Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he’s launching a $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund that will issue grants aimed at addressing climate change — a move that comes less than a month after hundreds of Amazon employees criticized what they saw as the company’s weak commitment to tackling the issue.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” he wrote. “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 the first grants to scientists, activists and non-governmental organizations would be issued this summer.
As Bezos’ Amazon fortune has grown, there have been growing questions about his approach to philanthropy. In 2017, he solicited suggestions for philanthropic strategies — and followed up in 2018 with the unveiling of a $2 billion Day One Fund to promote innovations in preschool education and affordable housing.
In addition to his philanthropic giving, Jeff Bezos has put billions of dollars toward ventures ranging from the 10000 Year Clock in Texas to his Blue Origin space effort. He’s gotten some grief over the money he’s spending on space, but insists that his ultimate aim is to make life better on Earth.
“We’ve sent robotic probes to all the planets in our solar system. Guess what the best planet is in the solar system? Earth is the best planet,” he said last year when he showed off Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander. “It is not close. This one is really good.”
By some accounts, the $10 billion pledge announced today represents the second-largest single charitable commitment of the 21st century. The biggest one came in 2006, when billionaire financier Warren Buffett pledged to give away 85% of his Berkshire Hathaway stock in the form of an annual series of contributions to charities, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. So far, that pledge has resulted in an estimated $28 billion for the Gates Foundation.
After Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos were divorced last year, MacKenzie announced her commitment to the Giving Pledge, which calls on benefactors to give away half of their fortunes during their lifetimes. Jeff hasn’t signed the pledge yet. A couple of weeks ago, however, he did sell off $4 billion worth of his Amazon stock — and some proceeds just might go into the Bezos Earth Fund.