Innovating to Net Zero: UK start-ups and entrepreneurs

The global consensus is that we need to collectively decarbonise our economies to reduce the impact we’re having on the planet. But achieving net-zero might require more than the systems and businesses we currently have in place, something that the world’s innovators are taking on board. Entrepreneurs could be the secret to reaching net zero and having a positive impact on the planet – here’s why. 

The UK leading the way

Tech Nation issued a report stating that the UK is paving the way in Europe for the number of Net Zero companies, with 323 compared to Frances’ 207 and Germany’s 150. What’s more, the report highlighted that 37% of these companies are still in the early stages of growth which makes the figure even more impressive. 

It’s no wonder that more start-ups and small businesses are looking to enhance their green credentials. Their altruistic efforts have a positive impact on the environment and create a better world for everyone, but there are also business benefits to taking the sustainable route. 

Companies with green credentials are increasingly considered to be a more appealing option for investors and consumers alike. Studies show that 50% of prospective applicants would consider refusing a role if they carried out harmful practices and 26% would be willing to take a pay cut for an employer with sustainable values. 

Small businesses are estimated to account for around half of all UK business greenhouse gas emissions, and a third of the UK’s total emissions. When it comes to impacting the UK’s net zero goals, entrepreneurs and start-ups have a key role to play and their efforts can have a significant impact. 

In fact, achieving net zero won’t be possible without the help of small businesses. Luckily, there are already businesses paving the way when it comes to eco innovation and sustainable practices. 

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Responsible payment methods

One business leveraging its success to create a better world is financial technology company SumUp. In November 2021, the business announced it was joining 1% for the Planet and committing 1% of its future net revenues to environmental causes, including building renewable energy infrastructure, preventing deforestation, and creating sustainable materials. 

They take eco issues incredibly seriously, complying with WEEE directives and have systems in place so that customers can return old card readers free of charge so they can be disposed of responsibly. 

Not only are their practices sustainable, but in providing cashless alternatives for payments, SumUp is also contributing to lesser waste and carbon emissions, since the production of coins and polymer banknotes are incredibly damaging to the environment. 

Eco-friendly energy

The energy sector is one that’s rife with unsustainable practices, but Bulb is a business striving to do better. Their electricity is supplied from 100% renewable sources, from a mixture of wind, solar and hydropower, along with 100% carbon neutral gas, 10% of which is produced from renewable sources such as food waste. 

Bulb’s ethos centres around three core pillars – simplicity for customers, affordability through cheaper tariffs and a commitment to making energy greener. According to researchers, a shift to renewable energy sources early would have lessened the climate crisis, so companies such as Bulb are helping customers make the switch in an accessible and affordable way. 

Waste management with the planet in mind

Waste management is a serious issue when it comes to carbon emissions, but it’s an issue CupClub are tackling. This platform is for food and beverage brands and retailers looking to track and manage consumer packaging, with the aim of reducing single-use plastics from circulation. 

CupClub gives customers the opportunity to halve CO2 consumption by switching to reusable alternatives, managing its end-to-end reuse system by charging consumers a flat fee per order to collect, sanitise and redistribute the packaging. Packaging waste has been a concern for some time in a range of industries, contributing to our total waste and landfill usage considerably. 

With the food and beverage industry being such a big player in the waste we produce, having companies tackle this issue can go a long way towards a greener planet. 

Animal-free dairy

Dairy farming is a practice that emits over 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 every year – more than five times the global aviation industry. It’s a huge problem for the environment and an issue that needs to be addressed if the UK is to reach its net zero targets. 

Better Dairy is contributing to the future of the industry with animal-free dairy products that are molecularly identical to dairy but remove animals from the equation. The process is similar to that used for beer brewing, giving consumers better options and food manufacturers environmentally friendly ingredients. 

Tackling food waste

OLIO is an app that’s designed to deal with the huge food waste issue we have in the UK. It enables individuals and businesses to list food items that have reached their sell-by date so locals can pick them up free of charge to reduce the amount of food going to landfills. 

OLIO’s business model is focused on the fact that an estimated 50% of food waste occurs within the home and a third of all food produced goes to waste. With businesses such as OLIO reducing the impact of food waste, not only are climate issues addressed but also the issue of hunger in the UK, with people who need it most able to get food for free.

Final thoughts

With the climate crisis looming over us, it’s more critical than ever that we make changes to create a better, healthier planet for all. From our energy use and food to the way we dispose of electronics and packaging, these innovative businesses are tackling the issues that are causing climate issues to provide businesses and consumers with eco-friendlier alternatives. 

With start-ups contributing to such a large proportion of the UK’s total emissions, companies like this can have a significant impact on the UK’s ability to reach their climate targets. 

by Daniel Groves

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