The Amazon CEO, historically silent on the climate change issue and his company’s role within it, announces his personal vested interest — but critics and Amazon employees want more.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Monday via Instagram he is committing $10 billion of his own money to launch the Bezos Earth Fund — a fund devoted to fighting climate change, which he now calls "the biggest threat to our planet."
Bezos — currently the world’s richest man, according to Forbes — has historically been largely silent on the subject of climate change, which has prompted a group of passionate Amazon employees to publicly call him out for it, and walk out in protest, on a number of occasions.
He seemed to finally respond with the launch in September of “The Climate Pledge” — a commitment to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement by 2040, 10 years early. Amazon was the first signatory of the pledge — co-founded with Christina Figueres’ new initiative, Global Optimism — which also called on other companies to join the commitment to be net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040. In announcing the launch of The Climate Pledge, Bezos proclaimed that Amazon was “done being in the middle of the herd on this issue — we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference.” But aside from the initial announcement, no further information on The Climate Pledge — including new signatories, progress on the commitment, or even a website — could be found as of press time.
But in an apparent effort to show he’s personally willing to show up to the climate fight, Bezos says his new Earth Fund will be a “global initiative [that] will fund scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.” While other philanthropic heavyweights such as Bill Gates have pledged money to help foster sustainability solutions, the Bezos Earth Fund represents one of the largest known individual financial pledges, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
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Amazon employees — who have responded to his historic lack of response on the climate crisis by forming their own group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice — commented on the announcement via Twitter that while they applaud Bezos’ philanthropic gesture, “one hand cannot give what the other is taking away;” and asked pertinent questions, including: “When is Amazon going to stop helping oil and gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells? When is Amazon going to stop funding climate-denying think tanks … and climate-delaying policy?”
As Dimitar Vlahov, Director of Knowledge and Insights at Sustainable Brands, commented: “It's a good gesture, but Amazon has done a lot more damage than $10 billion worth of philanthropy can correct — let's hope Amazon as a company does more soon, and hopefully the $10 billion will be invested effectively into real solutions.”
To Vlahov’s point, while billions have now been committed to the climate fight from some of the world’s biggest financial institutions — including Bank of America, Blackrock, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and the World Bank — when will we begin to have visibility into the resulting investments and their impacts?