Live

Top 10 Billionaires Saving the Planet

E-mailPrint

billionaireslead3

AS OF THIS WRITING, THERE ARE 793 BILLIONAIRES IN THE WORLD. While most are engaged in giving, a select few focus their philanthropy on environmental issues—climate change, renewable energy, the creation of green cities and species conservation. Here’s Worth’s ranking of the top 10 green billionaires, based on their impact.



1. RICHARD BRANSON

(worth $2.5 billion)

THE VISIONARY

Billionaire CEO of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson devotes much of his time to his philanthropic arm, Virgin Unite, which includes an initiative dedicated to fighting CO2 emissions. In February Branson announced the Green Capital Global Challenge—a one-year, 10-city program to increase energy efficiency in the built environment.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

In 2006 Branson pledged all profits from Virgin Transportation for the next 10 years to developing green energy. In 2007 he launched the Virgin Green Fund to support renewable energy investments, and announced his $25 million prize for any technology that can safely remove carbon from the atmosphere.

LEGACY

Pledge from Virgin Transportation estimated at $3 billion

2. TED TURNER

(worth $1.9 billion)

THE CABLE MAN

Erstwhile media mogul Ted Turner first displayed his passion for environmental philanthropy with the establishment of his Turner Foundation in 1990, an organization committed to maintaining the planet’s natural resources.

CLEAN ENERGY & CONSERVATION

Turner has given to the UN Foundation, an advocate of clean energy, created a Nuclear Threat Initiative to reduce the global threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, launched the Turner Endangered Species Fund to promote biodiversity and conservation, and created the Captain Planet Foundation— which includes the hit TBS show Captain Planet—to encourage children to become environmental stewards.

LEGACY

More than $1 billion to the UN Foundation

3. GEORGE SOROS

(worth $11 billion)

THE FINANCIER

Since the ’70s, Soros, the Hungarian-born hedge fund manager, has donated more than $7 billion to various philanthropic endeavors, and in recent years his attention has turned to environmentalism.

CLIMATE CHANGE

In 2009 Soros announced the foundation of his new global climate watchdog group, the Climate Policy Initiative, which he’ll fund to the tune of $100 million over the next 10 years. The San Francisco-based foundation will focus on policy "to protect the public interest against special interests.”

LEGACY

Pledged $1 billion at Copenhagen last year to develop clean energy sources

4. JEFF SKOLL

(worth $1.8 billion)

THE FILMMAKER

Former eBay president Jeff Skoll founded Participant Media, which produces socially conscious films and documentaries, often paired with social actions to encourage audiences to participate and make a difference. Credits include Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, as well as Syriana, Food Inc. and The Cove, winner of this year’s Academy Award for best documentary.

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

Skoll has also handed out grants to 72 social entrepreneurs. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, the Skoll Foundation seeks to create a sustainable future through social entrepreneurship, with particular emphasis on climate change, water scarcity, pandemics and nuclear proliferation.

LEGACY

Grants to various social entrepreneurs totaling more than $40 million

5. ZHENGRONG SHI

(worth $1.1 billion)

THE SUN KING

Shi earned his PhD in Australia at the University of New South Wales’ School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. Shi returned to China in 2001 to found Suntech Power, the largest manufacturer of photovoltaic cells for solar technology in the world.

SOLAR POWER

One of the richest men in China, Shi has donated considerable funds for renewable energy research to his alma mater. He also gifted a Suntech solar array to the Sydney Theatre Company’s new Wharf Theatre, led by creative directors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton. Using advanced crystalline silicon solar technologies, the project recently broke the world record for the highest conversion efficiency.

LEGACY

$2 million from the family foundation of Dr. Zhengrong and Vivienne Shi to help fund the “Greening the Wharf” project in Sydney

6. GORDON MOORE

(worth $2.6 billion)

THE INSIDE MAN

Silicon Valley billionaire and Intel co-founder Gordon Moore has given generously to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has invested in environmental initiatives ranging from marine conservation to maintaining wild salmon ecosystems to preserving Andes- Amazon biodiversity.

BIODIVERSITY

In 2000 Moore donated half his Intel stock to the Moore Foundation to underwrite scientific research, environmental protection and promote the San Francisco Bay Area. The long-time environmentalist also donated $35 million to Conservation International to create the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, a Washington-based think tank.

LEGACY

Estimated $5 billion worth of stock to the Moore Foundation

7. SERGEY BRIN & LARRY PAGE

(worth $12 billion)

DO-GOODERS

Google co-founders Page and Brin like to say that sustainability is good for people, profit and planet. Their corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is decked out with solar panels and the much-hyped Bloom Energy servers, providing up to 30 percent of peak energy demand.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Google’s for-profit philanthropic arm, Google.org, promotes several sustainability initiatives. One of them, Recharge IT, aims to accelerate the commercialization of plug-in vehicles, while another, RE

LEGACY

Setting aside one percent of Google’s equity and yearly profits to philanthropy

8. MICHAEL DELL

(worth $12.3 billion)

COMPUTER CLEANER

Under the stewardship of Dell the entrepreneur, Dell the company overtook HP to become the number one green technology brand last year. With its recycling programs, energy efficient buildings, downsized packaging and publications printed on 50 percent recycled paper, Dell is raising the bar on corporate sustainability.

CARBON OFFSETTING

Chair of an in-house sustainability committee, Michael Dell has also made a personal commitment to the environment, matching donations to the company’s European “Plant a Tree for Me” program.

LEGACY

Conation matching for three months for Plant a Tree for Me carbon offsetting and more than $1 billion through the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to support children living in urban poverty

9. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

(worth $16 billion)

THE BILLIO-MAYOR

Media magnate and New York City mayor Bloomberg is renowned for his largesse. Bloomberg the politician parallels Bloomberg the philanthropist: In 2007 he vowed to make NYC environmentally sustainable by 2025. As buildings account for 80 percent of the city’s carbon emissions, greening them is top priority.

SUSTAINABILITY

In 2009 Bloomberg greenlit a $20million environmental efficiency makeover of the Empire State Building—all 6,500 windows of the iconic 102-story tower will be replaced with triple-glazed glass produced on site, which will result in energy savings of approximately 38 percent.

LEGACY

$235 million in personal contributions to over 1,000 organizations promoting public health, education and the environment

10. BILL GATES

(worth $40 billion)

THE PROGRAMMER

Gates’ philanthropic focus can be measured by the kinds of insects he releases at the annual TED conference: Last year it was mosquitoes (to raise awareness about malaria); this year, fireflies, to demonstrate the need for “energy miracles” to combat climate change.

ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE

Gates is officially switching gears “from vaccines and seeds to energy and climate” to realize his goal of a fossil-fuel-free 2050.

LEGACY

$28 billion, much of it for global health and development, from The Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation

 

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2010 issue of Worth.

Curator

Banner
Banner
Banner