Sustainable businesses lead the way in the 2021 Startups 100

The renowned ranking of the UK’s most disruptive and innovative businesses founded in the past five years has been revealed, but which of them are setting the standard for carbon-busting, sustainable companies?

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As ever, this year’s Startups 100 features a diverse pool of businesses, ranging from health tech companies and property investors to a florist CRM system and a secure encrypted communication app.

But while each of these ingenious, disruptive startups all deserve recognition, a special mention has to be made for the businesses on our list who are championing sustainability, reducing their carbon emissions, and promoting a greener way of working.

Being a sustainable business isn’t just a sure-fire way to help save the planet from global warming, it’s also an incredible opportunity to attract investment. With European ‘net zero’ startups raising a total of £2.1bn from venture capital funds last year – a 129% increase on the year before – it’s important a company has sustainability at the heart of its business model and takes direct action to reduce its carbon emissions. A number of companies featured in our Startups 100 2021 index are doing just that.

Not only will a focus on sustainability attract investors, but it will also attract future employees for your business. A recent survey of over 1,000 young people conducted by GoodEnergy revealed that 57% of those aged between 18 and 34 would prefer to work for an employer who shares their environmental values.

With these figures in mind, it’s no wonder so many sustainable businesses feature in our top 100 – and to celebrate their achievements as successful, sustainable startups, we’ve profiled our top five below.

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The top five

allplants (7th)

allplants reached seventh place in our index, and earns its title as the highest placed sustainable business to feature. Founded in 2017 by Jonathon Petrides, allplants offers a wide, varied, and creative selection of completely ready-made, chef-prepared freezer meals you can store and cook from frozen whenever needed – and it’s all 100% vegan.

Another sustainable accolade includes owning and operating the largest plant-based kitchen in Europe, run on 100% renewable energy. The emissions-busting company is also certified B-corp, using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems, meeting outstanding ethical standards, and serving local communities (it’s donated 40,000 meals to City Harvest at the time of writing).

Not only that, but all allplants dishes arrive via carbon neutral deliveries in 100% recyclable and partly compostable packaging. They are also committed to using zero air-freighted produce and screen suppliers to ensure this.


Every time you refer a friend to allplants, the company plants a tree. So far over 12,000 trees have been planted with WeForest to date, creating over five million lbs of oxygen.   

The Cheeky Panda Ltd (13th)

In 13th place, The Cheeky Panda is no stranger to the Startups 100 and featured highly on our list last year. Its brilliant range of bamboo-based products has recently expanded and now includes household and pocket tissues, kitchen towels, beauty wipes, and even hand towels and antibacterial wipes for offices – perfectly timed for that return to the workplace.

The company sells its products in a total of 5,000 stores across the UK, but despite this superb growth, it’s retained its sustainable values. Even as it prepares to IPO in 2022, sustainability continues to remain at the forefront of all operations for the world’s first carbon balanced tissue company. Co-founder Chris Forbes calculates that, to date, the company has saved 250,000 trees, reduced carbon in the atmosphere by 31,500 tons, and saved over 10 tons of plastic packaging – now that is a greener way of working.


KIDLY (4th)

KIDLY catapulted into our top five this year, rightly earning its place in fourth, and as you peruse its online one-stop shop for products aimed at 0-5 year olds, you’ll quickly see why. Founded in 2016 by James Hart, the first employee at ASOS, the ecommerce company sells more than 4,000 uniquely crafted products from the world’s leading brands, ranging from childrenswear to toys.

In terms of sustainability, there’s a lot to admire about KIDLY: all its packaging is 100% recyclable or biodegradable, swapping out unnecessary plastic parcels for recyclable paper. The website has a designated eco shop, exclusively featuring conscious, sustainable brands, including Eco Rascals (organic bamboo tableware) and Plan Toys (sustainable toys created from the wood of retired rubber trees). And although its own KIDLY label products aren’t all 100% organic yet, its onesies, sleepsuits and pyjamas are.


Wild (28th)

Wild hit 28th on our Startups 100 list, which is no small feat for a brand that offers a sustainable deodorant subscription service. What’s exciting about Wild is, in its infancy, it has already amassed over 200,000 followers on social media and 5,500 five star reviews on Trustpilot – which highlights the popularity and potential this natural, refillable deodorant brand has.

Sustainability-wise, there’s not a smidge of single-use plastic involved in Wild’s operations, as its deodorant service comes with a stylish, durable case made from aluminium and recycled plastic. The refills provided are also plastic-free and compostable – meaning zero waste! In order to offset its carbon emissions, Wild has partnered with On a Mission and frequently contributes to its reforestation projects – planting over 48,000 trees to date to earn its title as a climate-positive company.

Not only that, but its dedication to grow as an ethical, low-carbon, and environmentally conscious business is exemplified by its goal of becoming B Corp certified by the end of this year.

The Vurger Co. (27th)

There simply had to be a restaurant amongst our sustainable Startups 100 champions, and 27th-placed The Vurger Co. is the perfect fit. This plant-based powerhouse puts the fast food giants’ vegan range to shame with its selection of delicious vegan burgers, loaded fries, and shakes. Making its fourth appearance in the Startups 100 (and climbing considerably from 58th in 2020), The Vurger Co is going from strength to strength, beginning its journey as a small market stall in 2016 and eventually opening its third restaurant (with two already in London) in Brighton earlier this year.

But what makes it so sustainable? Well for starters, the obvious: all of its products are 100% vegan. This includes its amazing range of mayos, which you can purchase at Planet Organic, Selfridges and Whole Food Market (amongst other grocery stores). Its packaging is also made from plants and is 100% compostable, with the process emitting 75% fewer greenhouse gases compared to conventional plastic production. It also uses green energy pioneer Bulb as its predominant energy provider, which supplies members with 100% renewable electricity from solar, wind and hydro sources.

What’s more, from its vegan burger sales alone in 2019, The Vurger Co has saved the equivalent of 15 tons of beef, 500,000 grams of CO2 and 140 million litres of water – now that’s a sustainable business!


Want to find out which other sustainable businesses made the list? See the full Startups 100 2021 here.

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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