WorthWhile

You read the news. Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people on Earth, has decided to retire in 2021 and hand over the reins to another top executive to channel all his energy towards the Earth Fund and space innovation.

Before we explore the Earth Fund, its mission and its grants, let’s address a few facts. Amazon as a company has been known to partake in unethical practices right at the root level with underpaid wages, unfair trade practices and also causing harm to Mother Earth. Amazon is an aggregator of products right from cat toys to earbuds, beds and groceries. Everything we need, want or desire is available on Amazon today. Furthermore, Amazon has expanded to its cloud business, Amazon Web

Services which controls almost half of the cloud computing industry, today.
Yet, most ESG funds in the United States of America have Amazon as its majority holding in their
fund. Confused about the term ESG and what it means? Read our explainer on it here.

While there is a vision of the Earth Fund to make a difference to climate change, it is noted that Amazon’s carbon footprint matches that of 13 coal-burning power plants running for a year. Their carbon footprint rose by 15% from 44.4 million metric tons to 51.17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2018 to 2019. On the flip side, Amazon aims to turn carbon neutral by 2040 and invest globally in renewable energy sources.

That’s where the Earth Fund comes into the picture and what Jeff Bezos is trying to achieve personally.

Wait, What is the Earth Fund?

Like the name suggests, the Earth Fund is a dedicated financial resource provided to organizations combating climate change and sustainable solutions for the future. Back in February 2020, Jeff Bezos posted a picture on Instagram with a view to save the world. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” the Amazon chief said. He committed $10 billion to the effort and said he would begin issuing grants soon.

Climate change is an economic problem and its solution can be managed through economic policies. Which is a reason why in 2020 countries have emphasized a path to greener recovery by being conscious consumers and producers. The Earth Fund is one of the solutions put forth by Jeff Bezos.

At this juncture, the fund has allocated financial resources to around 16 environmental organizations but has utilized ~8% of the fund, which is around $791 million from the said $10 billion of the Earth Fund.

Is it as good as it’s claiming to be?

At the outset, the Earth Fund looks like a transformation that is needed to be undertaken by all corporates. Although, in-depth research raises a few questions about the motive of the fund.

The question we ought to ask is: What is the grass root impact of the funds? We observe that the organizations that have received a larger piece of the funding are organizations with a larger scale and a top-down approach. These organizations already have sufficient funds in their kitty.

Many of the grants will receive funds for specific projects while other recipients will re-grant the funds to smaller organizations.

For example, one of the organizations, World Wild Fund has received $100 million to protect the planet.

This grant will help WWF protect and restore mangroves, which store carbon and protect coastal communities from the ravages of climate-accelerated weather events. It also will enable WWF to develop new markets for seaweed as an alternative to fossil fuel-based products and to protect forests and other ecosystems from destruction in some of the most important landscapes in the world.

The projected impact from this grant is to protect and restore 1 million hectares of mangroves, safeguarding 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon (CO2eq) and improving climate resilience for 3,00,000 people annually living in vulnerable coastal areas.

Another large organization, the Environmental Defence Fund that received $100 million aims to spend the grant in over 3 years. The majority of the grant will go towards launching a satellite in 2022 to monitor methane emissions, super greenhouse gas and in turn build a platform that makes this data available publicly for everyone to analyse.

The other minority portion of the fund will then be directed towards ‘nature-based solutions in combating pollution by investing in forest conservation’.

Who would’ve thought launching a satellite to monitor methane emissions is the need of the hour?!

Our final thoughts

Maybe it’s too soon to take a stand on whether the fund is another greenwashing agenda or a hardcore mission-driven fund. We hope it’s the latter. While $10 billion can cause real change in this space, it sums up to around ~7-8% of Jeff’s net worth. More actionable causes are required and from more corporates. At this stage, we’re hoping to hear more positive news from the earth fund and more into indigenous, local organizations that can create transformative change in smaller, homegrown communities. After all, change begins at home.

Lastly, I’ll list all 16 organizations that have received funding. I see no reason not to list them all because they deserve as much attention as possible these days. Also, click here to read more in-depth about a few of these organizations.

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