When you read the news headlines, it can seem like it’s all doom and gloom. But some businesses are leading the way and could change the world for the better.
From well-known brands changing how sectors operate to innovative start-ups, here are just five businesses that are tackling issues like climate change and environmental degradation.
1. Upside Foods
Animal agriculture has a huge effect on the planet. In fact, according to a previous report in the Guardian, farms in the EU produced more emissions than cars and vans combined.
The carbon-intensive process means that meat-based diets can have a much larger effect than you think. While many people aren’t yet willing to embrace a vegan or vegetarian diet, Upside Foods could help people reduce their carbon footprint.
The innovative firm uses biotechnology to turn animal stem cells into meat in a lab. It could provide a way to deliver meat-based products that consumers want while drastically reducing environmental harm. In addition, it eliminates animal rights concerns around animal farming.
In 2021, Upside Foods opened its first large-scale production plant. While there’s still some way to go before lab-grown meat becomes affordable for the average consumer, it’s an exciting business that could change where meat comes from.
Fast fashion is becoming a global issue. The pressure to reduce costs and speed up production times means that environmental corners are being cut, for instance, the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters of clean water globally. It also encourages consumers to throw away barely worn items and it’s linked to dangerous working conditions.
Patagonia was one of the first leading brands to start a conversation about consumerism and sustainability in the sector.
The company has been ahead of its time and has been championing sustainability causes for decades. Since 1985, it’s donated 1% of its sale revenue each year to conservation and environmental protection projects. The firm has also set up an initiative to encourage other companies to follow suit.
Sustainable practices are part of Patagonia’s business model. For example, it’s committed to using recycled materials in 70% of its products and plans to increase this to 100% by 2025.
In 2022, the business went one step further and ownership of Patagonia was donated to a trust to ensure that profits would be used to tackle climate change and protect undeveloped land.
3. SolarWindow Technologies
Energy supply and climate change have become huge issues in the last few decades, and SolarWindow Technologies could help boost renewable energy production.
Recent circumstances that have led to energy bills soaring and concerns about supplies mean that more people than ever are aware of the importance of energy independence. Increasing the use of renewables could solve this challenge while reducing emissions.
The US-based firm manufactures see-through, electricity-generating windows that can be installed in homes. They claim this technology is 50 times more effective than rooftop solar panels. It could provide a way for homeowners to meet some of their own energy needs.
Several other firms are operating in this space too, including UK firms Polysolar UK and Onyx Solar.
Tesla’s owner Elon Musk has become a well-known name thanks to the controversial views he shares on social media as much as his business success. But Tesla is leading the way when it comes to electric vehicles, battery energy storage, and renewables.
In 2021, Tesla held around 20% of the electric car market, and 14% of the hybrid car market. As electric vehicles become the norm – from 2030, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in the UK – Tesla is likely to play a key role in improving technology and making it more accessible.
One of the most impressive things about the business is its open-source patent philosophy. In 2014, the company introduced the Patent Pledge, which provides a way for companies, including competitors, to use the technology covered in Tesla’s patent portfolio, which covers a broad range of areas.
Musk said the decision was made to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport and claimed that the patent system was holding back innovation.
5. Skipping Rocks Lab
Plastic pollution is a huge issue that’s affecting the environment and humans. Single-use plastic has become commonplace, but it can take hundreds of years for the material to decompose in a landfill and tiny fragments of plastic, known as “microplastics”, have been shown to damage human cells in some laboratory tests.
Despite this, the Natural History Museum estimates that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year. Many more tonnes are sent to landfills.
Skipping Rocks Lab aims to significantly reduce how much single-use plastic you use. The UK-based start-up’s first product, Ooho!, is made from seaweed and plants – it’s edible, flavourless, and biodegradable. It can be used to hold almost anything plastic can, from water to cosmetics.
It’s still early days for the business, but in 2019 the product was handed out during the London Marathon. It drastically reduced the number of water bottles left along the route.