Jeff Bezos. Picture: AFP/MANDEL NGAN
Jeff Bezos. Picture: AFP/MANDEL NGAN

San Francisco/Seattle — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced that he has created the Bezos Earth Fund, his biggest-ever philanthropic investment to help counter the effects of climate change.

Bezos is starting with $10bn and will begin to issue grants in a few months. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organisations and individuals,” he said on Monday in a post on Instagram. “We can save Earth.”

Bezos, the world’s richest person, is under pressure to balance Amazon’s need to deliver goods quickly with the environmental consequences of the rapid growth of online shopping. There is tension within Amazon on the issue, with some employees saying the company isn’t doing enough and there is a threat of punishment for those who are too outspoken on the matter.

The company said last year that it would reach 80% renewable energy use by 2024 and 100% by 2030, up from 40% today. The effort relies on a fleet of electric vehicles. The moves came after a worker group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, staged a protest and wrote a shareholder proposal based on their concerns.

In theory, online shopping could benefit the environment if it results in fewer vehicle trips to stores and customers place large orders infrequently. In reality, shoppers still browse in stores and order online when they’re ready to purchase.

Amazon Prime, a subscription programme that includes delivery discounts, allows people to make frequent small orders without penalty, resulting in a larger number of vehicle trips and more boxes than if orders were placed less frequently in batches.

Bezos has a net worth of more than $130bn, according to the Bloomberg billionaire’s index. His $10bn investment, announced separately from the company’s efforts, marks his largest philanthropic investment to date. His other major personal investment is in space travel, which he has also at times called necessary because of the instability of the Earth’s climate.

For years, Bezos didn’t pursue major philanthropic projects, leading to public pressure as his wealth rose.