Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco Systems, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020.
Tech executives have been speaking out forcefully against racial violence in the U.S., with some promising millions of dollars in contributions to organizations pursuing justice and others setting up matching grant programs for colleagues and friends.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the biggest single donation, writing on his Facebook page on Sunday night that the company will contribute $10 million to “groups working on racial justice,” and telling followers that he’s working with advisers and employees to find organizations that “could most effectively use this right now.”
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins followed on Monday, with the announcement of $5 million to groups including Equal Justice Initiative, Black Lives Matter and “our own fund for Fighting Racism and Discrimination.” “This is just the beginning,” he added, and signed off with “#BlackLivesMatter.”
While technology executives have been increasingly willing to delve into politics over the course Presdeint Donald Trump’s contentious policies, it’s rare to see such universal outrage over a single event. As videos surfaced showing the death of George Floyd while a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the unarmed black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, and as protests erupted nationwide over police brutality, tech CEOs and investors, one by one, expressed their indignation.
Google’s YouTube committed $1 million for the Center for Policing Equity, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced $1 million to that organization and Equal Justice Initiative, and Intel CEO Bob Swan said the chipmaker was pledging $1 million “in support of efforts to address social injustice and anti-racism across various nonprofits and community organizations.”
The amounts are immaterial for companies with such hefty market caps, but they’re a start and show that top executives and boards are listening to concerns being expressed by minority employees.
Shopify CEO Tobias Lutke said his company would commit a total of $1 million to three separate organizations, and WeWork said it was directing $2 million in grants to “Black-owned WeWork member businesses.” Box CEO Aaron Levie was in front of his peers, tweeting on Friday that he was committing $500,000 of his own money, asking for recommendations for organizations working to eliminate racial injustice.
Tensions picked up over the weekend as protests in numerous cities turned violent, and debate raged about whether anarchists and outside groups were causing much of the destruction. Trump late Monday threatened to deploy the military if states and cities fail to quell the demonstrations, and cities including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles were under nighttime curfews.
Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees on Sunday that for the month of June the company would match donations on top of a commitment it was making to a variety of groups. Airbnb was among the other companies that announced matching funds, in addition to a $500,000 donation.
“We stand with #BlackLivesMatter,” Airbnb tweeted on Monday. “We are donating a total of $500,000 to the @NAACP and the @Blklivesmatter Foundation in support of their fight for equality and justice, and we’ll be matching employee donations to both groups. Because a world where we all belong takes all of us.”
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield and his partner, Away CEO Jen Rubio, said they were donating $700,000 and would match $300,000 to about 10 groups. Venture firm Sequoia Capital said its partners would contribute $2 for every dollar donated by employees, and Mamoon Hamid of Kleiner Perkins announced $100,000 in donations and matching funds of the same amount.
Tyler McMullen, chief technology officer of Fastly, tweeted that he would match employee donations, with the help of others, of up to $42,500. Three hours later, they were done.