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

Tevva's logo

Tevva

A company that specialises in producing electric range extended vehicles

vehicle production / transportation

tevva.com

Chelmsford, UK

2012

€24m

LATE VC

€45-68m

10-50

Sifted Take

UK-based Tevva has raised a $12.5m round from undisclosed investors. The cash will help the startup — which has bagged big clients like UBS — boost the rollout of its zero-emission e-trucks.

The Shellworks's logo

The Shellworks

Makes compostable materials from seafood waste

food / manufacturing

theshellworks.com

London, UK

2019

BOOTSTRAPPED

N/A

1-10

Tickr's logo

Tickr

Impact investment app built for the next generation of investors

fintech / investing

tickr.co.uk

London, UK

2018

€5m

EARLY VC

€12-18m

10-50

Tideal's logo

Tideal

Tideal is a community-led and data-inspired climate action platform. Currently in closed beta

education / enterprise software

tideal.app

Helsinki, Finland

2019

BOOTSTRAPPED

N/A

1-10

Tomorrow's logo

Tomorrow

Mobile banking goes sustainable

banking / fintech

tomorrow.one

Hamburg, Germany

2017

€12m

SEED

€43m

50-100

Sifted Take

Launched in 2017, the German challenger bank claims to be the first mobile current account that centres around sustainability. Each transaction and payment helps a social business, a climate change initiative or a renewable energy project — kind of like the search engine Ecosia. Currently it’s only available in Germany, though rumour has it expansion is on the cards soon.

It works with fellow German fintech and infrastructure company solarisBank, was backed by the Environmental Technologies Fund in 2019, and recently raised €3m in a seed funding round led by Wiwin.

Too Good To Go's logo

Too Good To Go

Mobile platform that connects users with delicious unsold food from a variety of shops and restaurants

food / food logistics & delivery

toogoodtogo.com

Copenhagen, Denmark

2015

€39m

SERIES A

€113-169m

500-1000

Sifted Take

The Too Good To Go app connects customers with restaurants and shops that want to sell their surplus food for a 70% discount.

The startup claims to have saved 66.2m meals globally Mette Lykke, CEO of Too Good To Go recently told Sifted that “this translates intto 162,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions.”

Since being founded in 2015, the startup now operates in 15 markets in Europe as well as New York and Boston. It last wooed investors in January 2021 for its $31m Series A round.

Vanilla Steel's logo

Vanilla Steel

E-commerce platform facilitating the transaction of excess steel produce between suppliers and buyers

construction / marketplace & ecommerce

vanillasteel.com

Berlin, Germany

2020

BOOTSTRAPPED

N/A

10-50

Sifted Take

Steel is one of the most environmentally destructive resources, producing around 8% of global carbon emissions — and Vanilla Steel, though low on its sustainability messaging — is tackling the steel industry head on.

Its ecommerce platform allows suppliers and buyers to sell and buy non-prime steel (excess steel produce) — a market worth €9bn in annual gross merchandising value.

Between its launch in June 2020 and October that year, it handled 1k tonnes of steel. Currently bootstrapped, it’s primed for some investment this year.

Verkor's logo

Verkor

Industrial company set to amplify battery cell production in Europe

energy storage / B2B

verkor.com

Grenoble, France

2020

N/A

N/A

10-50

Sifted Take

If you measure success by association, Verkor's already big news — the startup's partnered with EIT InnoEnergy and Schneider Electric, and backed by the IDEC Group. It's focused on locally produced, low-carbon batteries to support a move toward electric vehicles in particular.

Verkor's another startup scaling fast — it's announced a gigafactory which is scheduled to start operations in 2023 and requires around €1.6bn in investment. According to Europa, demand in the 2020s for batteries will require two to three gigafactories in France alone.

Last month the company announced a partnership with software company and consultancy Capgemini to create data collection systems to make the factory über-efficient.

Vestiaire Collective's logo

Vestiaire Collective

Circular fashion platform

marketplace & ecommerce / fashion

vestiairecollective.com

Paris, France

2009

€19m

SERIES G

€236-354m

500-1000

Sifted Take

Vestiaire Collective is now a hallmark of the European sustainable and ‘circular fashion’ subsector. Based in Paris, the company has received backing from Balderton Capital, Bpifrance and Condé Nast, the fashion-focused media company.

Its Series G round in April 2020 raised €59m from the latter two, as well as six other firms and angel investor Maximilian Bittner. It also told Sifted that despite an initial dip in sales during the first Covid-19 lockdown, sales have surpassed those before the pandemic. In April it experienced its biggest sales day since launching in 2009.

Vestiaire boasts over 9m users in 90 countries, but still, it’s competing against Lithuania’s Vinted and the UK’s Depop. It also dropped from La French Tech’s Next40 list (2020) to the FT120 in this year’s rankings.

Vinted's logo

Vinted

The largest online international C2C marketplace in Europe dedicated to second-hand fashion

marketplace & ecommerce / fashion

vinted.com

Vilnius, Lithuania

2008

€232m

SERIES E

€1bn

500-1000

Sifted Take

Lithuanian startup Vinted tapped into the ever-trending second hand clothing market early on in 2008 — a critical space for the circular economy. It’s still growing steadily, with a 50% increase in its team and an additional 11m users across 12 markets in one year. We think it’s got a promising 2021 ahead, especially after acquiring Dutch competitor United Wardrobe in late 2020.

Volta Trucks's logo

Volta Trucks

Creating an all electric truck specifically to be used in and around cities and urban areas

transportation / energy

voltatrucks.com

Sigtuna, Sweden

2019

€20m

EARLY VC

€73-109m

10-50

WeDontHaveTime's logo

WeDontHaveTime

The world's largest social media network for climate action

social media / media

wedonthavetime.org

Inverness, UK

2017

€1m

EARLY VC

€13-20m

10-50

Sifted Take

WeDontHaveTime claims to be the world’s largest social network for climate action — with 700k members.

In March 2021, it closed a $3m Series A that included angel investors Fabrice Grinda, Jan Ståhlberg and Marco Rodzynek. In 2020 it partnered with accelerator programme Sting to find climate ideas for its newest startup programme.

Based in Inverness, the ad-free app allows users to access climate news and contact climate leaders — and it runs on renewable energy.

WindCity's logo

WindCity

Small wind and hydrocicles turbines

clean energy / manufacturing

windcity.it/en

Rovereto, Italy

2016

N/A

1-10

Winnow's logo

Winnow

Develops artificial intelligence tools to help chefs run more profitable and sustainable kitchens

food logistics and delivery / food

winnowsolutions.com

London, UK

2013

€22m

DEBT

€44-65m

50-100

X1 Wind's logo

X1 Wind

Disruptive floating platform developing a floating wind platform for deep waters

energy / manufacturing

x1wind.com

Barcelona, Spain

2017

€11m

EARLY VC

€16-24m

10-50

Xampla's logo

Xampla

A natural plastic alternative entirely made from peas

energy / manufacturing

xampla.com

Cambridge, UK

2018

€10m

SEED

€29-43m

N/a

Sifted Take

The plant protein market is developing fast, with companies developing plant-based products in all sorts of ways.

Xampla, a three-year-old Cambridge University spinout, is creating a plant-protein alternative to single-use plastics. 

It kicked off 2021 with £6.2m of fresh funds in a round led by Horizon Ventures.

Ynsect's logo

Ynsect

Transforms insects into nutrient resource for agriculture

food / innovative food; agritech

ynsect.com

Évry, France

2011

€214m

DEBT

€500-750m

100-500

Sifted Take

Growing global demand for food is putting a squeeze on available land and one French startup says it has the answer: indoor insect farming.

In 2020, Ynsect raised $224m from investors including Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition to build a second insect farm in Amiens in northern France.

The company breeds mealworms that produce proteins for livestock, pet food and fertilizers, and will use the funds to build what it says will be the world’s largest insect farm.

The idea of eating bugs has been getting some consumer traction with a few supermarkets stocking grub-based food. But Ynsect has its sights mainly on the more prosaic $500bn animal feed market at the moment.

The challenge for Ynsect is regulation (weirdly the rules on what animals are allowed to eat are even stricter than the ones for humans) but also economics, as for now it’s reasonably expensive as a protein source.

Ynsect’s market at the moment is mainly hypoallergenic dog food because pampered pets are an area where the cost of the product is less of a consideration.

Further reading: Ynsect CEO Antoine Hubert on entrepreneurship & edible insects

Insect-farming startup Ÿnsect extends Series C funding to $372m

ZEG Power AS's logo

ZEG Power AS

Creating carbon zero hydrogen through carbon sequestration

energy / B2B

zegpower.com

Fornebu, Norway

2008

N/A

N/A

10-50

Zeleros's logo

Zeleros

Zeleros is leading the hyperloop development, already considered as "the fifth means of transportation"

transportation / vehicle production

zeleros.com

Valencia, Spain

2016

€7m

EARLY VC

€28-42m

10-50

Zolar's logo

Zolar

Makes buying solar power systems for homes easier and more transparent

energy / real estate

zolar.de

Berlin, Germany

2016

€54m

SERIES B

€140-210m

100-500

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