2024 Startups 100 | Sustainability shortlist and award winner

These trailblazers are fighting the good fight against climate change. Meet the five startups shortlisted for this year’s Sustainability award.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Eco-conscious brands have made huge ground over the past ten years – and nowhere is that more obvious than in the 2024 Startups 100 Index.

This year, green overtook Startups’ red as 30% of our top 100 had sustainability as a core tenet of their business strategy. This eco-conscious revolution has even reached our top ten, with half of the leading startups championing planet-friendly practices.

Their success proves the impact that eco-friendly companies have had on the business world since Linda McCartney first shocked us with her (whisper it) vegetarian sausages. But gone are the days where recycling a cardboard box was peak tree-hugger.

Following a year defined by environmental disasters and greenwashing scandals, those claiming to be eco-warriors in 2024 can’t get away with just a leafy-looking logo. They must now prove their commitment with hard data and transparent reporting.

Alongside Chris Forbes, co-founder of bamboo behemoth, Cheeky Panda, we’ve picked out five eco-conscious startups that are world-leading and world-saving. Together, they prove that sustainability is not a buzzword, but a driving force in today's business landscape.

Chris Forbes guest judge for Startups 100
Introducing Startups 100 guest judge, Chris Forbes!

Cofounder of The Cheeky Panda, a Fast Track 100 company, Chris is passionate about delivering change for good and has been a public speaker, helping share the journey and inspire others to become environmental entrepreneurs. Alongside his wife and business partner, Julia Chen, Forbes has led the Cheeky Panda to be named a Startups 100 company no fewer than four times.

WINNER – Seep

2024 Startups 100 | Winner of the Sustainability award

In recognition of a sustainability leader that prioritises the health of the planet as part of its company mission.

Learn more about Seep

Laura, an eco-conscious shopper, was horrified to discover that while her local supermarket was brimming with eco-friendly options, the cleaning aisle was stuck in a plastic time warp. Determined to clean up this mess, Laura founded Seep, the UK's first-ever plastic-free cleaning accessory company selling biodegradable sponges, cloths, and brushes.

Forbes requested impressive stats from every Startups 100 entrant, and Seep didn't disappoint. Their 2022 impact report revealed that their compostable products have diverted over 19,000 tonnes of waste from landfills, keeping the planet cleaner and greener.

Seep's commitment to sustainability goes beyond just their products. They've partnered with ON A MISSION, a non-profit organisation dedicated to reforestation, to help fund the planting of 626,700 trees, creating a cleaner, greener future.

At the same time, after 12 months of rigorous preparation and assessment, Seep became the first B Corp-certified cleaning accessories business. Not only that, it ranked in the top 5% of all B Corp members, giving it Best for the World (BFTW) status for environmental impact. Now, it’s cleaned up at the Startups 100, and can add a Sustainability trophy to its case!

What did Chris Forbes have to say? 

“Despite a small team the numbers are phenomenal,” Forbes assesses. “Seep also has a very high B Corp score which underlines it’s not just a tall tale, but truly impactful.

“Seep has also demonstrated a huge amount of measurable impact on limited capital injection, delivering significant revenues,” Forbes enthuses. “This is a perfect example of a great sustainable story, and a great business.”

SHORTLISTED –  Canopey

Inspired by Amazon – and yet very, very different – Canopey is the sustainable marketplace that puts all the world’s verified, sustainable products (including our winner, Seep) in one, easy-to-find place.

Canopey’s USP is its carbon calculator, where shoppers can see their sustainable impact instantly. By the time of its launch in September 2023, Canopey’s community of 8,500 had saved over 520kg of plastic waste and 160,000 litres of water – and planted more than 12,500 trees, covering the equivalent of nearly four and a half football pitches.

Part of Techstars’ Sustainability Paris accelerator, and having recently received an Innovate UK grant, Canopey next plans to build out its educational platform features, and zero in on planned campaigns with major environmental charities.

As a self-professed “big fan of people reporting big numbers of carbon and waste savings,” Forbes expresses a liking for “the ambition on Canopey’s marketplace project”.

SHORTLISTED –  Jude

Feminine hygiene products are some of the worst contributors to the global plastic pollution crisis. In an industry that’s built on disposability, Jude is a disruptive force.

Alongside its main bladder supplement product line, the company also sells liners and pads – every layer of which is made using the sustainable plant-based material, bamboo. Its wrappers are made from corn starch and are 100% degradable within 100 days, while its recyclable boxes are made from wood pulp and use 50% less glue than rival products.

Jude's commitment to sustainability extends to their manufacturing process as well. Its supply chain is powered by 80% solar energy, while production uses 20% less water. And despite these eco-conscious practices, Jude remains affordable, with a box of 120 liners costing just £13.75 per month.

Forbes particularly singles Jude out for the firm’s superfast growth. “I was impressed with Jude’s strong traction in the market”, he notes, “combined with impressive fundraising and building a team quickly. Great products too.”

SHORTLISTED –  Renais Spirits

In the world of premium spirits, innovation can be rare. But Alex Watson (a drinks industry veteran) and his sister Emma Watson (an actress and environmental activist) decided the sector was ripe for change. Together, they founded Renais Spirits, the gin brand that’s not just delicious, but also deeply committed to sustainability.

The heart of Renais Gin lies in its unique ingredient of upcycled French pressed wine grape skins. These skins, once destined for the discard pile or animal feed, are now transformed into the gin's base spirit, giving it a distinctive flavour profile.

Renais has also partnered with Mushroom® Packaging for its plastic-alternative packaging that breaks down naturally at home in under 50 days. And if that wasn't enough, Renais is proudly carbon neutral, having offset a whopping 176,620 KG of carbon through the accredited ClimatePartner program.

Forbes gives points to Renais Spirits for its “impressive raising of capital and clear ambitions. The use of mushroom packaging is a clever idea.”

SHORTLISTED –  UNDO Carbon

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we need to remove 10 billion tonnes of CO₂ from the atmosphere every year by 2050 to keep our planet habitable. That's a daunting task, but one that Jim Mann, founder of UNDO Carbon, is determined to tackle head-on.

UNDO's weapon of choice? Rocks. Enhanced rock weathering technology, to be precise. This nature-based carbon removal solution harnesses the power of minerals to permanently lock away CO₂ from the atmosphere.

In 2021, UNDO partnered with Stripe Climate to pilot its groundbreaking technology. Since then, UNDO has made significant progress. Having so far spread over 140,000 tonnes of silicate rock on more than 200 farms, capturing over 35,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the process, it is laying the foundation for a more sustainable future; one rock at a time.

Forbes was intrigued by UNDO’s application of rock weathering as an emergent sustainable technology. “This is a very interesting business that has scaled very quickly,” he praises.

What does Chris Forbes think about the future of sustainability in business?

Eco-conscious SMEs faced a disheartening reality last year. The UK hit a major bump in the road towards achieving Net Zero by 2050, when the government scrapped green measures like taxing airlines, or sharing carbon footprint information on goods.

Globally, it was a similar story. During the COP28 conference in November, the sultan of Dubai, Al Jaber and president of the summit was criticised for claiming there is ‘no science’ behind demands for phase-out of fossil fuels.

As political progress stalls, it would be easy for business leaders to feel despondent. But ‘all talk and no action’ has been the narrative around sustainable transformation for some time, and it should not cannot deter entrepreneurial spirits. In fact, it cannot.

As Forbes stresses, demand is still there for better environmental options – even if external support is not. In the face of climate change, rising pollution, and resource depletion, consumers are urgently seeking out companies that embrace sustainability.

2023 was marred by high-profile greenwashing scandals as big-names were criticised for misleading the public as to their environmental credentials. HSBC was found to have funded fossil fuels despite its net-zero pledge.

Meanwhile, a Guardian investigation found that more than 90% of rainforest carbon offsets by Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard, were “worthless”.

Agile startups can answer the outrage by building a strong reputation for authenticity and transparency, showcasing that what’s good for the Earth can still be good for business.

“It’s all about the data of the impact you make, not just the story,” says Forbes. “Lot of consumers mistrust big brands that get fined for greenwashing. There is an emergent opportunity for startups to take large chunks of market share because the incumbents are not owning the issues of sustainability and impact.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
Back to Top