Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, worth some $140 billion, has teased the existence of two new philanthropic initiatives that he will announce this summer.
Bezos, the world’s richest man, has been conspicuous for not engaging in philanthropy to any great degree. A year ago, he asked people to suggest ideas for things he could do to help people “in the here and now,” in contrast with the long-term nature of his professional work with Amazon, Blue Origin and the Washington Post.
On Thursday, he said the response had been “inspiring, thoughtful, helpful and appreciated,” and he has “settled on two areas that I’m very excited about.”
So far, Bezos’s biggest philanthropic effort has been a $33 million donation that he and his wife, the novelist and anti-bullying campaigner MacKenzie Bezos, made earlier this year to a non-profit called TheDream.us. The organization gives college scholarships and support to so-called Dreamers—people who came to the U.S. as undocumented child immigrants.
Bezos’s net worth is climbing rather quickly at the moment due to the stellar performance of Amazon’s stock. Meanwhile, the median salary at Amazon last year was a mere $28,446.
If Bezos wants to make a big difference in the short term, there are certainly many ways in which he could do so—perhaps in funding social programs for the lowly-paid and homeless.
Amazon and other large companies in Seattle have just successfully crushed a small tax on workers that would have funded affordable-housing and anti-homelessness programs in the city—initiatives intended to counter the effects of gentrification in pushing poor people out of the city or onto the streets. The Seattle City Council previously passed the tax despite threats from Amazon, but backed down this week after Bezos’s company refused to stop fighting the measure.
Amazon has been regularly criticized in countries such as the U.K. for not paying its fair share of tax. There were reports in 2016 that Amazon warehouse workers in Scotland were sleeping in tents near the facility in the dead of winter, as they could not afford to travel to work and back. Earlier this year, the company was criticized for still not paying them a real living wage.
A recent China Labor Watch report also slammed Amazon for the terrible conditions at the Foxconn factory that makes its Echo devices, noting that workers there were forced to work over 100 hours of monthly overtime “to earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living.”
Notably, Bezos tweet about his philanthropic plans comes weeks after the billionaire said the only way he could think of spending his vast fortune is “by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel.”