In WeWork’s IPO prospectus, it was revealed that CEO and co-founders Adam and Rebekah Neumann will commit $1 billion to charitable causes over the next decade.
The S-1 filing shows that if the couple do not meet this goal, their voting rights as WeWork shareholders will be cut in half from 20 votes to 10 per share. The pair have already started by donating 20 million acres of tropical rainforest.
While this seems like a fun, giving challenge for the co-founders, if the goal is not met there will not be a huge impact on their control of the company.
“I think the question is how much of it is also driven by the optics of what this can show to mission-driven investors, and potentially worst case shift the eyes away from other corporate practices that may be not as favorable, including their all-male board, for example,” said Patrick Briaud, the head of impact investing at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
Large companies have long made corporate-backed donations to philanthropy, which can grow
even more after going public. Unfortunately, some companies make these grand gestures in an effort to divert attention away from questionable practices.
Investors that are driven by socially-conscious businesses should keep in mind the impact of the company’s daily operations, according to Briaud. For example, how much of the company’s space is being used for low-income tenants? Or what is their carbon footprint when expanding their offices?