Non-profit

Bezos Earth Fund

Tax ID:

91-2073258

Budget (2015):

Revenue: $26,350,471
Expenses: $24,955,922
Assets: $54,123,971

Type:

Environmental grantmaking organization

The Bezos Earth Fund is a left-of-center charitable project launched by billionaire Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in February 2020. Bezos endowed the Fund with $10 billion to be disbursed by 2030 to environmentalist projects aimed at combatting climate change. [1]

The Bezos Earth Fund announced its first round of grant funding in November 2020, giving over $791 million in funding to 16 left-of-center environmentalist organizations. Grant recipients included some of the largest environmentalist organizations in the world, such as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Nature Conservancy (TNC). [2]

The Bezos Earth Fund has received substantial criticism since its launch. Critics on the left have accused the Fund of hypocrisy for funding anti-climate change initiatives when Amazon uses conventional energy sources, criticized the Fund for giving grants to well-established organizations rather than local-level organizations run by ethnic minorities, and accused Bezos of using the Fund to divert attention from scandals. [3] [4] Critics on the right have attacked the Fund for giving to traditional conservation organizations, rather than investing in economic development initiatives to prepare for a transition away from conventional energy. [5]

History and Activity

In February 2020, Jeff Bezos announced on his Instagram page that he was forming the Bezos Earth Fund, a $10 billion initiative to combat climate change. The announcement came in the wake of Amazon employees pressuring Bezos to do more to combat climate change. [6]

Bezos’s announcement called climate change “the biggest threat to our planet” and announced his commitment to funding environmentalist nonprofits. [7] Bezos’s $10 billion initial commitment to the Fund represents about 5% of his $184 billion net worth, which is constantly increasing as of March 2021. Nonetheless, the commitment to the Bezos Earth Fund eclipsed the total amount spent by American philanthropists on climate change prior to the announcement of the Fund. [8] [9] In 2019, one year prior to the announcement of the Earth Fund, American philanthropists together gave a total of $1.6 billion to environmentalist organizations. [10]

In November 2020, Bezos announced the first round of Bezos Earth Fund grant recipients, including 16 environmentalist organizations that each received grants between $5 and $100 million. The Bezos Earth Fund distributed $791 million in total in its first round of funding. [11]

Grant recipients included some of the largest, left-of-center environmentalist organizations in the world. The Fund distributed $100 million grants to each of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). [12] Other grant recipients include the ClimateWorks Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the NDN Collective, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). [13]

In March 2021, Bezos announced that the Bezos Earth Fund would spend all of its initial $10 billion endowment by 2030, distributing roughly $1 billion to environmentalist causes each year. That same month, Fund CEO Andrew Steer announced that the Bezos Earth Fund would also be investing in the private sector, indicating that some of the Fund may be structured as an investment engine, rather than a nonprofit project. As of March 2021, the Bezos Earth Fund has only contributed to nonprofit organizations. [14] [15]

Criticisms

While many environmentalists welcomed Bezos’s pledge and donation, many other left-progressive environmentalists criticized the Bezos Earth Fund. After the initial round of funding recipients was announced, critics accused Bezos of giving to organizations with “less diverse leadership” and insisted that grants be distributed instead to grassroots organizations led by ethnic minorities. [16]

The Fund has also been criticized by far-left environmentalists because its chosen grant recipients stress a technological approach to battling climate change rather than a full-scale, immediate rejection of all conventional energy sources. Other critics questioned the choice of grant recipients, given that TNC and WWF were facing scandals regarding discriminatory treatment of women and human rights abuses respectively at the time of the announcement. [17] [18] [19]

Much other criticism has centered around Amazon’s continued use of conventional energy sources, with opponents criticizing the Bezos Earth Fund for donating to environmentalist organizations as Amazon’s own carbon emissions grew during 2020. Critics also claimed that Amazon’s warehouse operations impacted people of color more than white people and demanded that grant funding be directed towards ethnic minorities in the future. The left-wing Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) went so far as to demand that the groups that received funding from the Bezos Earth Fund redirect 10% to 25% of their grant funding to a pooled fund for use by grassroots environmentalist organizations led by ethnic minorities. [20]

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of environmentalist Amazon employees, similarly criticized the measure, accusing the Fund of hypocrisy as Amazon continued to “ravage the Earth with still more oil and gas wells.” The advocacy organization also critiqued Amazon donations to the right-of-center Competitive Enterprise Institute and demanded that the company move to entirely electric trucks, claiming that diesel fuel damaged “the lungs of children near its warehouses.” [21]

Some critics went so far as to accuse Bezos of starting the Fund purely to distract from Amazon’s work and scandals, claiming that he announced the Fund immediately after Amazon was ordered to pay a $62 million fine for withholding tips from delivery drivers. The critic called Bezos a “robber baron” trying to rehabilitate his image through the Bezos Earth Fund after “decades of making the lives of millions worse.” [22] Similar criticisms accused the Fund as a move by Bezos to consolidate power, instead calling for the government to “tax billionaires out of existence” rather than accepting philanthropy. [23]

Right-of-center critics took a different approach, calling upon the Bezos Earth Fund to make donations to organizations that focus on promoting high-quality economic development in areas likely to be affected by a transition away from conventional energy sources, such as rural America and the manufacturing industry. [24]

Leadership

The Bezos Earth Fund was created and endowed entirely by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the richest man in the world as of March 2021. Bezos’s girlfriend, news reporter Lauren Sanchez, also appears to be involved with the Fund, meeting with several Earth Fund grant recipients. [25] Bezos and Sanchez directly oversaw and selected the first round of grant recipients for the Fund, operating the Bezos Earth Fund without a CEO until March 9, 2021. [26]

In March 2021, Bezos named Andrew Steer inaugural CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. Steer previously worked as president and CEO of the World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmentalist nonprofit organization that received a $100 million grant from the Bezos Earth Fund in 2020. [27] Before joining WRI, Steer worked as special envoy for climate change at the World Bank from 2010 to 2012. Steer spent several decades at the World Bank, holding positions ranging from director of environment and social policy to head of the World Bank in Vietnam and Indonesia. [28]

References

  1. Gamboa, Glenn. “Bezos Plans to Spend $10 Billion by 2030 on Climate Change.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, March 9, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/climate-climate-change-jeff-bezos-bee1aea9cffc377400048dcb5b7405f0. ^
  2. Stiffler, Lisa. “Bezos Earth Fund Announces First Grants Totaling $791M of His $10B Pledge to Help Planet.” GeekWire, November 16, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/bezos-earth-fund-announces-first-grants-totaling-791m-10b-pledge-help-planet/. ^
  3. Calma, Justine. “Bezos’ Climate Fund Faces a Reckoning with Amazon’s Pollution.” The Verge. Vox Media, February 4, 2021. https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/4/22266225/jeff-bezos-climate-change-earth-fund-amazon-pollution. ^
  4. Utkarsh, Sujay. “Jeff Bezos and the Dark Side of Big Philanthropy.” The Tartan, February 14, 2021. https://thetartan.org/2021/2/15/forum/bezos. ^
  5. Dolsak, Nives, and Aseem Prakash. “Bezos Earth Fund Should Support Grassroots Organizations Working On ‘Just Transition.’” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, November 19, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/prakashdolsak/2020/11/19/bezos-earth-fund-should-support-grassroots-organizations-working-on-just-transition/?sh=c2086bb4394e. ^
  6. Calma, Justine. 2020. “How Climate Scientists, Activists, And Ngos Want To Spend Jeff Bezos’ Money”. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/19/21143044/jeff-bezos-climate-change-donation-scientists-earth-fund-activists-ngo. ^
  7. Bezos, Jeff. 2020. “Jeff Bezos On Instagram: “Today, I’M Thrilled To Announce I Am Launching The Bezos Earth Fund…””. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8rWKFnnQ5c/. ^
  8. Meyer, Robinson. “How Jeff Bezos Is Spending His $10 Billion Earth Fund.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, November 12, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2020/11/how-jeff-bezos-spending-his-10-billion-earth-fund/616977/. ^
  9. Stiffler, Lisa. “Bezos Earth Fund Announces First Grants Totaling $791M of His $10B Pledge to Help Planet.” GeekWire, November 16, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/bezos-earth-fund-announces-first-grants-totaling-791m-10b-pledge-help-planet/. ^
  10. Schleifer, Theodore. “Jeff Bezos Will Spend $1 Billion a Year to Fight Climate Change.” Vox. Vox Media, March 9, 2021. https://www.vox.com/recode/22321861/jeff-bezos-climate-earth-fund-andrew-steel-amazon. ^
  11. Stiffler, Lisa. “Bezos Earth Fund Announces First Grants Totaling $791M of His $10B Pledge to Help Planet.” GeekWire, November 16, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/bezos-earth-fund-announces-first-grants-totaling-791m-10b-pledge-help-planet/. ^
  12. Stiffler, Lisa. “Bezos Earth Fund Announces First Grants Totaling $791M of His $10B Pledge to Help Planet.” GeekWire, November 16, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/bezos-earth-fund-announces-first-grants-totaling-791m-10b-pledge-help-planet/. ^
  13. Stiffler, Lisa. “Bezos Earth Fund Announces First Grants Totaling $791M of His $10B Pledge to Help Planet.” GeekWire, November 16, 2020. https://www.geekwire.com/2020/bezos-earth-fund-announces-first-grants-totaling-791m-10b-pledge-help-planet/ ^
  14. Gamboa, Glenn. “Bezos Plans to Spend $10 Billion by 2030 on Climate Change.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, March 9, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/climate-climate-change-jeff-bezos-bee1aea9cffc377400048dcb5b7405f0. ^
  15. Schleifer, Theodore. “Jeff Bezos Will Spend $1 Billion a Year to Fight Climate Change.” Vox. Vox Media, March 9, 2021. https://www.vox.com/recode/22321861/jeff-bezos-climate-earth-fund-andrew-steel-amazon. ^
  16. Calma, Justine. “Bezos’ Climate Fund Faces a Reckoning with Amazon’s Pollution.” The Verge. Vox Media, February 4, 2021. https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/4/22266225/jeff-bezos-climate-change-earth-fund-amazon-pollution. ^
  17. Meyer, Robinson. “How Jeff Bezos Is Spending His $10 Billion Earth Fund.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, November 12, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2020/11/how-jeff-bezos-spending-his-10-billion-earth-fund/616977/. ^
  18. Colman, Zack. “’The System Was Broken’: How The Nature Conservancy Prospered but Ran Aground.” POLITICO, July 7, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/07/nature-conservancy-discrimination-leadership-turnover-1399149. ^
  19. Ro, Christine. “Does The Bezos Earth Fund Care About Human Rights?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, December 26, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinero/2021/12/27/does-the-bezos-earth-fund-care-about-human-rights/?sh=75909cf61b73. ^
  20. Calma, Justine. “Bezos’ Climate Fund Faces a Reckoning with Amazon’s Pollution.” The Verge. Vox Media, February 4, 2021. https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/4/22266225/jeff-bezos-climate-change-earth-fund-amazon-pollution. ^
  21. Bhalla, Kritti. “Amazon Employees Call Out Bezos’ $10 Bn Fund For Climate Change.” Inc42 Media, February 18, 2020. https://inc42.com/buzz/amazon-employees-mock-jeff-bezos-10-bn-fund-for-climate-change/. ^
  22. Utkarsh, Sujay. “Jeff Bezos and the Dark Side of Big Philanthropy.” The Tartan, February 14, 2021. https://thetartan.org/2021/2/15/forum/bezos. ^
  23. Alberro, Heather. “Why Billionaire Climate Philanthropists Will Always Be Part of the Problem.” The Conversation, January 4, 2021. https://theconversation.com/why-billionaire-climate-philanthropists-will-always-be-part-of-the-problem-132383. ^
  24. Dolsak, Nives, and Aseem Prakash. “Bezos Earth Fund Should Support Grassroots Organizations Working On ‘Just Transition.’” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, November 19, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/prakashdolsak/2020/11/19/bezos-earth-fund-should-support-grassroots-organizations-working-on-just-transition/?sh=c2086bb4394e. ^
  25. Palmer, Annie. “Jeff Bezos Names Former Head of Environmental Think Tank to Lead $10 Billion Earth Fund.” CNBC. CNBC, March 9, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/09/jeff-bezos-names-andrew-steer-ceo-of-10-billion-earth-fund.html. ^
  26. Palmer, Annie. “Jeff Bezos Names Former Head of Environmental Think Tank to Lead $10 Billion Earth Fund.” CNBC. CNBC, March 9, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/09/jeff-bezos-names-andrew-steer-ceo-of-10-billion-earth-fund.html. ^
  27. Palmer, Annie. “Jeff Bezos Names Former Head of Environmental Think Tank to Lead $10 Billion Earth Fund.” CNBC. CNBC, March 9, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/09/jeff-bezos-names-andrew-steer-ceo-of-10-billion-earth-fund.html. ^
  28. “Andrew Steer.” World Resources Institute, September 21, 2020. https://www.wri.org/profile/andrew-steer. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Jeff Bezos
    Founder
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2003

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Dec Form PF $26,350,471 $24,955,922 $54,123,971 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $39,769,359 $27,870,356 $28,930,729 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $4,104,915 $20,977,690 $24,851,414 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $3,733,956 $15,422,339 $32,663,644 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $2,123,887 $11,999,087 $34,430,597 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)