Facebook to B Corp, a Next Move to a Better Tech Sector

Zuckerberg’s love of Civilization could help him use culture to shift tech’s trajectory.

Vinny Tafuro


A bold move by Facebook could set the standard for tech.

To shift the tide of negativity surrounding Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg must make dramatic changes to his organization, starting with listening to his own advice. Converting to a Benefit Corporation could be his best next move. One that would change Facebook’s trajectory while setting a new standard for the tech sector.

When Facebook was founded in 2004, Zuckerberg had just two options. To choose between being a for-profit or non-profit corporation. Wikipedia, at the time based in Saint Petersburg, Florida, remains the only world-altering tech sector innovation to choose and survive as a non-profit venture. For Zuckerberg to attract the cash needed to surpass existing social networks, the for-profit route was his only viable choice. Now, 16 years later, Zuckerberg has a new option. The B Corp movement today is over 3,000 companies strong, with companies like Patagonia, Kickstarter, and Ben and Jerry’s, waving the banner of “business as a force for good.” With newly amended legislation in Delaware, Zuckerberg could make history by converting Facebook into a Benefit Corporation and joining the B Corp movement.

At the beginning of 2020, Mark Zuckerberg stated to investors that “In order to be trusted, people need to know what you stand for.” By becoming a Benefit Corporation, Zuckerberg would let 2.6 billion Facebook users, employees at Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), and the growing number of companies and organizations asking Facebook to #StopHateForProfit that Facebook is entering a new decade. An era in which Facebook declares what it stands for and commits to be part of a corporate community that believes in the power of collaboration, transparency and accountability.

Zuckerberg has been clear about Facebook’s intention since founding the social network from his Harvard dorm room in 2004. In the company’s IPO Registration Statement he stated, “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”

Also clear are Zuckerberg’s hard learned lessons on the job as he has struggled to maintain that mission. From the very beginning; incorporating in Florida instead of Delaware; mistakingly approving, “three weeks,” of vacation as twenty-one days instead of fifteen because to Sean Parker, a week was a week; and the prolonged legal battles to rein in control of the “company” he never intended to create, all signaled that Facebook would likely have a bumpy road ahead.

By the time Facebook was really growing, Zuckerberg’s mentorship circle had decades of experience, helping him navigate the successive steps to reach 2.6 billion monthly active users. Zuckerberg turned down astronomic buyout offers in order to maintain Facebook’s autonomy. To avoid the leadership pitfalls of Apple founder, Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg hired Sherryl Sandberg to manage the business so he could focus on vision–and took Facebook public in a way that would never let him be fired, like mentor Jobs once was from Apple. Without retaining the ironclad control Zuckerberg has, it is likely he would not be able to be so unwavering in his drive forward.

The 2020 book, Facebook: The Inside Story chronicles the many missteps and successes through which Zuckerberg has maintained stoic determination to adhere to his vision for the social network. In facing challenges Zuckerberg emphasized to author Steven Levy the importance of keeping “a beginner’s mind” and asking “what we would do if we were starting the company now?”

Facebook has digitally connected one third of Earth’s human population–eight times the population of the United States of America. However, misinformation and hate speech have become existential threats to Facebook’s future. Blunt regulation and network degradation are increasingly likely as the United States sinks deeper into culturural warfare. Zuckerberg’s creation this year of an independent oversight board for content moderation appeals is a step in the right direction. However, while the board’s decisions will be binding, augmenting technological algorithms and human armies with independent oversight will not be enough.

Zuckerberg is known for his long-time love of the popular video game, Sid Meier’s Civilization. It inspired his interest in engineering and seems to shape his strategy to digitally connect humanity. In the game, advanced technology and powerful armies only take a player so far. To truly master Civilization you must master the cultivation of culture. Similarly for Zuckerberg, content moderators and algorithms are not enough to meet Facebook’s challenges. Zuckerberg, with his “beginner’s mind” must evaluate how Facebook can positively cultivate culture in the decade ahead–instead of continuing to tear it apart.

One way that Zuckerberg could better cultivate culture is to revisit the corporate structure of Facebook. Unlike 2004, today Zuckerberg has a third option. This summer Delaware enacted new legislation allowing a company to convert to a Benefit Corporation with a simple majority vote of shareholders–a threshold that Zuckerberg meets. Benefit Corporations make a conscious decision to include a positive impact on society, workers, the community and the environment, in addition to profit, as legally defined goals. The corporation also adheres to a third-party audit, as a Certified B Corp, to ensure it is meeting those goals.

For Zuckerberg, Congressional testimony has become an annual ordeal as politicians ignore root problems and unite in dangerous bipartisan support to scapegoat “big tech” as the culprit. Additionally, a steady stream of dissent from employees of both Facebook and CZI are becoming increasing distractions for both organizations. And finally, the protest campaign, #StopHateForProfit, is asking Zuckerberg to “stop valuing profits over hate.” While July’s protest might not have hurt Facebook immediately, the campaign is poised to influence Apple and Google who, under combined consumer and legislative pressure, could quickly eliminate Facebook’s access to billions of devices.

By becoming a B Corp, Zuckerberg could flip the script and plant a flag for big tech. Instead of fielding threats from Apple CEO, Tim Cook, about Facebook’s future in the App Store, Zuckerberg could lead tech to an accountability high ground. Instead of morale decay at Facebook and CZI, teams within both organizations would gain a sense of cultural ownership of a more cohesively combined mission. A number of brands asking Facebook to #StopHateForProfit are already part of the B Corp movement. The conversion would not be easy, but I believe the B Corp community is ready and that Facebook and the future of tech would be better for it.

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