Jeff Bezos and Mark Tercek

I come to praise Bezos, not to bury him

The Bezos Earth Fund May Be Just What NGOs Need to Reach the Next Level

The Quick Rundown

The Instigator champions private sector environmental leadership. But we also believe that NGOs are critical players. For NGOs to achieve their full potential, they need two things.  First, they need more and better funding. Otherwise, NGOs take the “lean and mean” concept too far. Second, NGOs need to offer greater disclosure so that their performance can be better understood. The Bezos Earth Fund can address both of these needs.

(Full disclosure: I served as CEO of The Nature Conservancy — an Earth Fund grantee — from 2008 to 2019.)

Last week, I wrote that I was excited about Jeff Bezos’s initial Earth Fund grants. Looks like I might be in the minority. Or maybe it’s a silent majority.  Either way, the Twittersphere was ablaze, and it wasn’t exactly praising his decisions about where to allocate capital. What I read was surprising to me for two reasons. First, the criticisms were pretty weak. Criticism is valid and important. But we can and should do better. Second, they reveal a lack of appreciation of NGOs as capable and important organizations. 

When Jeff Bezos originally committed $10 billion to a new climate-focused philanthropic fund, environmental journalists and podcasts immediately began to discuss and debate where the money should go. (See herehere, and here).

While lots of interesting and cool ideas were proposed—investments in education, new far-out technologies, ambitious R&D programs, efforts to build stronger, bigger, and more diverse political coalitions—none of these smart and well-intended commentators (so far as I could find) suggested that the money go to funding the big NGOs so they could build on their success and do more of their important work. 

But that’s just what Bezos did.  Bravo, I say.