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Rob and Melani Walton strengthen their commitment to ASU

Sustainability solutions remain central with expanded investment

Rob and Melani Walton present at the Sustainability Solutions Festival, a signature sustainability event for Arizona State University.

Rob and Melani Walton present to an international audience of sustainability professionals at the Sustainability Solutions Festival, an annual celebration of sustainability innovations and innovators hosted by ASU's Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service.

January 07, 2019

Arizona State University is pleased to announce the permanent establishment of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, furthering the institution’s efforts to become a global leader in sustainability education and applied research.

The solutions service will serve as the umbrella entity for all the programs previously seed-funded in earlier investments by Rob and Melani Walton through their charitable foundation.

With new investments included as part of Rob and Melani Walton’s ongoing commitment to ASU, their total giving toward sustainability solutions at ASU has reached $31.8 million.

“Rob and I believe the breadth of the sustainability challenges across the globe require a comprehensive strategic approach,” said Melani Walton. “The permanent establishment of the solutions service will allow for more effective programming in all of the university’s sustainability initiatives.”

Rob and Melani Walton joined ASU’s efforts to become a global leader in sustainability education and research in 2006, by helping guide the ASU Sustainability Board.

In 2012, the Waltons bolstered their commitment in ASU’s sustainability efforts with a $27.5 million investment to accelerate scalable solutions to the economic, environmental and social challenges impacting the globe.

“The investment and support from Rob and Melani Walton, through their foundation, enables us to create a completely transformed university, one that uses all of its assets, thousands of faculty, tens of thousands of students, all devoted to sustainability solutions as our unifying reason for existence,” said Michael M. Crow, president of the university.

With this extended investment, the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service will complement the existing Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership, the Global Sustainability Studies Program, the Rob and Melani Walton National Teachers’ Academy and the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability in Science and Technology Museums program.

Over the past six years, the previously named Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives have engaged more than 320 organizations that affected more than 500,000 people across six continents.

Based around seven cohesive programs designed to co-create solutions, educate future leaders and engage a diverse public, the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives have completed 86 projects, trained 7,271 students and professionals, provided continuing education for 816 teachers and science educators and engaged 114,182 event attendees around innovation and sustainability.

The solutions service is one of the original initiative programs and will be housed within ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development. This sustainability consultancy, an evolution of the traditional cooperative extension service model, will co-create solutions-based projects with faculty, students and external partners such as the city of Phoenix, international aid organizations and established and emerging businesses.

There currently is an international search underway for the Rob and Melani Walton Chair for Sustainability Solutions, a distinguished position that will lead business development and operations for the Sustainability Solutions Service.


One of the premier projects underway at the solutions service is the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network, or RISN, a partnership with the city of Phoenix to advance the use and reuse of resource streams such as waste to drive economic development and protect natural resources. RISN’s most impactful program thus far has been the RISN Incubator, a business accelerator designed to help startups and entrepreneurs take their circular-economy-focused enterprises to market. The RISN Incubator was initially funded through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and is operated with support from ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation. In its first year, the RISN Incubator has fostered 13 ventures that have created 30 full- or part-time jobs, generated $3.15 million in revenues and raised $1.345 million in capital.

“Our partnership with the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service and RISN has allowed us at the city of Phoenix to make a difference for our community and change our economy,” said Ginger Spencer, director of public works at the city of Phoenix. “Cities from around the world are contacting us and wanting to know more about this partnership and more about our work to become a zero-waste city.”

The Teachers’ Academy, Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership, Global Sustainability Studies Program and the Sustainability Fellowship program will continue to operate within the School of Sustainability. The Science Museums program will be housed at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

For more information about the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, please visit

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