Sustain 100: the European sustainability startups to watch in 2021

Europe now boasts 800 climate techs and huge successes like Arrival, Northvolt and Oatly. But which other sustainability startups do you need to know about?

Sustainability is only getting hotter and hotter. Europe now boasts six unicorns, from Tesla-rival Arrival to oat milk brand Oatly — both set to IPO in the coming months.

But who could be next?

We’ve cherrypicked the 100 most innovative startups across climate tech, cleantech, greentech and beyond — they’ve got sustainability at the heart of their mission and messaging and are providing very necessary tech solutions to the climate crisis.

12 of the companies launched in the last year, including smart construction company 011h and Sylvera, the platform investigating carbon offsetting initiatives.

We’ve by no means forgotten big players with big raises to match — like refurbished product marketplace Back Market, which raised €110m; or vertical farming startup Infarm, which raised $170m in 2020.

You can view the full list below.

(P.S The data (including valuation estimates) is from Dealroom. If anything is wrong, please let us know by email at [email protected]).

Key

Year founded

Amount raised

Last funding round

Valuation

Employees

Dryad Networks's logo

Dryad Networks

Provides ultra-early fire detection systems of wildfires as well as health and growth monitoring solutions for public and private forests

public safety / security

dryad.net

Eberswalde, Germany

2020

€3m

SEED

€9m

1-10

Sifted Take

For the past few years, the world's largest forests have been devastated by wildfires — both increasing in frequency due to climate change, and contributing to it too, producing almost 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

In March 2020, Dryad Networks launched — and the startup believes there aren’t many better ways to use IoT than to predict, prevent and analyse wildfires. The company uses ’Silvanet’, a network of sensors that can be used by the public sector to evacuate the public, as it can detect wildfires 60 minutes before they break out — even in super-remote areas where 4G networks aren’t available.

In May 2020, it successfully tested its product in Germany, in September it raised €1.8m in seed funding (Brandenburg Kapital GmbH, STIHL Digital, LEAG and ISAR AG), and in March 2021 it secured an additional €1.6m in funding from state-backed programme ProFIT Brandenburg and the European Regional Development Fund — raising its total capital to €3.4m.

Ecologi's logo

Ecologi

Individuals and businesses can remove their carbon footprints by subscribing to grow their own forests or contribute to other carbon reducing activities

B2B / B2C

ecologi.com

Bristol, UK

2019

BOOTSTRAPPED

N/A

10-50

Ecosia's logo

Ecosia

Search engine that plants trees

advertising / search engine

ecosia.org

Berlin, Germany

2009

SEED

N/A

50-100

Sifted Take

Ecosia's been around for a while now, but has surged in popularity over the last few years as users look for more sustainable alternatives to Google. The search engine plants one tree per 50 searches, and users can track how many trees they've (indirectly) planted.

Read more: Surfing the web to save the environment with startup Ecosia

Einride's logo

Einride

Taking logistics in a new direction with intelligent freight mobility solutions for shippers and carriers

mobility / logistics and delivery

einride.tech

Stockholm, Sweden

2016

€36m

EARLY VC

€114m

100-500

Sifted Take

Swedish trucking startup Einride wants to deliver the future of freight. Its sell is that its driverless trucks — which can drive autonomously or can be controlled remotely — can help companies cut fuel costs by up to 70% and reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%.

This transport-as-a-service model has worked well for the startup, which bagged big clients early on such as Lidl Sweden and German logistics company DB Schenker.

In October 2020, Einride landed a $10m funding round to further develop its driverless vehicle, Einride Pods.

Read more: Europe is “obsolete” and the battle to shape the future of transport is in the US, says Einride’s CEO

Ember's logo

Ember

Ember is the world’s first 100% electric intercity bus operator and is building its own ultra rapid charging network

mobility / energy

ember.to

Edinburgh, UK

2019

BOOTSTRAPPED

N/A

1-10

Sifted Take

Based in Dundee, mobility company Ember claims to be the world’s first 100% electric intercity bus operator.

Though it was only launched in 2019 and has been bootstrapped since launch, it’s currently running services between Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth and Kinross up in Scotland — offering live tracking, 5G wifi and flexible tickets.

Its website states it hopes “to launch more routes across Scotland in the near future.”

Enapter's logo

Enapter

Makes highly efficient hydrogen generators

energy / energy storage

enapter.com

Crespina, Italy

2017

€8m

SERIES A

€17-26m

100-500

Enie.nl's logo

Enie.nl

Solar energy provider

energy / B2C

enie.nl

Groningen, Netherlands

2012

BOOTSTRAPPED

N/A

50-100

Sifted Take

Netherlands-based Enie.nl provides solar energy for consumers and businesses in the Netherlands and South Africa.

It’s pretty transparent about certain aspects of the business, sharing information about its supply chain, emissions and plans to reach net zero by 2030.

 On its site, it says that in 2020 it avoided 65m m2 of CO2, while some of its users generated up to 180m kWh of solar energy. The startup is bootstrapped.

Farmdrop's logo

Farmdrop

Ethical online supermarket, delivering the fresh groceries from a network of sustainable food producers, and on fair terms

marketplace & ecommerce / logistics and delivery

farmdrop.com

London, UK

2012

€21m

SERIES B

€34-50m

50-100

Sifted Take

In the first lockdown, online grocer Farmdrop experienced unusually high demand. It delivers fresh, sustainable and locally-sourced produce and it works with 450 food and drink producers in the UK, supplying Londoners.

By simplifying the supply chain, it's experienced serious levels of growth year on year, including a record month in March, so 2021 bodes well.

Read more: Lunch club: Farmdrop stirs up its business model

Funcifur's logo

Funcifur

Insect-based pet food startup

food / pet tech

funcifur.com

Sweden, Stockholm

2020

€1m

ANGEL

€3-5m

1-10

Sifted Take

Swedish insect-based pet food startup Funcifur has raised an $880k seed round. The startup says it's reducing emissions by over 90% by swapping beef for insects.

Greenly's logo

Greenly

Greenly offers a free app that measures the footprint of everything you buy and rewards you for lowering your emissions, by connecting securely to your bank statements

fintech / enterprise software

en.greenly.earth

Paris, France

2019

€1m

ANGEL

€2-3m

10-50

Grover's logo

Grover

Technology subscription platform

marketplace & ecommerce / subscription

grover.com

Berlin, Germany

2015

€32m

DEBT

€44-66m

10-50

H2 Green Steel's logo

H2 Green Steel

Accelerating the decarbonisation of steel production

manufacturing / energy

h2greensteel.com

Sweden, Stockholm

2020

N/A

N/A

10-50

Sifted Take

One-year-old H2 Green Steel is building a gigascale green hydrogen plant in northern Sweden to produce fossil-free ‘green’ steel — as well as provide 10k jobs. Production will begin by 2024 and by 2030 it plans to produce 5m tonnes of steel.

Steel production is considered one of the most polluting industries and is responsible for about 7-8% of global carbon emissions every year — 75% of energy used to make steel comes from coal, but H2 Green Steel's hydrogen approach is part of rapid global efforts to set it up as a cost-competitive alternative.

Well, it's got the faith — Vargas Holding, one of Northvolt's largest shareholders, has backed the company with an undisclosed amount, with CEO Carl-Erik Lagercrantz being appointed chairman of its board (he's also cofounder at Northvolt).

Word on the street is a Series A round of about €50m is coming soon, with participation from Spotify cofounder Daniel Ek, Scania and the Imas Foundation.

H55's logo

H55

Making air transport quiet and clean by providing certified electric propulsion systems

transportation / vehicle production

h55.ch

Sion, Switzerland

2015

€17m

EARLY VC

€67-100m

10-50

Handerek Technologies's logo

Handerek Technologies

Converts plastic waste into high-quality fuel

energy / waste solution

handerek-technologies.com/en

Warsaw, Poland

2018

EARLY VC

N/A

1-10

Helios.do's logo

Helios.do

Sustainable bank

fintech / banking

helios.do

Paris, France

2019

SEED

N/A

10-50

Sifted Take

French bank Helios is taking advantage of how startups can change entire industries — and it’s a sign of what’s to come.

It exclusively finances companies that make genuine contributions to fighting climate change and promises never to finance industries that inhibit that mission: fossil fuel industries, companies reliant on or facilitating intensive farming, or those that use chemical pesticides. Users can see where their investments or Helios’ indirect investments go on an in-app dashboard.

It’s also hopping on the trend of wooden debit cards, claiming to be able to make 300k cards from a single cherry tree.

Though it’s currently only available to French customers, it can be used for free across the Eurozone and boasts 10k users — all of which its gained within less than a year.

Helios has received undisclosed amounts from two seed rounds: angel investor Florian Seroussi in March 2019, and Plug and Play in August 2020.

Infarm's logo

Infarm

Urban farming services company that develops farming tech for grocery stores, restaurants, and local distribution centres

food / agritech

infarm.com

Berlin, Germany

2012

€202m

SERIES C

€309-464m

100-500

Sifted Take

Berlin-based startup Infarm makes modular vertical farms which can be put in places such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping centres and schools. Led by Erez Galonska, the idea is that consumers can actually pick fresh produce such as tomatoes or lettuce themselves, which has proved popular.

The company is well financed, with investors including LGT Lightstone, Hanaco, Bonnier, Haniel, Latitude, Atomico, TriplePoint Capital, Mons Capital and Astanor Ventures.

It has already won deals with big supermarkets such as Casino, Intermarche and Auchan as well as Amazon Fresh in Germany, Switzerland, and France – now it’s looking for more in the UK, the US and beyond.

The bigger picture here, says the company, is that eco-conscious consumers are increasingly going to want to get their fresh produce locally — and nothing is more local than having the actual farm itself in your nearest supermarket.

Can vertical farming grow beyond herbs and leaves?

Vertical farming startup Infarm raises $170m

Keyou's logo

Keyou

Develops innovative hydrogen technologies

energy / transportation

keyou.de

Unterschleißheim, Germany

2015

€9m

GRANT

€23-35m

10-50

Klima's logo

Klima

Klima is a nextgen climate app that empowers everyone to take effective, immediate climate action

energy / mobile app

klima.com

Berlin, Germany

2019

€5m

SEED

€20-30m

10-50

Sifted Take

Launched in late 2019, Klima is an app that allows users to track and compute their carbon footprint — plus offset it using 10 offsetting programmes (at a cost of €17 a month).

We’re keen to see whether this offsetting model persists as the dialogue around offsetting vs carbon reduction continues, but for now, Klima has raised €5m in a seed round led by e.ventures, HV Capital and 468 Capital. Plus, it's got Latvian app Kora to contend with.

Kora's logo

Kora

Special currency that rewards people and companies for performing a wide range of sustainable activities in order to fight climate change

fintech / mobile app

kora.app

Riga, Latvia

2018

€1m

SEED

€3-5m

10-50

Sifted Take

The Kora app is certainly one to watch for anyone interested in sustainability and fintech. The idea is simple: the startup rewards and even pays users for “reducing their carbon footprint”. That might be switching from using your car to biking to work, as well as helping businesses offset their carbon emissions (through Eden Reforestation).

It’s directly competing with Klima app, which was launched a year later in 2019 and is based in Germany — though Kora seems to focus on encouraging users to reduce their carbon emissions while Klima has an in-built, subscription-based offsetting scheme.

LettUs Grow's logo

LettUs Grow

Designed aeroponic irrigation and control technology for indoor and vertical farms

agritech / manufacturing

lettusgrow.com

Bristol, UK

2015

€4m

SEED

€11-17m

10-50

Sifted Take

Around 80% of fertile land contains eroded soil. Six -year-old startup LettUs Grow has developed an alternative way to grow food through its aeroponic irrigation systems for indoor farms — in other words, farms that can grow plants without soil.

The Bristol-based startup’s last funding round was its $3.1m seed stage round led by Bethnal Green Ventures.

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