The good news is, a new generation of game-changing Scottish entrepreneurs has taken the sustainability message to heart, building the concept and practise into the very DNA of their business ventures.
Let’s look at five truly diverse Scottish start-ups, who see sustainability as key to their success.
Starting from the old saying, ‘One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure’, award-winning Edinburgh-based waste tracking business Topolytics uses digital technology and data analytics to help companies identify waste types, amounts, recycling rates, waste miles and costs.
That’s only the start of Topolytics’ sustainability journey; their aim is to help other businesses recycle, re-use and re-manufacture those waste products.
The brainchild of geographer Mike Groves, who has a PhD in aerial and satellite earth observation, Topolytics’ WasteMap and WasteTrack software and sensors helps customers to:
- Track and trace waste and resource flows
- Enable recycling and re-manufacturing
- Model and predict patterns of waste generation
- Identify efficiencies and new models of waste reduction and management
- Enhance reporting and reduce corporate risk.
Mike says: “This is challenging traditional business models but is creating opportunities for new technologies.”
From measuring air quality, water quality, flood risk, waste, and other metrics around Scotland’s biggest petrochemical plant, to monitoring air quality in real-time across a city in central China, Topolytics’ sustainable technology is already making a difference
Growing and storing grains, cereals, and seeds safely has tested the best minds since our ancestors gave up being hunter/gatherers and started farming. Success would lead to excess produce, which could be traded or bartered for other products; failure could end in starvation.
When grains such as wheat and barley are stored in sheds and silos for long periods of time they are at risk of spoilage from infestation by insects and moulds.
Edinburgh-based agritech start-up Crover has developed the world's first granular drone, a robotic device capable of navigating in granular bulks. The device has been designed for farmers and grain storekeepers, allowing them to remotely monitor conditions inside grain silos to identify suboptimal storage conditions.
Lorenzo Conti, founder of Crover, made his breakthrough when researching his doctorate in granular physics at the University of Edinburgh.
Italian-born Lorenzo, who came to Scotland to study, says
When I started my PhD, I wanted to invent something novel and significant – something that could change the world for the better. The ‘eureka!’ moment came when I took my head away from my usual research work. This is when I had the first idea for Crover’s technology.
Lorenzo’s robot system allows farmers, brewers, cooperatives, as well as grain merchants, to identify adverse conditions in their stock. The potential for the technology is substantial; cutting waste, ensuring sustainable supply chains, and guaranteeing optimal storage conditions.
Lorenzo adds: “Ultimately our vision is to build a global business which is not profit-driven but focused on environmental and social impact.”
Launched in 2019, this charity giving app takes the hassle out of supporting your favourite causes.
The brainchild of Edinburgh-based mother and daughter team Loral and Eishel Quinn, the app connects to the user’s bank card to round up any spare change to the nearest £1, supporting charitable causes with less effort and more control. So, if you buy a coffee at £2.95, the app will know, using secure tech called TrueLayer, and will send 5p to the charity of your choice. There are also ways of giving regularly and within set limits.
Developed using Loral’s experience in FTSE100 digital strategy, and Eishel’s background in ethical retail, the app allows what is called ‘frictionless giving’, making it amazingly easy for those wanting to give to charity to do so.
Loral says: “We created Sustainably to enable people to have a positive impact as part of everyday life. Partnering with some amazing causes Sustainably is powering a new income stream for charities to help them continue their great work and using technology for good making it easier for people to give on their own terms and see their impact.”
She adds: “We believe that many of us want to support charities but don’t want to commit to one cause and face the hassle and guilt of later cancelling.
People want convenience, flexibility, transparency and control. With services such as banking, transport and music becoming more automated and frictionless, we aim to do the same for giving.
Now supporting over 40 charities, including Macmillan, Shelter, British Heart Foundation, Social Bite and The Rainforest Trust, Sustainably hope to have over 200,000 users by 2022.
Whether it’s supporting a charity in your own community, or doing your bit to help save the planet, Sustainably has a solution for you.
This innovative, Stirling-based, business enables social housing providers and others to benefit from local energy systems, which generate, store and trade energy, to achieve a climate positive solution.
Power Circle is committed to helping all sections of the community to decarbonise, decentralise, digitalise, and democratise energy supply and usage, helping us all to cut energy costs, and addressing climate change targets.
To achieve this, Power Circle is building a new social Energy Service Company (esco) and Virtual Power Plant (VPP). The esco provides management and, where needed, funding. The VPP links sites together, getting paid to help energy companies cut costs and carbon.
The company is already working with two London local authorities to repurpose existing electric storage heaters as part of a new smart local energy system which cuts energy costs for tenants, improves comfort levels, saves money and CO2 for the councils, and avoids having to scrap large numbers of existing heaters.
Last year, Power Circle became one of the first eight Scottish start-ups selected to join Dundee’s Sustainable Mobility and Low Carbon Innovation Accelerator, which will coach companies and individuals who have developed products, prototypes or investor ready solutions focused on sustainable mobility, clean transport, and low carbon energy.
Imagine having the power to change the world for the better in your pocket. Meet Pawprint, an Edinburgh-based eco-tech start-up, whose new phone app, Pawprint, wants to create a global community so people can share tips on how to reduce their carbon footprints.
The app enables users to compare their personal carbon ‘pawprints’ across four areas - Home, Diet, Travel and Consumer Goods - allowing them to compare their carbon footprint and, as they reduce their impact on the environment, they will be incentivised with rewards to compete with and against their friends or colleagues to amplify their positive impact.
Company founder, Christian Arno, says:
It’s one thing understanding your footprint, and quite another to lower it – we want to empower people with clear, scientifically valid and personalised information to make the right choices. We are heavily focused on our mission of helping a million people to make a difference. In numerical terms, that means supporting one million people to reduce their annual carbon footprint by an average of one tonne each.
While the basic Pawprint app is free to download for individuals, employers can sign up, and pay, for a more advanced app, allowing them to measure both their own and their employees’ carbon footprint.
So far, Pawprint has completed two successful crowdfunding rounds, formed a close working relationship with carbon expert, Mike Berners-Lee, and attracted some big-name business customers - including BrewDog, Peterson, and Standard Life Aberdeen - to help them develop their employee-engagement tool.
Every journey, they say, begins with the first step, and Pawprint aims to lead us all in the right direction when it comes to cutting our carbon footprint and building a cleaner, greener workplaces and a more sustainable world.