Sustainability: The right balance between economic, environmental and social benefits

My top five favorite sustainable start-ups

Working as a Sustainability consultant, I quickly reached the realization that innovation and creativity are the forefront for combating some of the most pressing challenges of humanity.

Conducting business ethically and responsible more often is not enough. Companies and individuals need to be bold to question the status quo. Not to be afraid to suggest ideas, which might scare investors, due to the unclear ROI and the difficulties to put a price to social and environmental benefits. These ideas strive for the right balance between economic, environmental and social benefits.

My list presents exactly such individuals and brilliant ideas and by no means is exhaustive. But these 5 start-ups definitely bring the hope that there are people out there, who are ready to be bold and help humanity thrive without compromising the lives of future generations.

1. Nootrees

Nootrees is a start-up in Singapore, which produces toilet paper, wipes and tissues entirely out of bamboo. With the simple idea of creating products ‘’100% biodegradable, 100% sustainable and supremely hypoallergenic’’ and combating deforestation, which creates 20% of the carbon emissions in the atmosphere, the company has found a cheaper and more sustainable material for such a widely used every day product.

Do you know that around 27 000 trees are cut every day just to make toilet paper?! Such a fast rate of deforestation leads to other catastrophic consequences e.g. erosion, destroying flora and fauna in forest areas. In addition, it takes trees 30 years to reach maturity. On other hand, bamboos can grow everywhere and it takes only 18 months for them to mature. They produce 35–40% more oxygen, while they grow compare to trees.

2. The Girlfriend Collective

Plastic is everywhere, even in our food. Every 1 out of 4 fish contains micro plastic. Sounds bad, but it is entirely our fault. However, there is hope!

The girlfriend collective is a textile start-up, which produces leggings from used water bottles! They have only one product in their collection. But by focusing on its whole life cycle from raw materials to production and disposal, they have managed to divert ‘’6,000,000 post-consumer plastic water bottles from the landfill’ since its creation.

Partnering with a Danish company, the leggings are produced in Vietnam. The employees are paid above minimal wages (starting 125% beyond the minimum wages in the country), ensuring transparency and employees’ rights every step of the way. Free breakfast, lunch and coffee are provided throughout the day, in addition to free monthly health check-ups for each employee.

3. Devoted to the ocean

I must admit, I have a weak spot, when it comes to animals and endangered species. I admire every idea and initiative, which aims to help animals and stop their killing or destroying their environment.

Devoted to the ocean, is again a textile start-up, which produces hoodies and jewelries. 20% of their sales goes to FAU Marine Research Lab at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and Friends of Gumbo Limbo. These organizations focus efforts in saving sea turtles. One of the most effected marine species from human activities. They face habitat destruction and climate change affects their sites. By purchasing one of their products, Devoted to the ocean is trying to stop the decline of sea turtle.

4. Danish food cluster

Food waste is a serious problem. When most of the half of the population lives in poverty and hunger, in 2016 FAO calculated that the global volume of food waste for was 1,6 billion tones! In addition, most of the food waste goes to landfills and a recent report by FAO estimated that if a food waste was a country, it would be the 3 biggest CO2 emitter in the world after China and USA.

Thus, within recent years, start-ups and NGOs started to focus on how to combat this problem. In Denmark, such example is the Danish food cluster. This is a collaborative initiative among businesses, academia and public authorities for creating innovative ideas to tackle food waste problem. By facilitating network, interaction among their partners, they hope to achieve international visibility and draw consumers to the problem and how it can be avoided through innovative ideas.

Denmark is one of the leading EU country, which managed to decrease its food waste by 25% and you can read how here.

5. Mobisol

A large share of the world lives in third world countries and lacks some of the basic necessities, which the western world have taken for granted. I was born, raised and currently live in an European country and never experience life without clean water, air or electricity. However, more than 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity.

Therefore, start-ups as Mobisol are paramount in bringing such necessities to people in a cheaper and easier to use way, which will help them to take advantage of such basic thing. Their business model is simple: ‘’provide solar energy with affordable payment plan via mobile phone’’. So far, the German company has managed to install 70 000 solar home systems on households and other companies in East Africa.

Conclusion

I am truly impressed by each and every one of the above companies and the inspiring individuals behind them. We need more brave and innovative ideas, if we would like our children and their children to enjoy our planet. Let’s not be the generation that destroys their future.

Do you have favourite sustainable start-ups?