How do Jeff Bezos and Amazon give back to the community? How can billionaires use their fortune for good?
Amazon’s success has made Bezos one of the richest people on the planet, but his ambitions don’t end there. Bezos wants to use his wealth to be a positive force for change in the world.
Take a look at Jeff Bezos’s philanthropy and charitable efforts.
Looking to the Future
Jeff Bezos’s philanthropy and charitable work include the social responsibilities of big business and how he’s using Amazon and his aerospace company Blue Origin to improve climate conditions on Earth while laying the foundation for future space-based endeavors.
Industry giants like Amazon are often disparaged for their success, which Bezos argues isn’t helpful or fair. Because of its scale, Amazon can have a positive impact on the world in ways that individuals and nonprofits simply can’t. One way that Amazon has sought to fulfill its responsibilities to society is by raising its wages above the minimum required and challenging other businesses to follow suit. Beyond that, Amazon offers paid tuition for employees pursuing advanced education, while extending paid leave to employees’ family members whose own jobs may not provide the same. In addition to setting an example for other companies, Bezos writes that such policies are good for the recruitment and retention of dedicated workers.
(Shortform note: What Bezos doesn’t acknowledge in his shareholder letters are the numerous employee complaints leveled against Amazon over the last 10 years. Some of these relate to ergonomic injuries sustained by Amazon warehouse workers, which led to an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Other issues involve allegations that Amazon underpays employees and encourages a high turnover rate to avoid issuing raises. Some Amazon workers have even made reports of racially abusive working conditions to the Equal Employment Opportunity commission. In 2021, Bezos defended Amazon’s workplace practices while acknowledging that it had work to do regarding helping its workers succeed.)
Amazon’s industry leadership extends into environmental issues. Bezos prides himself that Amazon was the first business to sign the 2019 Climate Pledge, despite the fact that its reliance on packaging and shipping makes it a carbon-intensive industry. To meet its climate goals, Amazon designed one of the world’s most complex systems to track and reduce its carbon emissions. In addition, Amazon’s internal goal is to be carbon neutral by 2040, investing in renewable energy and a fleet of electric delivery vehicles. If it can achieve this, Amazon can pressure others to meet the same standards and even supply the technology to do so.
(Shortform note: Despite Bezos’s pledge in 2019, Amazon’s carbon footprint grew from 2019-2021, with emissions only dropping in 2022 by less than 1%. In 2023, Amazon dropped its benchmark goal to make half of its deliveries carbon-neutral by 2030. For its environmentally minded customers, Amazon marks sustainably sourced products with a special climate badge on the search results page. Bezos also started the philanthropic Earth Fund with a personal pledge of $10 billion supporting grants for sustainability and conservation projects.)
Bezos’s Future Missions
Beyond saving the planet, Bezos believes that humanity’s survival depends on spreading our civilization into space. To foster this, Bezos founded his aerospace startup Blue Origin to develop reusable spacecraft for ferrying astronauts and cargo into orbit, with constant improvements in energy efficiency and cost savings. Bezos says that to colonize space and thrive there in the future, the groundwork must be laid in the present, which he hopes to accomplish through his companies’ culture of constant innovation. After all, Bezos points out that Amazon itself wouldn’t exist without the online infrastructure built by the digital pioneers who came before.
|Still Wandering and Inventing
Bezos’s Blue Origin is one of several competing commercial spaceflight companies, including SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard rocket was grounded after an unmanned launch failure in 2022, though previous flights had successfully carried passengers into suborbital space. Nevertheless, Blue Origin’s larger New Glenn rocket has been selected by NASA to launch a probe to Mars in 2024 and has been tapped to develop a lunar landing module for future manned missions to the moon.
In 2021, Bezos retired from his role as Amazon CEO, passing the reins to Andy Jassy while remaining in place as the executive chairman of Amazon’s board. He’s made massive stock donations to nonprofits, with plans to divest most of his fortune to philanthropic groups in the future. Meanwhile, Bezos has appointed a new CEO for Blue Origin in the hopes of speeding up its progress in the commercial space race.