Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
2021's Hottest sustainable business heroes
Sustainable fashion pioneers, green foodies and zero waste warriors, we celebrate 2021’s most exciting ethical entrepreneurs
By jessica jurkschat
20 april 2021
Sustainability is at the heart of all we do at #TOGETHERBAND. Our #TOGETHERWEAR range is made from 100% recycled materials, as are the rope and clasps on our #TOGETHERBANDs and for every product you buy, we’ll plant a tree. As a company committed to being sustainable, we love to champion other innovative ethical brands.
In recent years, sustainability has taken centre stage across all industries. Companies have realised that their business models should prioritise people and planet, ahead of profits. From fashion pioneers to zero waste warriors, we’ve rounded up 2021’s most impressive sustainable entrepreneurs.
The sustainable fashion pioneers
Xenia Adonts, 29
Founder, Attire The Studio
In 2019, influencer Xenia Adonts launched sustainable fashion line Attire The Studio. The women’s brand only uses natural fabrics and promises transparent, eco-friendly and ethical production without compromising quality or design. Style-wise, Attire The Studio is all about timeless, modern and minimalist designs with eye-catching details – think Scandinavian chic. Shop the entire collection exclusively at Attire The Studio online.
Emma Chopova, 29 and Laura Lowena, 29
Co-founders, Chopova LowenaPaying homage to their Bulgarian roots, the LVMH Prize semi-finalist and BFC/Vogue Fund finalist designers are giving new life to forgotten Bulgarian fabrics. Emma Chopova and Laura Lowena create intricately handcrafted skirts and dresses from recycled materials and dead-stock textiles. With silhouettes ranging from schoolgirl minis in checked print to kilts made from a mix of vintage Bulgarian fabrics, the duo draws inspiration from Bulgarian folklore and 1980s rock climbing. And the style is catching on, too. Chopova Lowena stockists include Browns, Dover Street and Matches Fashion, to name a few.
Mikaela Larsell Ayesa, 25
Co-founder, Future Closets AB
The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry worldwide. Swedish start-up Future Closets is looking to curb that waste through a rental and personal shopping experience for second-hand clothes. The company selects, washes, and stores the clothes for you and its operations in Sweden and France have already prevented over 5000 tons of CO2 from being emitted into the air.
Victoria Prew, 27
Victoria Prew and co-founder Matthew Geleta started HURR, a fashion rental marketplace in 2018. Dubbed the ‘AirBnB of fashion’, HURR rents stylish shoes, bags and accessories on a peer-to-peer and consignment basis – you can either list your wardrobe items for rent or browse and borrow your favourites.
Alia Zaki, 29
A dual US-Lebanese citizen who lives in London with her two children, Alia Zaki launched her handbag brand with no funding and no fashion experience. Her incredible art-inspired bags are sustainably made and favourites of celebs like Millie Bobby Brown, Adwoa Aboah and Rocky Barnes. L’alingi bags are sold through Nordstrom, Selfridges and direct via their website.
John Bertolaso, 29; Edward Brial, 29 and Edward Hill, 29
Brial, Bertolaso and Hill are co-founders of Materra, a tech company working to create a climate-resilient cotton for the fashion industry. The company has been able to grow, in the UK, an extra-long staple cotton pesticide-free, using 80% less water and fertiliser, and quadrupling yield, compared to cotton production in its target market in India.
Robin Gnehm, 28; Nicholas Hänny, 29 and Carla Vilela Gonzaga Hänny, 28
This Swiss activewear company promises to plant a tree for every product sold. They work with OneTreePlanted to focus on locations that have suffered deforestation due to agriculture, timbering and natural events and have already planted over 1.1 million trees. The full collection for men, women and children can be found exclusively on their website.
Felizia Gustafsson, 25
Founder, POA LONDON
POA London is a unisex brand that prioritises materials that reduce waste. The pieces are manufactured in Italy using upcycled, circular materials like wheat straw for phone cases and apple 'leather' for bags. Rather than traditional e-commerce, they use a made-to-order system to avoid overproduction.
Cherish Reardon, 29
Co-founder, Popsy Clothing
Cherish Reardon, a former stay-at-home mum, founded Popsy Clothing in 2017 with the goal to increase women’s confidence one dress at a time. Popsy Clothing truly treats customers like family – the company turns to its online community of 100,000 women for input on prints, shapes and lengths for upcoming collections. The company now has a team of 34, and produces all its vintage-style dresses in the UK.
Eshita Kabra, 29
Founder, By Rotation
By Rotation claims to be the world's first social fashion rental app. Eshita Kabra created the app as a side hustle in April 2019, as she sought to build a conscious and inclusive community that democratises fashion and doesn't harm the planet. It's now the largest fashion rental platform in the UK. The app is available on iOS and Android and already has over 45,000 active users and over 1.5m listing views.
Natalie Glaze, 28 and Zanna van Dijk, 28
Co-founders, Stay Wild
Natalie Glaze and Zanna Van Dijk pivoted sustainable swimwear brand Stay Wild to launch a new underwear line during the pandemic. The clothing is produced at a zero-waste factory in London from regenerated ocean plastic and designed to flatter every shape. The full range is available at Selfridges and Stay Wild’s online shop.
Daniël Salimian, 27; Kevin van der Veer, 27 and Jeroen Westerbeek, 27
In 2013, university friends Jeroen Westerbeek, Daniël Salimian and Kevin van der Veer launched WoodWatch – accessories for men and women that were inspired by nature. Since then, the team has shipped sustainably sourced wood watches, bracelets and glasses frames to over 100,000 customers, and plants ten trees for every product sold.
The green foodies
Ariel Booker, 28 and Josh White, 29
Co-founders, CanO Water
CanO Water was created in 2014 after friends Josh White, Ariel Booker and Perry Fielding saw a ton of plastic washing up on the beaches in Thailand. The resealable aluminum-canned water is stocked in 10,000 stores including Tesco and Waitrose and has appeared at the Vanity Fair Oscars Party.
Liam White, 28
Co-founder, Dr. Will's
Liam White left investment banking and launched a UK condiments company, Dr. Will's, in 2017. The sauces, mayos and dressings are made using natural ingredients and no added sugar or preservatives. They are now sold worldwide in more than 2000 stores, corporate canteens, university cafes and restaurant chains.
James Barthorpe, 27 and Paul Simpson, 29
Co-founders, Food Circle Supermarket
In 2018, James Barthorpe and Paul Simpson created a retail platform selling surplus food and drink. Food Circle’s online store redistributes short-dated and excess products at up to 50% off the normal high street price, from partners such as Clif Bar and KIND.
Amy Moring, 28 and Jefferson Webster, 29
Co-founders, Hunter & Gather
Amy Moring and Jeff Webster have been promoting healthy lifestyles and targeting obesity and diabetes since 2017. Hunter & Gather offers keto and paleo-friendly supplements and condiments, free from refined sugars, grains and seed oils. They source imperfect, discarded fruits to make the products, which are stocked in stores such as Selfridges and Holland and Barrett and ship across Europe.
Giada Zhang, 25
Founder, Mulan Group
Giada Zhang, a second-generation Chinese Italian, launched Milan-based Mulan Group in 2018 with the goal to share her love for ethnic cuisine. The company sources local ingredients to produce packaged, frozen Asian meals that are sold in about 6000 stores and Amazon.
Freddy Hunziker, 27
Co-founder, New Roots
As more people give up animal products, New Roots' co-founders know that customers won't sacrifice taste or quality. The vegan creamery makes organic, plant-based cheese and yogurts using traditional methods from the Swiss Alps.
Fabio Mancini, 28
Everyone knows that plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, but it can be hard for consumers to really understand the impact that just one reusable bottle can make. So Fabio Mancini designed ReBo, a water bottle that tracks the impact every time you fill it up. It’s not available to purchase yet, but the company has already generated significant pre-orders and hopes to use technology to similarly reimagine other products.
Mario Mandaric, 29
Executive Chef, Restaurant Passarola
Mandaric previously worked as a sous chef for The Fat Duck, a three Michelin star restaurant in Southeast England. He became known for pop-up restaurants around the world, including in Thailand where he learned to keep a low-waste kitchen. He teaches diners to cook using everything, reducing leftovers and recycling whenever possible.
Ayesha Pakravan-Ovey, 27
Founder, The Plattery
In 2019, Ayesha Pakravan-Ovey catered tables for big business events like Facebook and Virgin. When the pandemic halted business, the chef pivoted, using her surplus ingredients to offer Vital Meals for those in need. Now, the catering company donates at least 15 meals for every platter shipped across the UK.
Daniel Pawson, 26
Co-founder, The Sea Group
Former chef Daniel Pawson wants your snacks to be good for you and the planet. The Sea Group's flagship product Sea Chips takes often discarded (but nutrient-packed) salmon skins and turns them into a salty snack. He's even made a snack for your pup: Sea Snax is a dog treat brand that uses salmon skins not suitable for humans. Both products can be found at your local Whole Foods.
Maximilian Lemke, 23 Philipp Silbernagel, 29 and Patricia Titz, 28
In 2017, Philipp Silbernagel, Patricia Titz and Maximilian Lemke teamed up to create Wisefood, a food tech company with the aim to prevent plastic waste. The edible, tasteless cutlery and straws are made from grain, apple fibre and stevia and are sold in more than 20 countries and 5,000 stores including ALDI.
The zero waste warriors
Kaushal Shah, 28
Kaushal Shah is the founder and CEO of envoPAP, environmentally friendly paper and packaging made from agricultural waste, rather than trees or recycled paper materials. The company estimates that the process has 38% less of a carbon footprint than conventional paper, and its products are used at companies such as L'Oreal Paris.
Cosimo Maria Palopoli, 26
IUV is a plastic-free packaging solutions company based in Italy. They make packaging products designed to protect or improve freshness, firmness, shelf-life, as well as the look, taste, colour and smell of foods.
Oscar Bjørn-Rosager, 24
Oscar Bjørn-Rosager was part of a pro-cycling team for several years and knew first hand how much clothes and equipment went to waste any time there was a new sponsor. So, he created ProOwnedCycling. The company recycles the high-tech and expensive bikes and clothing leftover from the sport's World Tour and sells them at an affordable rate so anyone can ride like a pro.
Victor Dewulf, 24 and Peter Hedley, 26
We all know the waste management industry is pretty wasteful. RECYCLEYE is looking to change that by using AI to train robotics to be as precise as the human eye. It hopes that by training them to better identify and sort objects, companies can recycle more (as well as charge higher premiums for more lucrative waste materials). Recycleye is supported by Microsoft AI for Good, Playfair Capital, Atypical Ventures and others.
Gary Lewis, 29
Resourcify software aims to transform the waste management space by connecting waste producers and recyclers together to make recycling easy, fast and affordable. The company is used by companies like Johnson & Johnson and Bosch and has grown to have over £18 million worth of waste contracts being managed via the platform.
Jiri Heinonen, 29
Swappie is a Helsinki-based online marketplace for buying and selling used smartphones. It prevents electronics from ending up in landfill and offers refurbished phones at an affordable price.
Emma Mamisoa Nomena, 27
Ph.D Candidate, University Of Amsterdam
Emma Mamisoa Nomena is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam who describes her research as ‘using waste to eradicate waste.’ She co-developed an edible bio-based film for food packaging as an alternative to the fossil-fuel based biopolymers filling up landfills. Her non-profit Wise With Waste educates people about their waste footprint and provides tips on how to reduce it.
View Forbes’ full 2021 list of Europe’s ‘30 Under 30’ here.
100% of profits from the sales of #TOGETHER products go to charities that advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more here.