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Billionaires get a bad rap for leaving a giant carbon footprint, but some of the world’s wealthiest people are leading the cause to help reduce the devastating effects of climate change.
These business leaders are investing their private fortune in renewable energy sources, funding research to reduce pollution, and helping to create sustainable jobs. They’re also propping up green businesses and organizations trying to make a lasting impact.
On the subject of sustainability, many business leaders and companies talk the talk (greenwashing has been well-documented), but here are some billionaires who are putting their money where their mouth is.
Related: ‘I Give a Lot More Money to Climate Change Than Elon Musk’: Bill Gates and Elon Musk Reignite Feud
Estimated Net Worth: $1.2 Billion
Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia, a California-based clothing and gear company. What started as Chouinard selling clothes to support his equipment business in 1973 turned into a $3 billion company today, operating in multiple countries.
Last year, Chouinard, his wife, Malinda Pennoyer, and their children, Fletcher and Claire, transferred their entire Patagonia ownership to a trust and the non-profit organization, The Holdfast Collective, whose mission is to combat climate change. Chouinard says he wants Patagonia’s profits to combat climate change and safeguard undeveloped land.
Estimated Worth: $4 Billion
Tech entrepreneur Lore founded Jet.com and Quidsi and was the former CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce. He’s built his success on a commitment to customer satisfaction and a drive to make a difference.
Lore recently outlined his vision for a Telosa, a “new city in America,” an eco-friendly metropolis he wants to create across 150,000 acres of American desert land. Lore hopes it will be home to 50,000 “diverse” people by 2030.
His vision is to deliver sustainable energy production and a “15-minute” city design that lets residents access their work, schools, and other necessities close to their homes and eliminate commuting times.
Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer
Estimated Worth: $6.8 Billion
Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer is an inspiring female billionaire and philanthropist. The great-great-granddaughter of the founder of Carfill, William Wallace Cargill, Meyer owns a stake in the privately owned U.S. food giant.
She founded a leading software company and advocates for women’s rights and economic sustainability.
For her economic philanthropy, Meyer has made working with Native tribes a priority and was recently actively involved in the campaign to protect Bristol Bay from a mining project. Meyer is passionate about preserving the natural environment, supporting a sustainable future, and creating an ecologic future for the area.
Estimated Worth: $45.6 Billion
Co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight is a self-made billionaire who turned a small footwear business into one of the world’s most recognizable brands.
Referred to as “Uncle Phil,” Knight has infused a culture at Nike that defends our environment. They have launched a move to-zero campaign, which is Nike’s vision to reach zero carbon and zero waste.
Outside of Nike, Knight made the largest cash donation Stanford had ever received from an individual – $400 million – to help create a new program, Knight-Hennessy Scholars, to impact poverty and climate change. He made the announcement one day before his 78th birthday.
Robert F. Smith
Estimated Worth: $8 Billion
In 2000, Smith founded the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, which with $96 billion in assets, is one of the best-performing private equity firms in the world today.
Smith has long advocated addressing and tackling climate change. With Business Roundtable, he works alongside CEOs from the largest U.S. companies, including Amazon, Chevron, and General Motors, to support market-based carbon prices and create strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The group says it will support initiatives to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. In addition, he has donated significantly to educational institutions, and his commitment to giving back has made a difference in countless lives.
Estimated Worth: $19.2 Billion
Billionaire and co-founder of NVIDIA, Jensen Huang revolutionized how we experience computing. His expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Graphics Processing, and High-Performance Computing has made him one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world.
Huang believes that AI can be used to simulate the future, particularly the impacts of climate change over time. He and his wife, Lori Huang, donated $50 million to Oregon State University’s Innovation Complex, which he believe will help scientists understand how to manage climate change effects. The complex will include a supercomputer acting as a “digital twin” to Earth to simulate and predict climate change.
Donald “Bubba” and Dan Cathy
Estimated Worth: $8.1 Billion Each
Founded by their late father, Samuel Truett Cathy, in 1946, Chick-fil-A has become one of the most iconic restaurant chains. After his passing in 2014, his sons Donald and Dan have taken the reigns of the Dwarf House and Chick-fil-A, continuing the social responsibility of their operations.
They follow a unique approach to reducing construction waste and have implemented a process called “Lean Construction,” which has a 50% reduction in construction waste. The Cathy brothers have centered the key to their corporate purpose is being a “faithful steward of all that is entrusted” to them, including the planet.
Estimated Worth: $64.7 Billion
When Alice’s father, Sam Walton, founded Walmart in 1962, she was only 13. By 1990, Walmart had become the biggest retailer in the United States. Sam once said that his only daughter Alice is “the most like me—a maverick—” After he died 1992, Alice continued to fulfill his philanthropic vision.
Through the Walton Family Foundation, she focuses on conservation work, protecting oceans and rivers to benefit people and the environment, and tackling food sustainability challenges. It is a shared belief in their Foundation that those closest to environmental changes are often closest to the solution.
Passionate about sustaining the resources that sustain the people, her shared goal with the Foundation is to ensure healthy water for people and nature and work an economically and environmentally sustainable path forward for our planet.
Estimated Worth: $8.3 Billion
After Joe Gebbia graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology, he moved to San Francisco with his friend, Brian Chesky, to follow their entrepreneurship aspirations. Together they created the revolutionary platform Airbnb, which made Gebbia a billionaire and a leader in the hospitality industry.
Gebbia has focused much of his philanthropic efforts on battling climate change through trash removal. He’s donated to groups like The Ocean Cleanup to remove plastic from our oceans and rivers.
Seeing that roughly $175 billion a year is needed to protect the oceans, but less than $10 billion total had been invested in the cause, Gebbia stepped up. After donating $25 million, Gebbia shared, “I’m proud to partner with The Ocean Cleanup in their crucial work to remove harmful plastics from our oceans.”
Estimated Worth: $5.3 Billion
David Filo co-founded Yahoo! in 1994 with Jerry Tang, which became one of the world’s biggest brands and most trafficked websites. While with Yahoo!, Filo has been behind several grassroots campaigns to improve energy efficiency to ensure Yahoo! is a solution, not a problem, to climate change.
As early as 2009, Yahoo! said it wouldn’t purchase carbon offsets for its operations, focusing its climate strategy on reducing the energy used by its data centers.
Outside of Yahoo!, David and his wife, Angela Filo, run the Yellow Chair Foundation, with climate change and the environment are among their top priorities.