Bezos Earth Fund announces recipients of grants worth $791mn to save the planet

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man on Earth.

The world’s wealthiest man, Jeff Bezos, has revealed the 16 environmental organizations that would receive the first round of grants from his $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund.

The list is dominated by well-funded, long-standing organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. These organizations are working to protect the environment and wildlife. Each of these organizations will receive $100 million, while 11 others will receive between $5 million and $50 million in grants.

The fund was initially announced in February this year. The CEO of Amazon shared the news on the grantees via an Instagram post, in which he wrote, “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.”

Although international and national organizations are part of the names on the list, several of the dollars will flow to the Pacific Northwest region of the US which is home to Amazon’s headquarters.

Before ramping up his contributions in recent years, Mr. Bezos had been criticized for a meager philanthropic record. In the meantime, his company also faced a rebellion from employees who said Amazon was slow to address its effect on climate change.

Since then the world’s largest online retailer has unveiled plans to eliminate and offset its contribution to warming the earth with greenhouse gases.

Although there is an urgency to tackle climate change, through his philanthropy, Mr. Bezos faces an interesting challenge. The $10 billion commitment made by the Earth Fund to help environment-related organizations significantly outweighs the overall amount spent on climate in recent years by American philanthropists.

This means that few organizations are able to handle and spend such huge infusions of cash. It leaves Mr. Bezos with restricted grantee options, pushing him toward established non-profits that may not be on the cutting edge of climate innovation. It also potentially slows his ability to give away the money.

The first round of grantees are receiving only 8% of the total fund. The entire fund itself is just 5 percent of the overall worth of Bezos, which is around $184 billion at present.

Due to mounting pressure from activists to reduce their emissions, technology giants have pivoted to concentrate on sustainability. One of Amazon’s cloud computing competitors, Microsoft, said it would spend up to $1 billion to back up technologies that could help eliminate carbon from the atmosphere. Google has also pledged to attain similar goals.

Many companies have also joined Amazon in The Climate Pledge program, which pledges to meet the Paris Agreement goals 10 years before they are due.