As climate change worsens, a growing number of companies claim to prioritize sustainability. But some companies “greenwash” their brand or product — meaning they send misleading messages about being more eco-friendly than they actually are.
Take Google for example. Google claims to be a “carbon neutral” company. But what does that really mean?
Every business emits carbon, whether indirectly or directly. Google indirectly emits carbon by using data centers that partially rely on electricity from the grid, 22% of which comes from coal and 38% from natural gas. Even when Google uses renewable energy, constructing buildings and transporting hardware materials result in carbon emissions. So does using company cars and manufacturing devices. In total, Google’s operations emitted 20 million tons of carbon between 2007 and 2021.
So how can Google claim to be carbon neutral? The company buys renewable energy and carbon offsets to match its carbon emissions. That’s better than nothing. But it’s not as effective as directly removing enough carbon from the atmosphere to cancel out its own emissions. So while Google is making efforts to reduce its impact on the environment, its use of the word “carbon neutral” can be misleading.
Google is not the only company to do this. H&M has recently been called out for using sustainability-related terms to describe its products without actually providing transparency on how its products met those criteria. And there are plenty of other companies that have done similar forms of greenwashing. That’s why it’s essential that investors evaluate companies with a discerning eye.
I personally prefer to see companies going the “net zero” route by first reducing their emissions and then removing the carbon they emit from the atmosphere. Every effort made to reduce greenhouse gasses slows down global warming and limits the need and cost of carbon removal.
Fortunately, there are tons of startups that are fully committed to sustainability — and that are taking unique approaches to tackle climate change. In August, 23 impact-driven companies started raising online.
One of them is Autocase, which is raising on StartEngine. Autocase limits the carbon emissions of buildings during and after construction. This is a critical step, as there is not enough space on earth to remove all emissions through tree planting and forest protection alone. Biodel AG, raising on Wefunder, removes carbon using an alternative method: restoring soil with microbes.
Continue reading to learn more about these companies and the other 21 companies that are trying to make a positive impact on the environment. And happy impact investing!
Desalination processes — which remove mineral salts from water — are costly and energy intensive. But they have potential to help areas plagued by droughts. Hydro Wind Energy has developed two highly innovative technologies for inexpensive and clean desalination: SubSea RO Wind and QuenchSea. The company’s other technology, OceanHydro Omni, harnesses offshore wind and subsea oceanic pressure to provide reliable, clean, and continuous electricity. While Hydro Wind Energy’s projects are still in development, the company could solve major problems for coastal communities.
Buildings and construction cause 39% of worldwide carbon emissions. Autocase has developed software that uses economic analysis to create a more sustainable, cost-effective, and resilient built environment. The platform provides predictive analytics for carbon, life cycle costs, and stakeholder benefits. Autocase has partnered with Autodesk to showcase the value of sustainable building designs and has analyzed more than 5,000 projects worth a total of more than $100 billion. The campaign proceeds will be used for the commercial launch of Autocase’s second product, Carbonsight, which helps buildings reduce carbon emissions.
Soil can absorb and store carbon, but agricultural activity is causing soil to release its carbon stores back into the atmosphere. Biodel AG makes a unique product, Sequester, based on a microbe, cyanobacteria, to restore soil health and transition agricultural lands to regenerative practices. Sequester rapidly restores the microbes’ ability to remove salt and save water in soil. Cyanobacteria can also be used as a carbon removal solution. Biodel AG has five patents and 12 patent applications in progress. It reported 140% revenue growth year over year.
Farm to Flame Energy has developed a patented combustion process that uses biomass waste (including agricultural waste and sewage) to make electricity. The process is used in smokeless and odorless generators to provide electricity for commercial buildings. Farm to Flame Energy has signed a collaboration letter with Georgia-Pacific, which produces 10% of US wood-based biomass electricity, and has signed a contract to deploy a commercial unit to Think and Grow Farms Greenhouse in New Jersey.
Paladin Power offers an energy storage solution (ESS) that allows homeowners and small businesses to power their buildings and use the centralized grid as backup. The Paladin Power ESS has a stackable battery bussing system and scalable inverters that do not require any wiring to add additional capacity. It can complement the use of intermittent renewable energies at a small scale.
Mightly is a children’s clothing brand that makes affordable and sustainable clothes. The clothes can handle all kinds of adventure without costing a fortune. Mightly’s clothes are made using fair trade and organic cotton.
Coyuchi makes sustainable luxury home textile products. The business designs, develops, imports, and sells coastal-inspired organic bedding, sheets, towels, apparel, and other home goods. All of Coyuchi’s products are made of natural fibers, including organic cotton certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard.
Tampon Tribe makes organic and plastic-free period products. Tampon Tribe’s products are made using innovative and environmentally friendly materials. The company helps protect customers’ bodies and the planet.
LIVSN Designs makes versatile outdoor apparel made from organic, recycled, and other sustainable materials. LIVSN Designs sells at more than 75 independent retailers and two major e-commerce sites. It generated more than $1 million in revenue in 2021.
African Small Businesses
FlexPay is a save-now-pay-later service provider in Kenya. The service allows users to reserve products or services online and make payments in installments over time. FlexPay mainly works for non-banked and underbanked customers who do not have the purchasing power to spend large amounts of money at one time.
Asaak unlocks financial services for Africans through asset-backed loans. Its end-to-end lending marketplace helps Africans access financial services and investors to invest directly in loans. Asaak has disbursed more than 6,000 loans with an on-time payment collection rate of 95%.
Food and Agriculture
Nepal Tea Collective makes and sells organic teas while positively transforming its Nepali community in the process. The teas are fresh, artisanal, traceable, and come in sustainable packaging. Nepal Tea Collective also invests 1% of its top-line revenue in empowering farmers.
QuickClass has developed a private-label training portal and course platform to fight bullying and harassment. The courses include required courses, study skill courses, and life skills courses. QuickClass is offered to schools at a low cost through a sponsorship advertising revenue program.
7 Generation Games has developed a platform that enables any organization to make its own educational games. The platform allows educational games to be created quickly and cheaply and enables users to make games about any topic they’re passionate about. 7 Generation Games was built using federal grant funding from the US and Chilean governments.
Small Business Support
Above & Beyond Studios has developed a revolutionary new product suite, Freedom, that inspires people to support small, local, and Black-owned businesses. Freedom provides users with savings and entertainment in the form of shopping, coupons, and games while supporting local businesses. The Freedom app has had more than 1,350 downloads, and the Freedom TV+ app is currently on Roku TV and Amazon Fire TV.
Health and Medicine
Brite Trace is working to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. Through a personalized profile, Brite Trace provides caregivers with actionable insights to help them connect with and help their loved ones with dementia.
ABBY by GOGOTECH has developed a new personal electric vehicle for adults with reduced mobility. The wheelchairs are safe, advanced, and affordable. They come with modern features, including smart push-rim technology, conventional rear-wheel-drive format, and quick-release components.
Green Island EV Corp. manufactures commercial microtransit electric vehicles in Green Island, New York. The company aims to provide efficient, sustainable, and clean energy mobility solutions for communities, organizations, and companies.
GameSafe’s technology empowers parents to protect their children from online predators. The company’s technology monitors children’s game chats. If any threats are detected, parents are alerted and can take action.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Prime Diversity is a full-service diversity, equity, and inclusion solutions provider that connects small businesses to prime opportunities to meet diversity and inclusion goals. Prime Diversity’s advisors work closely with clients to provide a number of services, including searching, vetting, compliance reports, engagement, references, and license verification.
Inequality and Discrimination
BlackFULLness has developed an app for stress reduction and healing through mindfulness. The app is developed for and by Black people to ease anger and anxiety, reduce stress, and provide holistic fortitude.
Garage ADUs converts garages into affordable and efficient workforce housing units. The company’s mission is to increase workforce rental housing and homeowners’ income and provide multi-generational living at a low cost. Garage ADUs has constructed a studio conversion in San Jose, California. A second one-bedroom in Burlingame, California, is under construction.
FanShark has developed a platform that takes celebrity connections to the next level. Fans can request personal handwritten messages from their favorite celebrities and receive personalized merchandise with digitally printed messages from celebrities. FanShark also allows celebrities and athletes to send their earnings to their favorite foundations as charity.
Wall Street has Morningstar, S&P, and Bloomberg
The equity crowdfunding market has KingsCrowd.
About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau
Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.