WeWork: Oil Money and the Challenge of Achieving Carbon Neutrality

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: April 10, 2019
Length: 12 pages
Product ID#: 9-396-089

Core Disciplines: Ethics, International Business, Leadership/Organizational Behavior, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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WeWork, a successful company that provides shared workspaces, has grown rapidly since its founding in 2010 and was valued at $45 billion in 2018. WeWork was considered a progressive company with a strong focus on sustainability, evidenced by its public commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2023.

As part of its rapid growth, WeWork received very large investments from SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Much of the Vision Fund was funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which obtained its wealth from the sale of Saudi oil. This case presents the idea that WeWork’s values may be in direct conflict with the values and actions of Saudi Arabia, yet WeWork continued to receive considerable funding from the kingdom. The case raises the question about a corporation’s role in society and whether it has any responsibility to ensure its investors’ values align with its own.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Recognize potential external factors that may influence a firm's financial investments.
  • Debate the ethics of accepting investments from parties that do not align with a company's mission.
  • Evaluate the boundaries of corporate values versus individual employee values.
  • Assess when it is appropriate for a company to take a political stand on an external issue.