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The Bezos Earth Fund and Its Impact

The Bezos Earth Fund and Its Impact

If you’re anything like me, you’ve may have been using the Amazon marketplace to sell products and no doubt you’ve done a good bit of buying too.. After all, it’s one of the biggest and most efficient marketplaces in the world online and off. Again, if you’re anything like me, then you’ve grown conflicted over the years about using the Amazon marketplace to sell. I can’t be sure where to start listing all the reasons I found myself scowling whenever I heard the name “Amazon”, but it’s definitely due to all the things I’d been reading and hearing in the media.

Amazon is not only one of the biggest marketplaces, but it held a magnificent share of 37% of the US e-commerce retail market. Its share price was projected to grow to 50% by 2021, and I’m sure it’s exceeded that figure during the recent pandemic. Unfortunately, a company so big with more than 87,000 employees didn’t follow any visible corporate social responsibility program. I’ve lost count of the number of articles discussing how Amazon treats its employees and contract workers unfairly, or how its processes are anything but environmental-friendly.

To Sell or Not to Sell

Finding out about its behavior and learning more and more negative things, I became more conflicted than ever about selling my products on Amazon. As I kept reading, I became more engrossed in the war between Amazon’s profit-driven behavior and the justified anger of environmental activists. If I kept using the platform, what would that mean for my business, which revolves solely around the concepts of sustainability and a circular economy?

In the midst of the confusion, Amazon started paying attention to the criticism and launched its sustainability initiative. Although they hired a head of the sustainability program back in 2014, there was no progress whatsoever in the company’s behavior. However, the company finally launched its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund in 2020, promising to invest in sustainable technologies and companies that are working to protect the planet. That certainly looked like a step in the right direction, but the lack of results was still worrisome, to say the least.

A Ray of Hope

It wasn’t until I came across the grant gifted to One Tree Planted that I started to see a true ray of hope. One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization that’s focused on the reforestation of the globe, and they’ve been working with the World Resources Institute to see their goal come to life. As it happens, they were recently granted $15 million from the Bezos Earth Fund foundation to restore the lost landscape across the African Continent.

Using this grant, they’ll be able to go above and beyond. For every $1 million invested, they estimate that they’ll be able to:

  • Plant 1 million trees
  • Restore 1,400 land hectares
  • Empower five African community organizations and enterprises
  • Create 650 jobs
  • And deliver $9 to $12 million worth of benefits to local communities.

Despite everything I’d read before, this looked legit. This is a perfect example of how a company, or its owner, can give back to the planet to make it a better place. This is when I became more intrigued about the Bezos Earth Fund foundation, so I decided to find out more about it.

What is the Bezos Earth Fund Foundation?

The initiative started back in February 2020, when Amazon’s ex-CEO and now Executive Chairman of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, posted a picture of the Earth on Instagram. In the caption, Bezos announced a $10 billion fund, pledged to support scientists, environmental activists, non-profit organizations, and anyone who has or had an effective way to combat climate change. This initiative, that aims to save and protect the planet was named the “Bezos Earth Fund”.

Back then, Bezos pledged what was more than 7% of his net worth - an action that outshined the total sum spent on climate change by American philanthropists in the past few years. The plan is to spend $1 billion a year in the form of grants to the chosen entities. In contrast, the amount spent by all philanthropic organizations in 2019, the last year found on record, was a total of $1.6 billion. All in all, Bezos’ initiative was sure to increase the commitment of philanthropists, in the US and all around the globe.

Unfortunately, the pandemic arrived and everything was put on hold. Months passed by, yet again, without any announcements or actions, soon enough they were ready to start giving and we saw action. Bezos had finally started the journey, alongside Lauren Sanchez and Andrew Steer, the ex-president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund and now the CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. “The Earth Fund will invest in scientists, NGOs, activists, and the private sector to help drive new technologies, investments, policy change, and behavior,” Steer tweeted. “We will emphasize social justice, as climate change disproportionately hurts poor and marginalized communities.”

What Kind of Entities Receive Bezos Earth Fund Grants?

The first round of grants was given to non-profit organizations, global entities and smaller ones as well. I read that Bezos was willing to grant $100 million to four of the most established environmental non-profits in the country, which are the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

I checked later and found that he actually granted the $100 million to the World Wildlife Fund, which is going to be used to stabilize the climate crisis by harnessing natural power. The grant fund will sponsor three areas of work: Protecting and restoring mangroves, developing new markets for seaweed, and protecting forests and other ecosystems.

Smaller grants were also promised to a number of entities. Another four non-profits, this time specializing in climate and energy research, were granted funds ranging from $10 to $50 million. Those groups are the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Energy Foundation, the ClimateWorks Foundation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Later he granted another $443 million divided into 44 grants to a number of entities, making the total amount granted thus far $1.39 billion. That last wave of grants was given for the following purposes:

  • $261 million for restorations in the Congo Basin and Tropical Andes. This funding supports the global 30x30 initiative, which aims to protect and save 30% of the planet’s land and sea by 2030.
  • A total of $130 million granted to 19 organizations following the US Justice40 initiative. This federal initiative tackles energy efficiency, clean transit, and renewable energy in disadvantaged communities.
  • $51 million to help restore degraded landscape and environments in Africa and the US

The Bezos Earth Fund Programs

According to the Bezos Earth Fund’s website, they have 5 programs that tackle various issues. Here’s a quick overview of these programs.

Nature Solutions

This initiative aims at preserving what remains of the natural resources while restoring what’s been lost. With less than 30% of the planet remaining, a million species facing extinction in the wild, and the human carbon footprint rising at an alarming rate, investing in Nature Solutions, could be the push-start the planet needs to start breathing again. It’s crucial to begin with these solutions to manage natural ecosystems in a sustainable way, since this activity is key to conserving biodiversity and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Environmental Justice

The link between climate change and environmental injustice is clear as daylight. The people who are hit first and hardest by the effects of climate change are the marginalized low income communities, or are located at the frontline of devastating environmental damage. These frontline communities, although strong and unwavering in nature, have desperately few resources to effect change that the planet needs. The fund also aims to transform food systems, and $1 billion will be invested to transform agriculture and food systems without impairing the planet further.

Decarbonizing the Economy

It’s no secret that greenhouse gas emissions and the ever-widening carbon footprint are two of the major villains in our fight against climate change. This program aims to find holistic solutions to transform communities at unprecedented levels. It will look into ways in which we can operate the economy, build cities, ship goods, manage lands, grow food, create products, and consume goods while at the same time accelerating decarbonization across the major emission sectors.

Economics, Finance, and Markets

To implement integral changes and transform the way whole communities survive, a lot of industries need to act together to bring about these changes. This is why there’s another program that targets economics, finance, and market specialists, who are usually the most skeptical when it comes to the dynamic positive impact of instigating climate change.

Monitoring and Accountability

The last program was created to track and monitor progress across the other programs and build their accountability. It’s going to track and collect data on the key challenges, analyze the data, and develop practical and applicable solutions.

Although I started my research with a heavy heart, I ended up giving a sigh of relief by the time I was done. Selling on Amazon used to make me feel so conflicted, it was like a direct contradiction of all the values I and my products stood for. However, I was glad to know that Bezos has started making more pro-environmental efforts after stepping down as Amazon’s CEO. Now that I know that the giant money-making machine that is Amazon, is funneling its profits somewhere impactful, I feel much better.

 


 

References

Bezos earth fund. (n.d.). The Solutions Project. Retrieved from https://thesolutionsproject.org/bezos-earth-fund/

Bezos Earth Fund announces 2 billion pledge for landscape restoration and food-systems transformation, bringing overall commitment to nature to 3 billion. (2021, November 2). Associated Press. https://apnews.com/press-release/pr-newswire/climate-africa-environment-united-nations-jeff-bezos-2860aad421f4d0fafacc6a79b4e76f02

Calma, J. (2021, September 8). Jeff Bezos’ Earth Fund pledges $150 million to climate justice groups. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/8/22662529/jeff-bezos-earth-fund-150-million-climate-justice-amazon

Clifford, C. (2021, November 4). Bezos Earth Fund CEO: Here’s how we’re giving away $10 billion of Jeff’s money. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/04/bezos-earth-fund-ceo-how-were-giving-away-10-billion.html

Gibson, S. (2020, August 28). Amazon’s sustainability initiatives: Half empty or half full? SearchAWS; TechTarget. https://searchaws.techtarget.com/feature/Amazons-sustainability-initiatives-Half-empty-or-half-full

Kavate, M. (2021, December 8). What we’re learning from the latest list of Bezos earth fund grantees —. Inside Philanthropy. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2021/12/8/what-we-learned-from-the-latest-list-of-bezos-earth-fund-grantees

Meyer, R. (2020, November 3). How Jeff Bezos is spending his $10 billion earth fund. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2020/11/how-jeff-bezos-spending-his-10-billion-earth-fund/616977/

One Tree Planted. (2021, December 22). One Tree Planted awarded a restoration grant from Bezos Earth Fund. One Tree Planted. https://onetreeplanted.org/blogs/stories/bezos-earth-fund-grant

Schleifer, T. (2021, March 9). Jeff Bezos will spend $1 billion a year to fight climate change. Vox. https://www.vox.com/recode/22321861/jeff-bezos-climate-earth-fund-andrew-steel-amazon

The Bezos Earth Fund & WWF: investment in community and climate. (n.d.). World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/the-bezos-earth-fund-wwf-investment-in-community-and-climate

WWF - endangered species conservation. (n.d.). World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from https://www.worldwildlife.org/

 

 

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