Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos announced he’s created the Bezos Earth Fund, his biggest-ever philanthropic investment, to help counter the effects of climate change.
Bezos said he’s starting with $10 billion and will begin to issue grants this summer. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations and individuals,” he said in a post on Instagram. “We can save Earth.”
Bezos, the world’s richest person, is under pressure to balance Amazon’s need to deliver goods quickly with the environmental consequences of the rapid growth of online shopping. There is tension within Amazon on the issue, with some employees saying the company isn’t doing enough and there is a threat of punishment for those who are too outspoken on the matter.
The company last year said it would reach 80% renewable energy use by 2024 and 100% by 2030, up from the current 40%. The effort relies on a fleet of electric vehicles.
The moves came after a worker group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, staged a protest and wrote a shareholder proposal based on their concerns.
The employee group said Monday that it applauds Bezos’ philanthropy, but it doesn’t change criticism about the way Amazon operates — with regards not just to shipping but also to the data center energy used for the cloud storage business, propping up the fossil fuels industry.
“What this shows is that employees speaking out works,” the group said in an emailed statement. “We need more of that right now.”
In theory, online shopping could benefit the environment if it resulted in fewer vehicle trips to stores and if customers placed large, infrequent orders. In reality, shoppers still browse in stores and order online when they’re ready to purchase.
Amazon Prime, a subscription program that includes delivery discounts, allows people to make frequent small orders without penalty, resulting in a larger number of vehicle trips and more boxes than if orders were placed less frequently in batches.
Bezos has a net worth of more than $130 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His $10-billion investment, announced separately from the company’s efforts, marks his largest philanthropic investment to date. His other major personal investment is in space travel, which he has also at times called necessary because of the instability of the Earth’s climate.
For years, Bezos didn’t pursue major philanthropic projects, leading to public pressure as his wealth rose.