a CSR policy, it should be stated that:
1. Stanford University's Haas Center for Public Service, whose aim is "a more just and sustainable world," has seven pillars, of which CSR and social entrepreneurship is one. While Stanford is also complicit in exacerbating the Bay Area's housing crisis (it has a 17-year expansion plan on the Peninsula), I applaud Stanford's acknowledgment that with social entrepreneurship comes CSR!
2. Corporations, such as Starbucks, have CSR departments or strategies which become policies. In a New York Times interview last November, retired Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said, "There's a great need to achieve the fragile balance between profit, social impact, and a moral obligation" to do everything possible "to enhance the lives of our employees and the communities we serve." I applaud Mr. Schultz's CSR work.
Evidently, Facebook's more interested in charitable acts than justice. My suggesting a CSR policy moves beyond donating money, towards shifting the culture -— and possibly the mission of the corporation.
Facebook/Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative's recent donations to EPA: $2 million for water shortage; $20 million for affordable housing (Catalyst Fund); and $3 million for legal support of tenants facing evictions (Community Legal Services). That's $25 million.
My next questions are: "How much of this money created actual jobs for EPA residents? How is progress being tracked?" Jobs are critical in allowing people, amid the gentrification spurred by the #TechTakeover, to simultaneously access the wealth of Silicon Valley and afford to live in the community where they grew up.
I've been writing on this topic since February 2016, and I gather that ultimately, Facebook's "bottom line" is expansion. Yet, a CSR policy would limit that expansion, thus conflicting with Facebook's bottom line.
At this point, what I find most disconcerting is the white and/or corporate privilege of key decision-makers at Facebook, which allows them the choice to not engage fully and long-term to combat the detrimental impacts, on both communities, of their well-intentioned start-up. This is unfortunate, because populations of color in EPA and Belle Haven are shrinking daily — and we don't have that same luxury.
Lastly, given the current damage and history of corporations entering and erasing similar communities, good intentions aren't enough.
Dear Facebook, Humanity must become your bottom line!
Kyra Brown is an East Palo Alto native and works in the nonprofit sector. She holds a master of divinity degree with an emphasis in social justice from Howard University. Her blog can be found at writetoliveblog.blogspot.com.
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