Could startups pioneer net-zero growth?

Net zero is a priority for four fifths (80%) of start-ups, with 72% working to achieve carbon neutrality and 8% already carbon neutral or negative, according to research from Innovate UK.

In December 2021 and January 2022, Innovate UK conducted research among 279 businesses. Of the businesses surveyed, 93% were either small (10-49 employees) or micro (1-9 employees) companies.

Innovate found that while start-ups are passionate about their climate impact, they are divided over whether it should be a priority over business growth. Nearly half (45%) believed they should balance growth and sustainability, versus four in 10 (42%) which said growth is more important.

Start-ups believe that the number one thing a company can do to reduce its carbon footprint is to innovate around a solution which combats climate change (38%), followed by encouraging sustainability in its supply chain (24%) and reducing emissions from its operations (17%). Just 15% of start-ups suggested that restricting business travel by choosing online meetings was most important.

In addition, 30% of the startups surveyed viewed renewable energy infrastructure as the most important innovation to long-term sustainability. This was closely followed by recycling, waste management and sustainable materials (29%). Only 8% of start-ups cited renewable and energy efficient transport, such as electric vehicles, as the most important area for sustainable innovation.

Jonny Voon, head of the sustainable innovation fund at Innovate UK, said, “It’s incredibly promising to find that so many early-stage companies recognise the need to achieve net zero in their operations and are passionate about innovating towards climate change solutions. They serve as an important reminder that profitability and sustainability are increasingly closely aligned and through innovation we can achieve both.”

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