Former Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is the latest tech CEO hoping to be known for his philanthropy. The Amazon founder told CNN in an interview that he intends to give most of his net worth (currently $124 billion) to charity during his lifetime. Most of it will go toward either countering climate change or supporting those who can create "unity" for humanity. While Bezos shared few details, he and partner Lauren Sánchez said they were "building the capacity" to give this fortune to others and hope to make the most of the investment.
Before the revelation, Bezos announced a $100 million donation to singer and literacy advocate Dolly Parton. The executive previously pledged $10 billion over the course of a decade to the Bezos Earth Fund, which aims to drive political and technological solutions to human-made climate change. Bezos' ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, has already given away about $4 billion to organizations in the past several months.
We’ve just announced a new Courage and Civility award recipient — @DollyParton, who leads with her heart, and will put this $100 million award to great use helping so many people. She joins prior awardees, @VanJones68 and @Chefjoseandres. Congrats, Dolly! pic.twitter.com/dzTuoGVp3G
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 12, 2022
The strategy is familiar. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is well-known for donating to charities and scientific research through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and (along with Warren Buffett) founded The Giving Pledge to encourage billionaires to contribute at least half of their money to good causes. In 2015, Meta co-founder Mark Zuckerberg promised to donate 99 percent of his company shares, then worth $45 billion, to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The Facebook creator signed The Giving Pledge in 2010. Bezos hasn't signed the pledge, although this move would qualify.
As with other tech CEOs making large donations, though, Bezos faces criticism over his legacy. Amazon has repeatedly fought climate legislation, and saw its emissions spike in 2021 despite a commitment to reducing its environmental impact. And while he has argued that Amazon needs to treat its employees better, the rough warehouse working conditions at the heart of the issue emerged under his watch.
There are also questions as to why he waited until now to give most of his money to charity. While he has often made charitable pledges, he has also poured funds into side projects that haven't done much to advance humanity, at least not in the short term — sending rich people into space with Blue Origin, for example. As with Gates and Zuckerberg, there's a concern Bezos is trying to mend his reputation by offloading most of his wealth.