As part of its climate change initiatives, Amazon announced today that it will begin labeling products that have sustainability certifications. But the announcement makes you wonder, what's going on with that $10 billion that CEO Jeff Bezos pledged to protect the environment?
He unveiled his climate pledge seven months ago but as someone pointed out yesterday, he has yet to actually announce any grants or put the money to work.
Consequently, the only person who's benefitted from the pledge has been Bezos himself. He received plaudits for the commitment and cleaned up some of the negative sentiment surrounding his massive wealth that's grown by $73 billion during the pandemic.
Reputation cleansing — It's not surprising that many notable philanthropists lived earlier lives as robber barons earning a profit from unethical behavior. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates does it, and the Rockefellers before him, and now you have Bezos with his Amazon winnings. But we shouldn't applaud them for gifting some of their ill-got gains, because they are still wielding power in the choices they make of where the money should or shouldn't go.
And they can use all kinds of trickery to benefit financially from the pledges. The rise of the donor-advised fund is another example of how philanthropy can be used for self-interest. These funds created by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bezos allow them to commit money and receive big tax breaks for it, but there's no requirement that the money is ever spent and they don't need to publicize where the money ends up. There's no accountability.
Eat the rich — Maybe Bezos will donate the money as promised! But if instead of all these shenanigans, we taxed wealth at a higher rate, and we prevented people from becoming this rich in the first place, a democratic process could take place that decides where the money goes and then actually distribute it. That's why we have governments, after all, to make important decisions that represent the collective voice of the people.
Bezos is benefitting greatly from the pandemic shuttering retail stores and encouraging more online ordering; he uses exploitative practices to deliver goods on the cheap; and people are applauding him for giving the least amount of effort to saving the planet.