Jeff Bezos to Donate $10 Billion Toward Climate Change Initiatives

By Elijah Labby Thursday, November 19, 2020

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has seen his company grow from a small online bookstore to a company that is virtually indispensable to large portions of the world. Now, he wants to give back.

The 56-year-old, who is worth $185 billion, has announced the first recipients in a competition for $10 billion of Bezos’s own money to combat the effects of climate change. The initial sixteen groups, which include the World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, among others, will receive grants totaling $791 million.

The groups say they will use the money for a variety of different causes. The Environmental Defense Fund plans to use its funds to launch a satellite that will monitor the amount of methane, which is a harmful climate pollutant in the atmosphere. The Union of Concerned Scientists said they would use their money to push for the trucking industry to adopt electric trucks.

"I've spent the past several months learning from a group of incredibly smart people who've made it their life's work to fight climate change and its impact on communities around the world. I'm inspired by what they're doing, and excited to help them scale," Bezos said in an Instagram post.

Jeff Bezos’s Environmental Reorientation

Jeff Bezos is no stranger to environmentally-friendly business solutions. In a 2019 announcement, Amazon pledged to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, invest $100 million in “reforestation projects and climate mitigation solutions,” and invest $2 billion in “technologies and services that reduce carbon emissions and help preserve the natural world” by 2040.

Some of this can be attributed to increased public and media concern over Amazon’s impact on the environment, but Bezos has stated that environmental concerns have been a large motivator in pursuing space exploration through his company Blue Origin.

"Blue Origin believes that in order to preserve Earth, our home, for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, we must go to space to tap its unlimited resources and energy," Blue Origin’s website reads.

According to the New York Times, while Bezos is not often vocal about his charitable contributions, he has made several donations over the years. In 2015, he and his then-wife MacKenzie Bezos donated $15 million to their alma mater, Princeton University. He and the Bezos Family Foundation have also donated $65 million to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

In 2011, he donated $10 million to the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. In 2018, Bezos also gave $33 million to TheDream.us, which provides scholarships for immigrant students.

Amazon’s Place in Corporate Environmental Activism

Bezos’s environmental contribution stands out among corporate donations of philanthropic causes. According to CBS News, in 2019, only about 2% of philanthropic donations went toward environmental causes. That amounts to only about $5 and $9 billion. Bezos’s contribution, at $10 billion, blows that figure out of the water.

Despite this, several companies are making sizable changes to support environmental preservation. Walmart has committed to “protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030.” Telecommunications company AT&t has pledged to be carbon neutral (to offset carbon emissions by investments in carbon mitigation techniques) by 2035.

Amazon is also making sizable investments in “sustainable and decarbonizing technologies” through its Climate Pledge Fund. The company has granted funding to Redwood Materials, which aims to manage materials like batteries that can be harmful to the environment, CarbonCure Technologies, which consumes carbon dioxide during the concrete production process, AI carbon monitoring startup Pachama, and Turntide Technologies.

Bezos, from his public comments, seems to take the threat of climate change seriously. He has called the environmental changes resulting from carbon emissions “the biggest threat to our planet.” And while Amazon and Bezos have years before reaching the deadline for their pledge, the measures they have taken will undoubtedly do much good in negating the effects of climate change across the world.

About the Author


Headshot for author Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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