Updated: Jan 21
In early 2018, the UK government pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste from the UK by 2042. Interestingly, when unveiling the plan, the government focused not solely on reducing the supply of plastic, but also on reducing plastic demand.
The plan didn’t detail precisely how demand would be reduced. But then, perhaps it didn’t need to: according to a March 2018 Ipsos MORI study, almost 100% of the British public are now concerned about the effects of plastic waste on the environment.
The public’s swelling environmental enthusiasm isn’t just hypothetical, either. According to the consultancy Ethical Consumer, the market for ethical products and services grew by more than £40bn between 2008 and 2017. Elsewhere, in 2016, Unilever reported its sustainable brands grew 40% faster than the rest of its business.
Whether due to government intervention or not, it seems clear the demand for both sustainable produce and business practices is booming. And while PR agencies might be happy to paint pictures of upcoming sustainable utopias, in reality, corporates remain a long way from their sustainable futures.
Could disruptive startups lend a hand?
Startups are already offering sustainable solutions
For big corporates, developing and introducing sustainable innovations is pricey, slow and full of risk. By contrast, a multitude of disruptive startups are already championing sustainable innovations. By partnering with said startups, today’s corporates could glide towards environmental sustainability quickly, and with little risk.
The startup CuanTec, for example, has already developed a compostable bioplastic film that can be used in place of plastic packaging. The startup C16 Biosciences, meanwhile, has developed an alternative to palm oil that poses no threat to rainforests.
Forward-thinking corporates are beginning to partner with such startups in an effort to up their sustainability game. John Lewis and Partners recently announced a new collaboration with CuanTec to reduce its reliance on single use plastic, for example. The startup Sheedo – which offers deforestation-free paper made from seeds – counts both Coca Cola and Telefónica as clients.
Across the board, corporates are racing to complete a lengthy sustainability circuit. Partnering with startups might be a shortcut.
Opening the sustainability floodgates
In recent years, corporates have typically squeezed business practices to eke out a few extra drops of environmental sustainability… yet it’s clear further innovation is necessary.
By partnering with disruptive, sustainable startups, today’s corporates can unlock the sustainability floodgates to realise the twin benefits of environmental sustainability and a devoted, more plentiful customer base.
As with everything in business, the biggest benefits will go to those who act first.
Co:cubed helps corporates partner with startups to introduce innovations, unlock business benefits and safeguard against disruption. Our approach gives corporate clients immediate access to more than 500,000 startups. With Co:cubed, introducing sustainable innovations has never been easier.