Jeff Bezos, the founder of tech giant Amazon, has announced that he will donate US$10 billion to save the planet – not long after threatening to fire employees for speaking out about Amazon’s responsibility over the climate crisis. The new plans for Bezos Earth Fund also comes after the tech behemoth faced a wave of criticism over its history of questionable commitments to environmental protection, giving reason to doubt the authenticity of Bezos’ most recent pledge.
The founder of Amazon and owner of Washington Post Jeff Bezos revealed on Monday that he will be giving away US$10 billion – a fraction of his estimated US$130 billion net worth for the planet. In his Instagram post, Bezos said that the new Bezos Earth Fund will begin distributing the money to scientists, NGOs and activists this summer in order to “amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change”.
However, Bezos’ sustainability credentials have not exactly aligned with his new global initiative’s mission to bring about a collective effort to “preserve and protect the natural world”, casting doubt on the genuity of his most recent pledge.
Bezos’ move comes barely a month after Amazon threatened to fire employees for speaking out against the company’s lucrative dealings with fossil fuel firms and responsibility for enormous environmental damage. In January, at least 3 workers who called for stronger climate action from the company were warned to stop speaking out or face the threat of dismissal.
This isn’t the only instance where Bezos’ own company has shown a poor track record regarding its sustainability efforts. At the end of last month, while Bezos was preoccupied with hosting an opulent party attended by the likes of Ivanka Trump, over 340 of his employees staged a public statement protest with their own names to criticise the company’s moral irresponsibility over climate change, defying the corporate external communications policy that bars workers from talking about business without prior authorisation.
The communication policy was introduced in the company after a number of employees attended the global climate strikes last year to demand Amazon to end partnerships with oil and gas companies in the world. The links between the tech giant and the world’s most polluting industry in the world was revealed in April last year, when reports surfaced that Amazon Web Services had been aggressively pursuing contracts with non-renewable energy companies.
Despite protests from employees, Bezos restated that Amazon’s cloud computing branch will not end business with fossil fuel companies, and cited that the company has already pledged to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030.
To add to the history of questionable commitments to environmental protection, the wasteful operations of Amazon’s e-commerce retail arm is hardly evidence of championing sustainability. Amazon’s online retail is accountable for an enormous amount of waste and emissions – so much so that it has been dubbed the “Amazon effect” in recent years. The more than doubling in Amazon orders has led to skyrocketing greenhouse gases and landfill and ocean waste due to its deliveries’ transportation and packaging, not to mention the allegations of problematic human rights abuses of its warehouse workers.
Responding to Bezos’ recent climate campaign, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said in a statement: “As history has taught us, true visionaries stand up against entrenched systems, often at great cost to themselves. We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away.”
Lead image courtesy of Mark Ralston / Getty Images.