Here are the latest recipients of Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund
In September 2019, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos announced the company’s ambitious Climate Pledge, setting a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. He encouraged others to do the same and now some 201 businesses have committed to carbon cuts.
But after that announcement came a serious realization.
Many of the technologies needed by Amazon and others to reach the goal didn’t even exist. Or if they had been invented, they hadn’t been commercialized or scaled to meet the needs of giant corporations, said Amazon Director Matt Peterson. “And so that really sparked the idea for an investment fund.”
In June 2020, Amazon created a $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund to back the development of technologies key to decarbonizing the operations of major companies. Peterson leads the fund.
On Wednesday, the company announced its latest round of funding recipients, targeting emissions associated with delivering items ordered on Amazon via electric vehicles, greening the planes and ships used to transport the goods, and shrinking the boxes they’re packed in.
Amazon will need all of this technology and more. The Seattle tech giant’s carbon footprint grew by 19% according to its 2020 sustainability report, which comes on the heels of a 15% rise in 2019. The company points to a silver lining in the data: it’s getting more carbon efficient. Amazon’s carbon intensity — which measures greenhouse gas pollution per dollar earned — dropped 16% from 2019 to 2020.
Others are clamoring to fund climate tech entrepreneurs as well. A record-setting $30.8 billion of capital has been funneled into the field so far this year, according to a new PitchBook report out Wednesday. Climate tech startups in the Pacific Northwest alone have raised more than $1 billion in capital since the start of 2020.
Latest funding recipients
Amazon has invested in 11 businesses so far, with investments of a few million to hundreds of millions of dollars, Peterson said. The company has not shared the total amount invested.
One of the most challenging areas for decarbonization that impacts Amazon is the cargo shipping industry. Many of the vessels used to transport consumer goods worldwide are old and the fuel used is especially dirty. The company last week joined several others as well as the Aspen Institute to launch the coZEV (Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels) Initiative to support zero-carbon shipping by 2040. Another hard area is building materials, namely the production of cement and steel used for Amazon warehouses and other facilities.
Three companies are part of the most recent round of funding recipients:
Resilient Power (Austin): This startup is developing infrastructure technology for recharging electric vehicles that has a smaller footprint and is quicker to install than many other options. The Resilient system is capable of charging up to 24 vehicles at a time without needing costly electrical grid upgrades. Amazon plans to deploy 100,000 electric vans from Rivian as part of its delivery fleet by 2030.
Infinium (Sacramento, Calif.): Amazon co-led a $69 million round of funding for the startup. Amazon participated in a previous funding round of an unknown amount that closed in January. Infinium is developing ultra-low carbon fuels for use in air transport, marine freight and heavy truck fleets, replacing carbon-intensive diesel and jet fuels. Its technology uses renewable power to generate “green” hydrogen, which it combines with waste carbon dioxide to produce so-called “electrofuels.”
CMC Machinery (Italy): This company is designing and manufacturing custom-sized boxes to reduce the airspace around goods and the need for single-use plastic padding. CMC could cut the cubic volume of boxes by 24% on average, eliminating the use of approximately 1 billion plastic air pillows by the end of next year.
Previous recipients of the Climate Pledge Fund include EV manufacturer Rivian, concrete producers CarbonCure Technologies, carbon offset verification platform Pachama, EV battery recycler Redwood Materials, and energy-efficient motor manufacturer Turntide Technologies.
Climate tech investing writ large
Other tech interests investing in the climate tech space include Microsoft’s $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund and the Bill Gates-led Breakthrough Energy Ventures, as well as the $60 million Earthshot Ventures fund, the Climate Impact Fund launched by Portland-based VertueLab, and Decarbon8-US, or D8, from Seattle’s E8, a network of angel investors.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has his own $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund, which has focused so far on conservation and environmental organizations, rather than climate tech. Amazon also has its $100 million Right Now Climate Fund to support the restoration and conservation of carbon absorbing forests, wetlands and grasslands.
And the $2 billion for the Climate Pledge Fund is only the beginning, Peterson said.
“This is where we start from and we just go up from here,” he said. “You look at the size of Amazon as a company and our scale, this is where I think we should be.”