Wal-Mart Soliciting Green Solutions

WalMart & CleanTech
Mega-retailer Wal-Mart said last week that it’s partnered with The Cleantech Group to create a web portal on which companies and individuals can pitch their ideas as to how Wal-Mart might decrease its carbon footprint while at the same time helping its bottom line. The site, dubbed The Cleantech Accelerator Project, launched earlier this week.

Wal-Mart (WMT), which announced the creation of the web portal at the Cleantech Forum in Toronto, is looking to continue cutting its operating costs by greening its business model. “We have the opportunity, we hope, to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, to create zero waste and to sell products that sustain our resources and environment,” said Rand Waddoups, senior director of corporate strategy and sustainability. It is also a huge opportunity for green entrepreneurs, an open invitation for them to pitch their green startups to the largest retailer in the world.

To elicit more proposals, Waddoups explained, Wal-Mart is looking to “incentivize innovation” and will be offering itself as a guinea pig, GreenTechMedia reported.

This offers a new path for cleantech startups to search for funding. In addition to pitching business proposals to venture capitalists, entrepreneurs can go directly to a company who could put their green business practices into effect at thousands of locations all over the world. Removing the barriers to entry, Wal-Mart is inviting any and all to submit to its public web portal.
Cleantech accelterator homepage

Wal-Mart is very much hoping this will yield definitive solutions for specific problems, and has stressed that “the principal areas of focus are on solutions that can be deployed in the next 24 months.” Submissions will be reviewed confidentially and Wal-Mart will follow up directly with ideas it thinks promising.

The site’s welcome page is posted, but so far attempts to register and enter have not been successful. The registration process currently involves a review by an administrator. Under the heading of “current Wal-Mart areas of focus” a simple “coming soon” sits. Once the site is up and running it will be interesting to see what types of solutions it generates for Wal-Mart. This web-based direct and on-going solicitation of cleantech solutions is a unique model.

The incentives for cleantech breakthroughs keep piling up. Earlier this year, Virgin CEO Richard Branson and former VP Al Gore announced a $25 million prize for the innovator who could lower the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Wal-Mart’s Cleantech Accelerator doesn’t have the celebrity judges or explicit million-dollar grand prize but could potentially do a huge amount to reduce Wal-Mart’s emissions — and potentially save far more than $25 million.