Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the co-creation of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on September 19, 2019 in Washington.
Paul Morigi | Getty Images | Amazon
Even while Jeff Bezos has distanced himself from day-to-day operations at Amazon, his lessons still reverberate in the hallways there. One such business mantra is a signpost for Amazon’s efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
“Jeff Bezos has – what has become and is widely quoted on Amazon – an expression that I really like,” said Amazon’s Daniel Gross during an interview with CNBC correspondent Diana Olick on Thursday at CNBC’s ESG Impact event. .
That quote is, “‘Good intentions don’t work, mechanisms do,'” said Gross, a director of the company’s climate investment arm, the Climate Pledge Fund at Amazon.
“By making the climate pledge, by putting ‘Climate Pledge’ in the spotlight all over Seattle, by setting aside $2 billion for a climate pledge fund — those are the kinds of mechanisms that will keep us on track to fulfill that promise.” come,” Gross said.
In 2019, Amazon made its own voluntary commitment to be low-carbon by 2040, a decade before the Paris climate agreement deadline. The e-commerce giant also invited other companies to pledge their own climate goals and join the organization, which Amazon launched with Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, the architects of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.
In 2020, Amazon announced that it had bought the naming rights to a medium-sized arena in Seattle and renamed it Climate Pledge Arena. This was intended as “a regular reminder of the urgent need for climate action,” Bezos wrote on his personal Instagram account at the time.
Climate Promise Arena display
“We went out, we bought the naming rights to the big hockey stadium and concert arena in Seattle. And we didn’t call it the Amazon Arena. We called it the Climate Pledge Arena. You drive downtown Seattle and you see Climate Promise in huge letters,” Gross said.
“In some ways, it’s like we’ve created a mechanism where it would be so impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube without humiliating ourselves for keeping that promise,” Gross said.
Another mechanism Amazon has set up is the Climate Pledge Fund, which spends $2 billion investing in climate startups working to solve problems facing Amazon itself.
“We shouldn’t sit idly by on the sidelines for other people to develop the technologies and the business models that can help decarbonize our operations, right? Otherwise, we might wait until 2040 for someone to have a hydrogen-powered plane. for our operations,” Gross told CNBC.
“Instead, we should put money to work, and more importantly, do everything we can to invest in companies with our time, with our energy, with our commitments to buy from them,” Gross said.
Investments must meet two conditions: 1/ to be viable under conventional venture capital standards, and 2/ to work on solving a problem for Amazon.
“Maybe we’ll see a great company that solves a carbon problem. But if it’s not an Amazon carbon problem, we can’t really do anything to help that company. And so we’re just limiting ourselves to those companies where there’s a technology that we can apply, Gross told CNBC.
The startup must also appear to have a path to profitability.
“We are not a philanthropic organization. We are definitely there for profit,” Gross said. That said, if it looks like Amazon’s purchasing power will allow the startup to become profitable, that’s an option too.
One of the best-known examples is the collaboration with the electric automaker Rivian, in which Amazon has a stake. “We have entered into a purchase commitment for 100,000 electric vans and it is not surprising that we chose to invest in the company before the IPO,” said Gross.
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