Hints emerged this week of how Amazon founder Jeff Bezos plans to deploy the $10 billion environmental fund he announced in February.
The early grant recipients appear to be large multinational environmental nonprofits, including the Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and World Wildlife Fund, according to The Atlantic, citing two anonymous sources.
Small, independent researchers and climate entrepreneurs, meanwhile, have struggled to find the front door, or any door, to the Bezos Earth Fund.
“These guys out in Seattle don’t make it easy to approach,” said Tony Sullivan of Minnesota, who, with a group of partners, aims to secure financing for businesses with sustainable technologies, including solar powered building air purification systems.
Arun Madisetti, an independent marine researcher and photographer in Dominica, was similarly frustrated in his attempts to apply to the Bezos Earth Fund. He’s seeking support to document coastlines in the hope of establishing a new marine protected area.
“All too often we in marine conservation hear of huge donations or funds being spoken about yet can’t find any leads to request information,” he said.
A Bezos Earth Fund representative did not respond to a question about how to apply for funding. Bezos, in announcing the fund on Instagram, wrote that it would support “scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.” He said the fund “will begin issuing grants this summer.”
That announcement was before the pandemic. As summer came and went, questions have percolated about how and even whether Bezos would make good on the $10 billion pledge. An entity linked to Bezos, Fellowship Ventures LLC, trademarked the Bezos Earth Fund name in July.
The Atlantic, citing two people working in climate philanthropy familiar with the situation, reported that funding of $100 million each will go to the four big-name environmental advocacy groups, as well as the World Resources Institute, a global sustainability research organization.
Smaller sums of $10 million to $50 million, the report said, are going to four nonprofits focused on climate and energy research: the Energy Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the ClimateWorks Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Institute.
“With a few exceptions, [the recipients] evince a pollution-centric view of the climate problem, calling for technocratic solutions that will slowly ramp down emissions,” wrote The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer, noting that as 501(c) 3 nonprofits, they are barred from political activities.
He noted that organizations such as the Sunrise Movement, which has put climate justice and support of a Green New Deal at the center of its efforts, are not expected to be funded by Bezos.
The Bezos Earth Fund representative said The Atlantic’s list “does not reflect the complete range of organizations that the Earth Fund has been speaking with and that will be receiving grants from the fund in this initial round — stay tuned.”
Bezos, meanwhile, sold 998,800 shares of Amazon stock on Tuesday and Wednesday, worth about $3 billion, as part of a regular trading plan. The sales left him with Amazon shares worth $173.3 billion at the stock’s Wednesday closing price, $3,241.16.
An earlier version of this story misstated the total value of shares Bezos sold Tuesday and Wednesday.