Five startup companies earned their spot in Europe’s top climate change initiative, the EIT Climate-KIC. If you haven’t heard about this yet - don’t worry. Too much else was going on when the results were announced in June. However, this topic does deserve close attention, especially from those of you that want to see innovation applied not just in doing more, more efficiently, but also in doing less, with less damage to our planet.
We will present these companies briefly, how they fit in climate change trends, and what pillar(s) of sustainability they tackle.
Three of these five start-ups are turning (literal) garbage into (the climate-tackling version of) gold:
AgroGrIN Tech, by creating vitamins, dehydrated fruit and even flour, from industrial food waste;
Plasblock, by utilizing wood and plastic scraps to manufacture construction blocks and wooden pallets;
and Spawnfoam, by amassing bio-materials, such as coconut fibre, and molding them into flower pots and even construction materials beyond the garden.
The other two start-ups focus on doing the same with less:
Builtrix saves energy in commercial buildings by providing visibility and benchmarking to the users;
and SCUBIC saves water and electricity in large scale operations by including historical data and weather information
Gone are the days of the 3 R’s of Sustainability: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Whilst Erica Eller’s 28 R’s (and even an ‘S’) might be more encompassing, it certainly isn’t very memorable, and 6 R’s seems to be a good middle ground: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repair.
The first three companies (AgroGrIn Tech, Pasblock and Spawnfoam) clearly focus on Reusing, whilst the other two (Builtrix and SCUBIC) are geared towards Reducing. Thankfully they are moving away from the weakest link - Recycling; and they are surely Rethinking the current production and consumption patterns.
Though their efforts to reduce climate change are very promising, these companies should also keep in mind that an all-around Sustainability must also include the Social pillar (in addition to the Economic and Environmental Pillars). I.e. How do these projects impact people and their communities? For example, are they getting their waste (their primary resource) from local companies? Are their products at a price that their communities can afford? As we can take from these examples, the social pillar includes not only philanthropy, work-life balance and diversity, but also engagement with local organisations, with community, with human rights, and with good living conditions for all.
As Thomas Friedman writes in Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How It Can Renew America, quoting from the movie The Leopard:
If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
Written by: Carolina Mesquita, at Impacteam
Previously a project manager for tech start-ups in Portugal and in London, Carolina Mesquita joined Impacteam in 2020 as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consultant to tackle the needs of Portuguese not-for-profit institutions through hands-on projects with large companies, such as GALP and Jerónimo Martins.