Cleantech Group, a small Michigan company that links inventors of sustainable technologies with investors, will use its network of scientists and industry experts to assess ideas and business
plans submitted to its Web site, and pass along the most promising to Wal-Mart within about six weeks. The payoff for successful ideas could be enormous--a fat contract with the world's largest
Wal-Mart has added solar panels to some of its stores, upgraded long-haul trucks for better fuel efficiency and sold 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs. But these
changes are just the beginning, according to Rand Waddoups, Wal-Mart's sustainability director, who says savings will be passed along to customers.
In the last two years, Wal-Mart has won praise even from some former critics for initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, cut packaging waste and sell more environmentally friendly products. "They are taking the suggestion box to a whole new level," says Elizabeth V. Sturcken, who manages the corporation partnerships program at Environmental Defense, a New York-based advocate that has advised the company for three years.