Sustainability Climate Change

Jeff Bezos donated billions to fight climate change–but what about Amazon’s practices?

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he is committing $10 billion “to start” in the fight against climate change — indicating he may go even higher in his effort to fund scientists, activists and organizations working to mitigate the human-made emissions that are contributing to global warming.

But an even more significant contribution may come from changes he is making to Amazon, which was recently crowned the world’s most valuable company, 25 years after Bezos created the online retailer in his garage. 

In September, the company announced The Climate Pledge initiative to reach 100 percent net zero carbon by 2040. That’s a full decade before the deadline called for in the historic 2016 Paris Agreement. Months later, the company announced it was ordering 100,000 electric delivery vans, the largest such fleet ever assembled. Amazon is also swapping plastic bubble wrap for recyclable paper and eliminating boxes through an expanding plan to ship merchandise in a single box, rather than a box within a box. 

All of these changes comes after years of complaints by conservationists and consumers that the company’s next-day delivery has led to more trucks driving more miles, along with wasteful large boxes used to ship small, single items. Even so, studies show that e-commerce actually creates less of a carbon footprint than brick-and-mortar stores, although it’s a tenuous edge.

If Amazon can reduce its carbon emissions to zero in a few decades, it could potentially do more to fight climate change than the scientists and organizations receiving Bezos’s new grants. Either way, he has staked his claim to be a leading force in combating one of the major threats to our planet.

Bezos has been the world’s richest person, on and off, for a while; he varies between the top spot and second place depending on what day you’re doing the calculations. By giving away almost 8 percent of his fortune, he may drop down on the list but make a lasting impact.