On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos — the world’s richest man and CEO of Amazon — announced on Instagram that he’s donating $10 billion to combat climate change. The Bezos Earth Fund will go toward helping scientists, activists, NGOs, or, as the man himself says, ‘any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world’.
At an estimated net worth of more than $130 billion, Bezos’ promised sum works out to almost 8 percent of his total empire. There aren’t any details yet on how the Fund will operate, though Bezos notes that it will start issuing grants this summer.
Calling climate change ‘the biggest threat to our planet’, Bezos says that collective action will be needed to save the earth.
“I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” he said in his Instagram post.
But Bezos’ donation isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It lies in the shadow of Amazon’s own contributions to the world’s massive carbon dioxide output, currently pegged at 33 gigatons. Some experts estimate that the company is within the top ‘150 or 200’ carbon emitters in the world.
Amazon has been reticent to reveal its carbon footprint in the past, only disclosing its numbers for the first time in 2018. Reports show that they emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in that year alone — or the equivalent of burning about 600,000 tankers worth of gasoline.
For its part, the company is attempting to go greener. It is gradually making the switch over to electric delivery vans after making an order for 100,000 of them last September, and has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2040.
Underscoring all this is the fact that Bezos remains an outlier amongst his billionaire peers because he is not yet a signatory of the Giving Pledge, a campaign that commits the world’s wealthiest people to give away at least half their wealth.
Industry titans like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk have all signed — even Bezos’ ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott Bezos (née Tuttle), who became one of the world’s wealthiest women after their divorce last year, is a signatory.
Despite the criticism, Bezos’ donation is ultimately a welcome one. Climate change — as he notes — is an issue that affects us all, billionaire or not. But to make a bigger impact, Bezos would also do well to change the way his own company operates.