10 European firms every sustainability professional should know

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Between 2010 to 2022, “the number of emerging technology companies tackling the climate crisis has increased 4x,” to nearly 45,000. That’s according to a report by TechNation, released in November.

Few people would argue that the rapid increase isn’t necessary. But it could be argued as both a blessing and a curse.

Four times as many tech companies means four times as many potential solutions to consider, when building a sustainability toolkit.

Factor in the products and services of non-tech companies and nonprofits, and keeping on top of your options can quickly become incredibly time-consuming.

Below is a list of 10 firms in Europe that could make practical additions to your sustainable business arsenal. They represent a wide array of actions and are presented in no particular order. With crystal clear offerings, all are easy to pitch to colleagues and bosses. 

What others would you suggest? Email ideas for European-based climate tech startups that have a business to business focus to [email protected].  

1. measurable.energy

According to measurable.energy, power used by plugged-in devices can exceed “40 percent of total electricity usage in office buildings.” Half is wasted; much of it through devices plugged in and powered on during non-working hours.

The British hardware startup has designed an internet-of-things-connected smart socket that can “automatically identify and eliminate wasted energy” in buildings, through machine learning. Its sockets can turn off devices when usage patterns would suggest they’re wasting energy and can be programmed to turn on and off automatically, at set times. 

A pilot project with construction company Kier, at a building site in Wales, cut energy use by 27 percent. The startup predicts a 20,000-socket building could save over $551,000 on energy bills, annually.

Currently offering U.K. sockets, it plans to roll out European Union equivalents later this year.

2. Time for the Planet

In a recent survey by PwC, 81 percent of investors said they would accept “only a one percentage point or less reduction in overall returns for companies in their portfolios that take sustainability actions.”

When companies work with Time for the Planet, that need not be an issue.

The French nonprofit sells shares in itself and allows companies (as well as individuals) to become limited partners. It then invests the capital raised into innovative climate projects, such as Cool Roof France (reflective building cladding, $540,000 invested) and Beyond the Sea (kite-pulled ships, $1.1 million invested). 

According to Time for the Planet Managing Director Cécile Duranton, “shareholders can’t get any financial dividend until the average temperature is back to 1850s levels.” 

But they can expect a “Climate Dividend,” an annual summary of “the number of tons of greenhouse gasses avoided or captured,” thanks to each euro invested.

The best bit: Investing in Time for the Planet counts as an asset, not a liability, on your balance sheet. 

3. Climeworks

Today, there are many ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere — from reforestation to bio-sequestration. All have their pros and cons. For many, a key drawback of most methods is the inability to be fully certain of how much carbon they actually remove. 

Not with Climeworks, a Swiss startup offering carbon removal via direct air capture and permanent geological storage. 

At the company’s Orca facility in Iceland, machines filter (carefully measured amounts of) carbon dioxide out of the air. The collected CO2 is then transported deep underground where, through a natural process, it reacts with basalt rock and transforms into stone. 

Companies including Microsoft, Shopify and Stripe have all signed agreements in recent years and now pay Climeworks to remove carbon on their behalf.

Tred card

4. Tred

“Due to their fossil fuel investing, having £100,000 in a high-street business bank account can cause the same CO2 emissions as 127 return flights from London to Rome,” Will Smith, co-founder of Tred, told GreenBiz.

Launched in 2020, his startup is “the U.K.’s only carbon-neutral neobank.” Its retail offering has seen over 35,000 people sign up to date.

Later this year, Tred will launch business accounts, allowing companies to track and offset their emissions “automatically and in real time.” After logging into the app, businesses will be able to view their up-to-date carbon footprint, which can be offset through one of Tred’s “third party-verified” schemes. They will also be able to connect other credit and bank accounts to their account, to get a holistic view of business emissions.

The company’s website promises that, by using Tred, your money “will never fund fossil fuels.”

5. Solivus

In 2021, The Independent wrote that “almost 1,000 square miles of commercial roof space in the U.K. cannot support the weight of traditional solar panels.” That’s an area 1.65 times the size of Greater London.

British solar startup Solivus is working to change that. Partnering with leading manufacturers, it is fitting innovative, lightweight solutions, such as organic photovoltaic (OPV) solar fabric, “where conventional solar panels can’t go.”

To date, Solivus has fitted panels on buildings including a private airport and a Premier League Rugby club stadium.

With repayment plans an option, no upfront CapEx is required. 

6. OLIO

According to the U.N. Environment Programme, 931 million metric tons of food waste was produced worldwide in 2019. Of that, 39 percent — or 363 million metric tons — came from food service and retail businesses.

British “sharing app” OLIO is working to change that by actively helping companies to become “zero food waste” businesses.

For a nominal fee retailers, restaurants and office canteens (among others) can arrange to have their surplus food picked up and redistributed to local communities.

Partners such as Eurostar, Tesco and Pret A Manger are already in on the action.

The service is available “across the U.K.,” with guidance on setting up collections in other markets available “on request.”

7. Heart Aerospace

Today, business travel accounts for 30 percent of air travel in Europe and 20 percent globally. A large percentage is regional.

Thankfully, so are the planes designed by Swedish aviation startup Heart Aerospace. The ES-30 aircraft it is developing is powered by battery-driven motors and, as a result, the company says it emits zero emissions per mile (presumably when renewable energy is used). 

Able up to fly up to 497 miles when supported by sustainable aviation fuel, in hybrid mode — roughly the distance from London to Zurich — airlines such as Air Canada, Icelandair and SAS have already placed orders.

Deliveries are expected to begin in 2028. In the years after, it’s quite possible electric-aircraft-only business travel policies could become the norm — at least for regional travel.

My Emissions

8. MyEmissions

A 2020 YouGov survey, commissioned by the Carbon Trust, found that 64 percent of consumers were “more likely to think positively about a brand that could demonstrate it had lowered the carbon footprint of its products.” For food producers, doing so often starts with a life-cycle assessment (LCA). 

In an email, British startup My Emissions told GreenBiz that such assessments cost “at least” about $1,833 per product, on average. For brands with multiple products, they often become cost prohibitive. 

However, in the company’s experience, an average of 75 to 85 percent of emissions come from the “pre-retail” portion of a food product’s life cycle. My Emissions has designed a method of quickly and cheaply calculating those emissions, using customer data and data found in peer-reviewed journals.

Whereas a typical LCA might take six to 12 months, MyEmissions said it can “turn around most simple food carbon assessments in a month.”

Once complete, the company then works with clients to communicate the results to their customers “in the most impactful way” — such as through its free carbon labels — as well as “set and achieve sustainability targets.” 

Calculations cost about $305 on average.

9. Clean Kitchen Club

British vegan fast-food chain Clean Kitchen Club wants to “make plant-based food delicious, accessible and mainstream.” 

It’s doing that in two ways: through its fast-growing roster of Central London restaurants; and a “100 percent plant-based” catering option. The latter has caught the interest of a number of large companies.

The chain caters for a variety of event types — from buffets to festivals — and dishes on offer include “Hoisin Duc'” wraps and “Mac ‘n’ Cheeze” bowls. Its catering brochure claims that its “Cheat’n Clean’ Burger produces 83 percent fewer carbon emissions than a regular beef burger.” 

According to a recent LinkedIn post from co-founder Mikey Pearce, the Clean Kitchen Club catering team is booked up every day in January. Clients include Amazon, Deutsche Bank and John Lewis. 

10. Canopey

Imagine for a second that you’re shopping for vegan makeup. You could either spend an hour searching for products across different sites online or compare them easily, on a single site. Which would you choose?

British marketplace startup Canopey hopes consumers will choose the latter.

The company will soon allow customers to shop hundreds of sustainable products — from beauty to homewares — in a single place. Each will be strictly vetted by the company, to ensure its customers can shop with confidence.

So far, over 150 brands and counting want in on the action, and it’s not hard to see why. Canopey charges no onboarding fee and, once approved, sellers’ product catalogues can easily be uploaded to the platform via a .csv file or Shopify integration.

Co-founder and CMO Hugo Douglas-Deane told GreenBiz the platform will launch an “exclusive beta” for its “current community, investors and network” in February.

It then expects to launch to the public in April/May.

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