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Airbnb Revamps Corporate Governance, Tying Bonuses to Safety

Olivia Carville

(Bloomberg) -- Airbnb Inc. is laying the groundwork for a public market debut later this year, announcing a new corporate governance strategy that values safety, sustainability, diversity and accountability.

The home-share startup has said it will track guest safety incidents, verify all seven million listings by December, measure its global carbon footprint and enhance employee diversity. To achieve its ambitions, Airbnb is creating a new Stakeholder Committee on the board and tying staff bonuses to safety metrics, according to a statement Friday.

In addition, Airbnb has promised to be transparent, reporting progress at an upcoming Stakeholder Day that can be attended by guests, hosts, communities, employees and investors.

“Building an enduringly successful business goes hand-in-hand with making a positive contribution to society,” the company said. “Increasingly, this is what citizens, consumers, employees, communities and policy makers desire -- even demand.”

Airbnb has been on the defensive over safety since a mass shooting in October at a party house in Orinda, about 20 miles east of San Francisco, where five people died. Local media started to highlight the number of shootings at Airbnb rentals, and family of those slain questioned how the platform vets its guests. In December, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation showing how Airbnb employees who pushed for stricter safety measures, like requiring users to supply a government ID, were overruled by company executives who feared this could deter new guests or hosts.

The company is also entangled in battles with cities around the country over regulations and has been accused of discrimination by hosts. With a $31 billion private valuation, Airbnb is poised to be one of the most high-profile market listings this year. Getting ahead of some of the concerns could help appease investors who may be wary of the unfriendly reception other tech titans, like Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and Slack Technologies Inc. received last year.

The new Stakeholder Committee will be led by Belinda Johnson, who is due to step down as chief operating officer and join the board in March. The company will also award $100 million in grants to support local projects that promote cultural heritage, economic vitality and sustainable communities and demonstrate clear local impact, according to the announcement.

These new initiatives will be demanding on the company as it prepares to go public; verifying every listing by December means staff will have to work through tens of thousands of listings a day. But Airbnb says it’s just getting started.

“When we first sat down to begin this work, we knew we were undertaking a difficult and serious task. We allowed ourselves to think about problems and opportunities that will take multiple teams working over multiple years to solve,” the company said. “We are nowhere near finished.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Olivia Carville in New York at ocarville1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at mschuetz9@bloomberg.net, Robin Ajello

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