Though Bezos’ vows were short on details, this is the first time he’s announced he plans to give away most of his money.
In a sit-down interview with CNN’s Chloe Melas Saturday at his home in Washington, DC, Bezos, along with his partner, journalist-turned-philanthropist Lauren Sánchez, said the couple were “building the ability to give away that money.”
Asked directly by CNN if he intends to donate most of his fortune while he is still alive, Bezos said, “Yes, I do.”
Bezos said he and Sánchez agreed to their first interview together since they began dating in 2019 to shine a spotlight on the Bezos Courage and Civility Award, presented this year to musician Dolly Parton.
“When you think about Dolly, look, everyone smiles, right?” Sánchez said in the interview.
“She just glows with light. And all she wants to do is bring light into other people’s worlds.
“And so we couldn’t have thought of anyone better than to present Dolly with this award and we know she will do amazing things with it.”
The common thread that united the Courage and Civility Award grantees, Bezos said, was their ability to bring many people together to solve big challenges.
“I’m just honored to be a part of what they’re doing for this world,” Bezos told CNN.
Unity, Bezos said, is a quality that will be necessary to confront climate change, and one he repeatedly cited when he blasted politicians and social media for increasing division.
But the couple’s biggest challenge might be figuring out how to split Bezos’ massive fortune. Bezos declined to give a specific percentage or where it would likely be spent.
Bezos has committed $10 billion, or about 8 percent of his current net worth, over 10 years to the Bezos Earth Fund, which Sánchez co-chairs.
His priorities include reducing the carbon footprint of construction grade cement and steel; urging financial regulators to consider climate-related risks; advancement of data and mapping technologies to monitor carbon emissions; and the large-scale development of natural, plant-based carbon sinks.
Though Bezos is now Amazon’s chairman of the board rather than CEO — he stepped down from that role in 2021 — he’s still involved in greening the company. Amazon is one of more than 300 companies that have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint by 2040 under the principles of the Paris Climate Agreement, Bezos said, although Amazon’s footprint grew 18 percent in 2021, marking a pandemic-related E -Commerce reflects boom.
Amazon’s calculation of its own climate impact reflects its outsized influence on everything from debates on unionization to antitrust policy, where the company has received a tremendous amount of attention from regulators, lawmakers, and civil society groups.
Bezos compared his philanthropic strategy to his years of effort to build a titanic e-commerce and cloud computing engine that has made him one of the most powerful people on earth.
“The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a leveraged way,” he said, implying that even as he gives away his billions, he still strives to maximize returns.
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“It is not easy. Building Amazon wasn’t easy. It took a lot of hard work, a bunch of very smart teammates, hardworking teammates, and I think – and I think Lauren thinks the same thing – this charity, philanthropy, is very similar.”
“There are a number of ways that I think you could do ineffective things as well,” he added.
“So you have to think carefully about it and have brilliant people on the team.”
Bezos’ methodical approach to giving is in sharp contrast to that of his ex-wife, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who recently donated nearly $4 billion to 465 organizations in less than a year.
As Bezos and Sánchez flesh out their plans for Bezos’ immense wealth, many people of more modest means are preparing for a prolonged economic downturn that economists fear.
Last month, Bezos tweeted a warning to his followers on Twitter, telling them to “close the hatches.”
The advice is intended for both business owners and consumers, Bezos said in the interview, suggesting that individuals should consider deferring purchases of large ticket items they are eyeing — or that companies should slow their acquisitions and capital expenditures .
“Take some risk off the table,” Bezos said.
“Have some dry powder handy… Just a little risk mitigation could make all the difference for this small business if we run into even more serious economic problems.” You have to play the odds a bit.”
Many might be feeling the pinch now, he added, but argued that as an optimist, he believes the American Dream “is and will be even more attainable in the future” — and predicted that space travel would be widely accessible to people during Bezos’ lifetime could become audience.
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