Amazon is on the hunt for startups with unicorn potential to help solve the world’s most challenging sustainability issues.

As of this week, applications are open for the latest Amazon Sustainability Accelerator, an initiative now in its third year that aims to help entrepreneurs scale their businesses.

The Accelerator has welcomed over 25 European startups since launching in 2022 — 17 of which are in the UK — enabling them to grow sales by 700% and raise over £16 million. 

This year, Amazon will select almost 30 more European climate-tech startups, to equip entrepreneurs with the skills and opportunities to grow their business and positively impact the environment. 

The initiative is run in partnership with Europe’s leading climate innovation hub, EIT Climate-KIC, and entrepreneurial consultants, Founders Intelligence, part of Accenture.

Amazon Sustainability Accelerator 2023 cohort.

In 2024, to reflect the growing sustainable startup ecosystem, the Accelerator is inviting applications for the following four categories: 

Consumer products: Early-stage startups developing sustainable and innovative physical consumer products that have recently launched or are on the cusp of go-to-market.

Circular economy: Startups who are building solutions that extend the lifetime of products through reverse logistics, repair capabilities accessible to end users, and more.

Energy in buildings: Startups focused on helping buildings to decarbonise through AI and cutting-edge materials.

Packaging: Startups creating innovative packaging materials, closed-loop reusable systems technology and more.

New for 2024, Amazon is also running a Climate Tech Pilot, offering startups a chance to pilot their technology with Amazon.

“Our aim is for the Amazon Sustainability Accelerator to be the best place in the world for entrepreneurs to create cutting-edge sustainable products and technologies, and we want to help them reach their dream of building a business with unicorn potential,” said Zak Watts, Amazon‘s Director of Sustainability in Europe. 

“I’m so excited we’re able to expand this year’s Accelerator into new categories and verticals, welcoming later stage startups into the Amazon Sustainability Accelerator program, to help supercharge their growth, and realise the potential of a more sustainable economy.”

Startup founders from previous cohorts share why they’re solving sustainability challenges and their experiences of scaling those businesses.

Businesses supported by Amazon Sustainability Accelerator include Suri, a UK based sustainable toothbrush company, that is aiming to tackle plastic pollution with over 4 billion toothbrushes thrown away each year. The startup was still in the concept stage when joining the Amazon Sustainability Accelerator.

According to Mark Rushmore, Suri’s Co-Founder, the programme allowed them to drive huge growth, increasing gross revenue to over £10 million in the past 12 months, while also providing “unparalleled access to resources and expertise”.

Grub Club, a startup selling high protein insect-based pet food in the UK, has seen year-on-year growth of 290% since joining the Amazon Sustainability Accelerator in 2022. This has enabled them to drive forward their ambition to reduce CO2 emissions through their sustainable pet food.

“We currently still share office space with four other startups from our cohort too,” explains Co-Founder, Alessandro di Trapani, “which is testament to the amazing network that we’ve gained from the Accelerator.”

Alessandro di Trapani
Grub Club Pets Co-Founder and CEO, Alessandro di Trapani.

Newly-expanded Amazon Sustainability Accelerator

Startups in this year’s Accelerator will work with experts in Amazon’s Sustainability, Climate Pledge Fund and Climate Pledge Friendly teams, attend workshops, receive mentorship, and benefit from a bespoke programme, designed to help founders navigate the challenges of starting and scaling a sustainable business. 

Amazon and EIT Climate-KIC will work in collaboration to guide Accelerator participants through a Climate Impact Assessment where they will learn how to self-assess their business’ climate impact, and develop strategies to improve their environmental footprint. Participants will also receive a grant and Amazon Web Services (AWS) credits.

The ClimateTech Pilot Challenge will welcome startups who have moved beyond prototype testing and are working towards generating initial revenue and growing operations (Tech Readiness Level 6 and above). These businesses will participate in a shorter, intense four-week version of the Accelerator, and pitch for the chance to work on a pilot project directly with parts of Amazon’s business. A typical pilot for emerging technologies could earn them from $50,000 to $2 million, depending on duration and scope.

The deadline for applications for the first cohort focused on the Circular Economy, Energy in Buildings, and Packaging is 5 April 2024 and successful applicants will be announced in the spring. The deadline for the second cohort focused on consumer products is 31 July 2024, with successful applicants announced in the autumn.

Startups can apply online here.