The donations were made through the Bezos Earth Fund, which Bezos launched last year with a $10 billion commitment over 10 years to address climate change, which he called “the biggest threat to our planet.” So far, the fund says it has distributed $1.4 billion in grants to nonprofits, NGOs and researchers working on the issue.
The latest round of grants went to 44 organizations, with more than half of the total—$261 million—going toward protecting forests and other ecosystems in the Congo Basin and the Tropical Andes. About $130 million went to organizations focused on climate justice for disadvantaged communities in America and another $51 million went toward land restoration in the U.S. and Africa. Some of the largest individual grants were awarded to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which got $40 million, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for $30 million, and the GRID Alternatives’ Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, which got $12 million to help Native American communities install solar panels.
Bezos—who is the second-richest person in the world, worth an estimated $199 billion—has been on a giving spree since he stepped down as CEO of Amazon earlier this year. Last month, Bezos committed $100 million to former president Barack Obama’s foundation and another $96 million to organizations aiding homeless families. After briefly journeying into space in late July, Bezos pledged $100 million each to chef José Andrés and political commentator Van Jones, for them to donate as they see fit; he also promised another $200 million to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum.
Bezos has previously made good on his pledges using both cash and Amazon shares. One homelessness nonprofit said it received a donation in the form of Amazon shares last month, while the Obama Foundation donation was in cash. Just last week, Bezos gifted 72,137 shares worth $253 million to nonprofits, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on whether those shares went toward the Bezos Earth Fund, and Bezos has so far declined to say if he’s using cash or donations of Amazon shares to fund his $10 billion commitment. It’s possible that Bezos could have transferred some of his Amazon shares to a donor-advised fund, which could then make gifts of cash to various nonprofits. Bezos is not known to have a charitable foundation, though his parents started The Bezos Family Foundation 18 years ago.
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In all, Bezos has given away less than 1% of his fortune, Forbes estimates. He also hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment to donate the majority of one’s wealth to charitable causes.
Though Bezos has stepped up his philanthropy in recent months, the billionaire’s climate donations have faced backlash from activists. In an interview last month, Bezos said he is spending more money on the Bezos Earth Fund than on his commercial space company Blue Origin in response to criticism that he’s pouring money into space travel instead of meaningfully tackling problems on Earth.
Amazon’s climate record has also come under scrutiny too, despite pledging to make its business carbon neutral by 2040. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an employee group inside Amazon, as well as Greenpeace, for example, have voiced major concerns about the Bezos Earth Fund because Amazon provides cloud computing services to oil and gas companies. Amazon defends its position on its website by saying “the energy sector should have access to the same technologies as other industries” because it wants to “help them accelerate development of renewable energy businesses.”