6 Sustainability Innovators to Watch in 2022

Finding improved efficiency to limit the effects of climate change, is undoubtedly a daunting task. But it is reassuring to know that many of the sustainability innovations which are required to make this a possibility, already exist.

For the remainder of 2022, and beyond, trends such as Greenwich and Cleantech will be high up the business agenda, as companies look to implement sustainable solutions and sustainable innovations to negate their environmental impact.

What is a sustainable innovation?

A Sustainable innovation involves making intentional changes to a company’s products, services, or processes to generate long-term social and environmental benefits while creating economic profits for the firm.

Sustainable innovation can be anything from a campaign to reduce plastic waste within the world’s oceans; such as the work being done by The Ocean Clean Up. It could be a business such as the British company bio-bean, which up-cycle spent coffee grounds into eco-friendly products.

Or, it could be a waste company, working to minimise the number of products which are fit-for purpose in the waste stream. Bristol Waste does exactly this, through its Reuse Shops, of which it now has three throughout the city.

A sustainable innovation is, essentially, something that works to make a positive difference to our natural environment, no matter how large, or how small.

Sustainable Innovations in action

It is no longer enough for businesses to disregard their sustainability obligations. Now, elements of sustainability must be baked into a business model.

Regardless of industry, be it big tech and artificial intelligence, traditional farming, food production, energy and waste companies. Organisations the world over are striving to use less energy, create more sustainable products, improve their supply chains, innovate renewable technologies or achieve net zero emissions.

Here, we’ve selected some of our key sustainability innovators, across four crucial verticals, that are leading the charge on sustainable innovation.

Circular Economies

The idea concept of a circular economy is not a new one. As a model of production and consumption, if focuses heavily on sharing, leasing, re-using, repairing and refurbishing and recycling existing materials.

The theory is, that the lifecycle of any given product can be extended, potentially indefinitely, therefore reducing waste to a minimum. This is a particularly useful concept when we look at the packaging, and the work being done here to eliminate waste.

Ecovative is one such company, making materials that perform like common packaging materials like plastic and polystyrene but are in fact made of mushroom roots. The materials, once used, can be broken down in compost or direct in gardens.

Sustainability innovators, CanCan, is another example of a business creating shareable food and drink containers, with its reusable coffee scheme.

The concept of a circular economy can also go beyond that of raw materials, packaging and product, and be placed around entire business ecosystems. Cities like Bristol, and those which call this city home, are now adopting a much more broad-spectrum approach towards circular economies.

By this, we mean, where possible, keeping business deals and transactions as local as possible. Reducing the overall footprint of a business works to keep resources to a minimum. But it also works to create financial circular economies, whereby the movement and distribution of funds are kept within a certain radius, which has tangible benefits for companies and consumers.

Travel & Transport: Electric vehicles and beyond.

Reducing carbon emissions is a huge part of this process as transport accounts for around a quarter of all global Carbon dioxide. Transport remains the largest emitter in the UK, and is responsible for over a quarter of greenhouse gas.

This is primarily due to petrol and diesel cars, and the figure has only slightly decreased since the 1990s. For those who can, investing in an electric vehicle is one way to try and reduce their transport-associated emissions.

But, despite the fact that battery and charging technologies are advancing at a rapid rate. They are limited by range, which does diminish their function. The Government has been responding to this by investing heavily in the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

However, while these vehicles are still being charged via a national grid which is reliant on fossil fuels, there still remains work to be done in reducing the carbon footprint of consumer travel and transport.

One leading of the leading sustainability innovators in this space is energy company GRIDSERVE. It’s electric charging forecourts are powered by 100% renewable energy, and the business has plans to develop 100 of these renewably powered forecourts across the UK, by 2026.

While Hydrogen power may well be the future of commuter transport, the realities of this nascent technology and the widespread use of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) remain a long way off.

Renewable Energy

The energy sector is, naturally, one of the main areas whereby the UK can look to reduce emissions. There are organisations here in the UK, that are currently making waves in achieving sustainability measures that previously did not exist.

Solar energy and solar panels have long been known as viable long-term alternatives to improving both energy consumption and energy creation. Solar panels are now a common sight in residential streets, this has long been a way for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint while minimising their energy bills.

The latest advance in this field is now solar roof tiles, which are designed to integrate, or even replace entirely, existing roof tiles.

Here in the UK, the Cardiff-based GB-Sol is a leader in solar tiles. While Stateside, electric vehicle maker Tesla is pioneering this high-end energy solution.

Another innovative energy-focused solution that challenges our expectations are bladeless wind turbines, such as those produced by Spanish sustainability innovators Vortex. These turbines help to address a key issue with conventional wind farms, as they can be installed in city centres and even on private land.

Food Supply Chain

The food we eat is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Throughout the 1980s the United Kingdom was 78% self-sufficient, when it came to food growth. Now, that number sits at 64%. The UK is currently only 18% self-sufficient in fruit and 55% in fresh veg.

The UK’s import and export of FFD (food, feed and drink) is a multi-billion pound industry, and it is governed by a number of complex variables, but the population is a key driver of FFD imports,

Between the periods of 2006 and 2017, the UK population grew by over 5,000,000 people. To put this into context, it previously took 35 years – from 1970 to 2005 – to make this same jump. Long-term, constant population increase has long been met with an increase in FFD import.

To simply reply on increased FFD imports, only raises more environmental questions than it helps. For starters, the associated energy output of importing such quantities of produce, particularly via shipping, does not serve to help the ongoing climate emergency.

If we are to return to growing more food locally rather than shipping produce across the globe, solutions like vertical farms ought to be part of the answer to this problem, and Bristol-based start-up LettUsGrow has developed an aeroponic farm (meaning using air rather than soil to provide plant nutrients).

From innovation to communication

Innovative ideas are crucial, and so too is the way sustainability innovators communicate their messages and promote their sustainable innovations.

Without a strategy to communicate with your target audiences – whether that’s other businesses or investors – many ground-breaking ideas can run the risk of being communicated in a vacuum, never reaching their market or fulfilling their environment-altering potential.

Whether it’s a campaign to reduce plastic packaging, save the world’s oceans, reduce food waste, minimise greenhouse gases or work together to make towns and cities more energy efficient. They all have one thing in common… a need for communication.

With a lack of communication, the benefits of even the most incredible sustainable innovation can be left wanting.

To discuss how AMBITIOUS can support you to develop your sustainability communications strategy, email us today at: [email protected].