The world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, isn’t known for devoting much time or effort to philanthropy compared to his billionaire peers like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. But the Amazon CEO is ready to rewrite his reputation—by vowing to, literally, save the world.
On Monday, Bezos announced that he would commit $10 billion of his personal fortune to fighting climate change through a newly established organization called the Bezos Earth Fund. The fund will begin giving out grants this summer to “support scientists, activists, NGOs—any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world,” Bezos wrote in an Instagram post.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share,” the Amazon CEO said in a statement. “…We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations and individuals.”
The groundbreaking announcement partly explained why Bezos recently sold billions of dollars worth of his Amazon shares in just two weeks’ time. It also instantly made him one of the most generous donors in American history. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Bezos Earth Fund is the third largest charitable commitment ever, next only to Warren Buffett’s pledge in 2006 to gradually give away all of his Berkshire Hathaway holdings to charity (he has since donated $36 billion) and a similar pledge worth $16.4 billion by Helen Walton, the late wife of Walmart founder Sam Walton, in 2007.
Bezos noted that the $10 billion pledge is just a “start.” His retail and tech giant, Amazon, already has a few climate-related initiatives in the works, including a company-wide “Climate Pledge” announced last September. In that pledge Bezos promised that Amazon would go carbon neutral by 2030, 10 years before the deadline set out by the Paris climate agreement, through a series of innovative programs, such as deploying 100,000 electric delivery vans by 2024.
Aside from the Earth Fund, the Amazon CEO also funnels money into the Bezos Day One Fund, which he established in 2018 with his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, to support causes related to pre-school education and poverty relief. The fund gave out $2 billion in grants in 2018, making Bezos one of the biggest donors that year.
As of Tuesday, Bezos’ net worth stands at $130 billion, according to Bloomberg’s real-time Billionaires Index.