Opinion: The Hypocrisy and Hope of the Bezos Earth Fund

By: Celine Thormann

Last week Jeff Bezos made headlines by announcing his intention to use $10 billion of his fortune to create the Bezos Earth Fund. This organization plans to back efforts to fight climate change by giving grants to scientists and non-governmental organizations dedicated to protecting the planet.

I am going to start this article by pointing out that pledging $10 billion to fight climate change is never going to be a bad thing. It is, in fact, one of the largest known individual donations to date for any cause. With one move, Jeff Bezos is set to become one of the most generous philanthropists in the world. This is a pleasant change from his normal reticence to engage in philanthropic efforts, as evidenced by his refusal to join The Giving Pledge, a promise by billionaires to gradually donate most of their wealth to charitable causes. 

However, this change of heart for Bezos comes after months of internal pressure from Amazon employees and external pressure from Amazon critics. In April 2019, Amazon employees associated with Amazon Employees for Climate Justice penned a letter to Bezos and Amazon’s Board of Directors criticizing their lack of environmental regard. Later in September, Amazon released its first report of its carbon emissions, which revealed that the company emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018. This puts Amazon up there with some of the worst emitters in the world. 

While a $10 billion donation is a nice thought, until Amazon proves more results in its practices to become more sustainable, this donation is analogous to  pumping air into a soccer ball with a hole into it: until the hole is patched, adding air will do nothing. 

Fortunately, there is hope on that front. In addition to the Bezos Earth Fund, Amazon has also signed a Climate Pledge, where the company promises to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. They are introducing measures like using paper for packaging and investing in a fleet of electric trucks. These are the measures that will have a greater impact on the environment. These are the measures that will start to patch the hole. I’m not sure when or where the $10 billion will be used, but it’s safe to say that it will be a lengthy process. Hopefully, the two methods of combating climate change, Amazon’s efforts and Bezos’s funds, will combine to instill real change. 

Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay

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