Quartz, November 2020
On Nov. 16, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the first round of grantees from his “Earth Fund,” which has committed to ultimately channel $10 billion to climate change-related causes and groups. In this first crop, 16 organizations will receive a total of $791 million, making Bezos the world’s biggest backer of climate activism. In one day, he single-handedly boosted the total amount of climate-related philanthropic funding available in the US by around 11%.
But the list of recipients is raising some objections—both because of its potential to greenwash Amazon’s own climate accountability, and because it significantly favors well-funded Beltway institutions over grassroots groups that arguably need the money more.
The organizations represented in the investments all have solid reputations for climate activism: The largest individual grants will go to top Washington DC environmental groups, including the World Resources Institute (WRI), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). But that list of familiar organizations is also, according to critics, precisely the problem.
“This is representative of the kind of leadership Bezos is providing, which is big and clumsy and misinformed,” said Angela Mahecha Adrar, executive director of the Climate Justice Alliance, a network of 70 grassroots groups, none of which were grantees. “He made big investments in outdated, conservation-style organizations that are not resolving climate at the rate we need to and that still get to decide, as predominantly white organizations, what priorities to focus on, and what strings to attach.”