An idea can gain momentum when someone like Greta Thunberg is behind it. Just a year after beginning her school strike for climate protection, her protest has swelled to become the global movement Fridays for Future. In 2019, “climate protection” became a top priority for large parts of the population. Thunberg, a Swedish national, was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize for her commitment and was recently named Person of the Year 2019 by Time magazine.
Viva con Agua
Thunberg has set an inspiring example of what just one individual can achieve. More and more Hamburg-based, like-minded start-ups are coming up with sustainable business ideas while others are joining forces to improve the general standard of living. The international Viva con Agua, for instance, has been striving for safe access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation since 2006. Every penny spent on a bottle of Viva con Agua mineral water goes towards the non-profit organization’s relief work. Founded by FC Sankt Pauli, Viva con Agua now has 10,000 volunteers and projects like WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) have improved living conditions for some 3 million people worldwide.
Clever ideas for reducing rubbish heaps
The Hamburg-based Bracenet start-up has set itself the goal of freeing the oceans from ghost nets. Discarded or deliberately sunken fishing nets play a huge role in filling up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Bracenet and its international partners collect and clean the nets and then prepare them for recycling. The high-quality nylon fibre becomes the basic component of swimwear or carpets. The Precious Plastic Hamburg team is generating raw materials from plastic waste in Hamburg and turns the rubbish into bookends, buckets, bowls or coasters. Another Hanseatic start-up “Bio-Lutions” specialises in packaging and disposable tableware made from agricultural waste – as an alternative to plastic.
Bridge builder: Recyclehero and IFB
The founders of Recyclehero have added a social aspect to last mile solutions with their collection service for wastepaper, glass and returnable bottles. The start-up aims to give the unemployed and refugees initial access to the labour market. Meanwhile, the Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank (IFB Hamburg) is improving the marketability of innovative, technology-orientated or knowledge-based start-ups through support programmes, subsidies, equity capital or low-interest loans. More and more founders with environment-friendly business ideas are launching. During an interview with Hamburg1., Martin Jung, Head of Innovation at IFB, stressed: “Around 25 per cent of the applications are now based on social impact.”
The Eco-Partnership Hamburg aims to ensure that voluntary, corporate environmental protection pays off. Launched by the senate in 2003, the network comprises around 1,200 companies of various sizes in different sectors. Partners who continue their environmental protection efforts will become more visible in future and a quality seal will be introduced. In recent years, energy transition and efficient resources played a key role and will now be complemented by priorities in digitalisation, green port, heat transition and sustainable procurement. Various funding schemes are available for corporate, environmental measures and will be custom-made to the individual partners.
Raising the visibility of climate commitment
The Environmental Partnership helps companies to raise their energy efficiency and promotes the switch to climate-friendly electricity from photovoltaics, wind and bioenergy, solar thermal energy and waste heat from industrial processes. Apart from doing something good, the Environmental Partnership raises the visibility of committed companies – a clear plus amid a shortage of skilled workers. The world’s brightest minds clearly appreciate companies that think of the bigger picture rather than focusing entirely on their own operational needs.