Effective Philanthropy: That's what Jeff Bezos wants to do with his $122 billion fortune

Bezos thinks that there are many ineffective ways of philanthropy and wants to avoid them as he prepares to give away all his wealth.
Ameya Paleja
Jeff Bezos.
Jeff Bezos.

Getty Images 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told during a short interview with CNN that he intends to give away all his wealth during his lifetime. For now, he is busy figuring out the best way to do so.

With this announcement, Bezos joins the list of other billionaires in the world, such as Bill Gates, who have decided to give away their wealth during their lifetimes. After expressing his desire to remove himself from the list of billionaires, Gates donated $6 billion to his Foundation, which runs programs across the world.

Other billionaires like Elon Musk have also donated to their own foundations or trusts, but Bezos has been criticized in the past for not signing up for not committing to any such move, even when he was the richest person in the world.

Building philanthropy just like Amazon

Bezos' riches have grown smaller after the pandemic, with his retail-to-computing company Amazon losing sheen after a bull run. After stepping down from the position of CEO last year, Bezos has been busy focusing on his space venture, Blue Origin, but also seems to have found some time to think about the planet.

Over the next ten years, Bezos has committed $10 billion toward the Bezos Earth Fund, where he is the chairperson and his partner Lauren Sanchez is the co-chair. The Fund supports programs that are looking to reduce the carbon footprint of steel and cement, building plant-based carbon sinks, and pushing financial regulators to consider climate-related risks to name a few.

Bezos isn't committing a large share of funds to philanthropic gestures yet and told CNN that he is looking to do so in a levered way. Comparing philanthropy to building Amazon, Bezos said that the global giant was possible with some talented teammates and their hard work, and he was looking to apply the same technique for his philanthropic efforts too.

This is in sharp contrast to Bezos' ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, who is also on a philanthropic drive and has donated $4 billion to 465 organizations in less than a year, CNN said in its report.

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Learning from the father of modern philanthropy

Bezos thinks that philanthropy can be applied in highly ineffective ways and wants to avoid it in every way. Luckily, he does not have to look very far for a shining example of a successful businessman turned effective philanthropist.

Born in 1835, Andrew Carnegie began his career as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill and went on to build the largest steel manufacturing company in the world, which was then sold to J.P.Morgan for $480 million in 1901, making him the richest man in the world.

Carnegie then used his riches to fund the founding of 2,509 libraries, set up museums to celebrate art, science, and literature, funded scientific research that led to the discovery of hybrid corn, and Pyrex glass, set up endowments at teaching schools, went on to become Carnegie Mellon University and has provided for scholarships for needy students since 1902.

With a personal fortune of $122 billion at the time of writing this, Bezos could do much more and end up etching his name in history forever, just like Carnegie did. We can only hope that it is done soon enough.

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