ProBeat: Let’s put Big Tech’s Black Lives Matter pledges into perspective

It took almost six years for corporate America to say that Black Lives Matter. You don’t have to tell this journalist that words matter. Still, I’ve always been more interested in whether companies put their money where their mouths are. Don’t get me wrong — it’s encouraging to see so many companies go on the record. But words can ring hollow when they all coincide with the PR message of the month (VentureBeat included). That’s especially true when those words come from Big Tech and its billions in the bank.

This month, we saw notable cash commitments to support the Black community from three tech giants: Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook. On June 1, Facebook offered $ 10 million to groups working on racial justice. On June 3, Alphabet’s Google donated $ 14.5 million to address racial inequities. On June 11, Apple upped the ante with a $ 100 million commitment to a new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative. The same day, Alphabet’s YouTube announced a $ 100 million fund dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists. On June 17, Google announced a $ 175 million economic opportunity package to support Black business owners, startup founders, job seekers, and developers. On June 18, Facebook committed $ 200 million to support Black-owned businesses and organizations.

So, quick recap: Alphabet has committed $ 189.5 million, Apple has pledged $ 100 million, and Facebook has put forth $ 210 million. Before I put those numbers into perspective, I should say that something is better than nothing. At the time of publishing, Amazon and Microsoft have not made such commitments, not to mention the countless other tech companies that solemnly tweeted #BlackLivesMatter and then returned to business as usual.

Quarterly revenue

One way we can eyeball these numbers is by looking at how much money these companies generated in their most recent quarter. Their revenues were: Alphabet reported $ 41.2 billion, Apple reported $ 58.3 billion, Facebook reported $ 17.7 billion, Amazon reported $ 75.5 billion, and Microsoft reported $ 35.0 billion.

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To sum up:

  • Alphabet’s $ 189.5 million represents 0.46% of its previous quarter revenue.
  • Apple’s $ 100 million represents 0.17% of its previous quarter revenue.
  • Facebook’s $ 210 million represents 1.19% of its previous quarter revenue.
  • Amazon’s $ 0 represents 0% of its previous quarter revenue.
  • Microsoft’s $ 0 represents 0% of its previous quarter revenue.

But wait. Revenue isn’t money that Big Tech has, just that its businesses generated. Wouldn’t it make more sense to look at profit? I’ll do you one better. Let’s compare it to the cash they have on hand.

Cash on hand

At the end of their respective previous quarters, which all ended on March 31, Big Tech had the following cash on hand: Alphabet had $ 117.2 billion, Apple had $ 94.1 billion, Facebook had $ 60.3 billion, Amazon had $ 49.3 billion, and Microsoft had $ 137.6 billion.

To sum up:

  • Alphabet’s $ 189.5 million represents 0.16% of its cash on hand.
  • Apple’s $ 100 million represents 0.11% of its cash on hand.
  • Facebook’s $ 210 million represents 0.35% of its cash on hand.
  • Amazon’s $ 0 represents 0% of its cash on hand.
  • Microsoft’s $ 0 represents 0% of its cash on hand.

The point of these percentages is not solely to compare the tech companies between each other. And yes, many tech companies including these five give money to various causes throughout the year. Ultimately, how the money is used, rather than how much, is what matters most. And at the end of the day, money is a Band-Aid, not a solution. Fixing systemic racism requires systemic change. More important than words and money is how these companies act internally.

So, is there an amount that would be appropriate? Of course not. But just remember what a hundred million dollars really means for Big Tech next time you see it in a headline.

ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.

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