Amazon chief Jeff Bezos has pledged $10bn (£7.7bn) to a new fund to tackle climate change, but activists have urged the world’s richest man to first clean up the e-commerce giant’s own lacklustre environmental record.
The e-commerce tycoon said the Bezos Earth Fund would “fund scientists, activists, NGOs – any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world”.
“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” said Bezos, whose is thought to be worth $130bn, said in an Instagram post to his 1.4 million followers.
However, Greenpeace USA said Amazon still had “massive climate issues,” asking: “Why won’t Bezos lead by cleaning up his own house?”
Hundreds of Amazon employees last month signed a blog criticising the online retail giant’s climate policies and demanding it do more to tackle climate change.
Amazon has been accused of creating vast amounts of waste from the packaging it uses for doorstep deliveries, as well as for the greenhouse gas emissions from huge vehicle fleets.
The company, which in December said its workforce had hit 750,000, has also been denounced over its carbon footprint because of the high energy consumption of its server farms for its lucrative cloud computing activities.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group behind last month’s criticism, responded to Mr Bezos’s pledge by urging the company to stop working with oil and gas companies and swap its diesel trucks for electric vehicles.
“We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away,” the group said.
Mr Bezos, who maintained his status as the world’s richest person despite an expensive divorce last year, said his new foundation would begin issuing grants later this year: “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”
Last September, he said Amazon would pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040 and vowed that the company would order 100,000 electric delivery trucks.
Rather than make investments that the business guru might profit from, the fund would allocate grant money to projects, The New York Times reported. It is thought to be Mr Bezos’s biggest philanthropic commitment.
Mr Bezos has often clashed with Donald Trump, who regularly attacks climate change activists and recently called them “perennial prophets of doom”.
However, The New York Times said that even if Mr Bezos spent the full $10bn immediately, he would still be the world’s richest person.
Last week, he reportedly agreed to buy a Beverly Hills mansion built in the 1930s by Hollywood movie mogul Jack Warner for a record $165m.