There is a certain sense of one-upmanship that can be offputting to the rest of the world, but when it comes to tackling climate change and crowding in the trillions of dollars needed from corporations, then the rest of the world can cheer them on.
In January 2020, Microsoft announced a “bold new environmental sustainability strategy focusing on carbon, water, waste and ecosystems,” and said it would invest “$1bn over the next four years in new technologies and innovative sustainability solutions”.
Now, local Seattle peer/rival Amazon has doubled the stakes by launching a corporate venture capital fund equipped with an initial $2bn that is focused on technology investments to reduce the impact of climate change.
The Climate Pledge Fund will invest in companies across a number of industries, including transportation and logistics, energy generation, storage and utilisation, manufacturing and materials, the circular economy, and food and agriculture.
Last year, Amazon and Global Optimism co-founded The Climate Pledge, a commitment to reach the Paris Agreement 10 years early and be net zero carbon by 2040. Telecoms group Verizon, consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser (RB) and technology outsourcer Infosys recently joined the pledge, and Amazon’s new fund will accelerate investment in innovations for the zero carbon economy of the future.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who has pledged $10bn of his personal fortune to start the Bezos Earth Fund to fight climate change, said: “The Climate Pledge Fund will look to invest in the visionary entrepreneurs and innovators who are building products and services to help companies reduce their carbon impact and operate more sustainably.
“Companies from around the world of all sizes and stages will be considered, from pre-product startups to well-established enterprises. Each prospective investment will be judged on its potential to accelerate the path to zero carbon and help protect the planet for future generations.”
Last year, Amazon led a $700m round in electric vehicle startup Rivian in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. In a statement for the launch of Amazon’s fund, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said: “Their investment in Rivian and subsequent order of 100,000 electric delivery vans will substantially shrink the carbon footprint of Amazon’s package delivery network.”
Naturally, Amazon is tapping its existing CVC talent, such as Rodrigo Prudencio, an investment partner at its Alexa Fund, who will now be “investing to bend Amazon’s carbon emissions curve,” as he described it. Matt Peterson on Amazon’s corporate development team is leading the fund alongside Kara Hurst, who heads the company’s sustainability team, according to Fortune.
In 2015, Amazon launched the Alexa Fund with an initial investment of $100m to target the voice-assistant ecosystem and Prudencio alone has engaged with more than 30 deals alongside Paul Bernard and others in its corporate development function.
But whereas only a few years ago having a $100m fund was a good starting point showing commitment, now 10-figure commitments are being tabled. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is co-chairman of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a $1bn fund that aims to invest in promising and experimental energy technologies for which Bezos is a board member and investor.
The new announcement certainly makes the next board meeting, between the world’s two richest men, an interesting one.