Earlier this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he would commit a whopping $10 billion of his personal fortune to combating climate change, echoing a recurring theme seen at leadership conferences and political debates nowadays.
It was certainly a bold move for Bezos, considering his relatively short and inadequate track record in philanthropy. But the Amazon CEO is not the first billionaire to make a giant pledge to solve humanity’s pressing climate problem—and hardly the most generous to take on the issue, when his donation is measured in proportion to his astronomical net worth, which currently stands at $130 billion.
Here are four philanthropists whose donations to climate change-related causes may not seem as groundbreaking in dollar amount as Bezos’ but are actually more generous.
Legendary value investor Jeremy Grantham has famously vowed to give away 98% of his wealth, or $1 billion, to reverse the course of global warming. He and his wife, Hanne, has been fulfilling this promise by donating more than $30 million to nonprofit and educational institutions every year.
The billionaire also follows a strict investing approach, prioritizing a company’s environmental and social impact rather than financial profitability.
The Resnick Family
Last September, California billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of food giant Wonderful Company, pledged $750 million to the California Institute of Technology to support environmental sustainability research. The one-time gift accounted for about 8.3% of the couple’s total family wealth ($9 billion as of 2020) and is the second largest donation Caltech has ever received.
In October 2018, Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss announced that he would donate $1 billion, or 16% of his total fortune, to saving the planet. Specifically, he plans to deploy the fund over 10 years to help conserve 30% of the Earth in a natural state until at least 2030 by turning lands and waters into national parks and conservatories.
Before then, Wyss had donated more than $450 million to support environmental projects across Africa, Europe and America.
This is a controversial one. But 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer is—or has vowed to be—a major climate change donor.
In a recent interview with The Verge, the entrepreneur-turned-politician who made his fortune from fossil fuel industries revealed that he had signed the Giving Pledge, promising to give away more than half of his wealth to climate change causes. “I started to organize to work against the climate crisis and to work to resolve it,” he said.
“Let me be clear: this is my number one priority. I would declare a state of emergency [on climate change] on day one,” the presidential hopeful stressed.