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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Donations are easy when you're a Billionaire...

Earlier this week, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he would commit US$10 billion to, "fund scientists, activists, nonprofits and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change." That's $10 billion, with a "b"! A $10 billion commitment is absolutely incredible. It's also not enough. Before I continue, let me be clear about a few things.

First, I'm a BFB (Big Fan of Bezos). I have tremendous respect for a guy who had an insane idea, quit his high-paying job to bring that idea to life, ignored the skeptics who said it would never work and the investors who demanded he show a profit, and proved everyone wrong by creating the second trillion-dollar company (and becoming the world's richest man in the process). Second, I'm a big fan of the company he built, and a very regular customer. Starting off as "the world's biggest bookseller" and becoming "the everything store" soon thereafter, Amazon has had, and will continue to have, an impact far beyond retail. And finally, I think Bezos donating a significant portion of his wealth to help protect the environment is a very, very good thing. A person of his immense fortune can do practically anything he wants, and he's choosing to fund research that will make our world a better place. Whatever you may think of the man, he deserves a lot of recognition and praise for that. But if Bezos really wants to help the environment, he can have a much more immediate impact by adjusting the way Amazon operates. He's well-aware of the environmental impact his company has on the planet, and that it's generally not a positive one. This week he committed $10 billion for research, but last year he pledged that Amazon would be net carbon neutral by 2040 and that they would buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles for its fleet. He's also said Amazon would meet the goals of the Paris climate accord 10 years ahead of the accord’s schedule and invest $100 million to restore forests and wetlands. This is all moving in the right direction. But... ... how often have you ordered a non-fragile item from Amazon only to see it arrive in a gigantic box full of numerous, completely-unnecessary air-pillows? I've lost count, myself. How often have you ordered multiple items from Amazon on the same day, only to see a stream of single-item boxes arrive at your doorstep over a two or three day period? Have you ever had a box of diapers arrive packaged in a slightly larger box? I have. Think of the impact could Bezos have on the environment if Amazon simply rethought the way it packaged and delivered the billions of items it ships every year.

Talk is cheap, and giving out money when you're a billionaire is easy. It's Bezos' willingness to do the hard stuff that will prove how much he actually cares about our planet. - dp


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