Zuzana Kovacova (Technology for Sustainability and Social Impact)

Are the technology start-ups for sustainable development the secret sauce for the competitiveness of the European start-up ecosystem?

Start-ups bring innovation and new opportunities to the market faster than established companies. European enterprises can profit from the implementation of niche, highly specialized solutions developed by start-ups on technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, cloud, mobile applications, and many others.

Over the past few years, more and more European entrepreneurs have been prioritizing sustainability-focused innovations. More so since the announcement of the European Green Deal in December 2019. In addition, the European Commission’s Financial Stimulus packages for the COVID-19 recovery are strongly linked to sustainable investments and the need to reinforce innovation in the region.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the need for a climate neutral Europe. It brought to light sustainability issues such as supply chain mapping and transparency, material circularity and waste reuse, digital business models including digital identity, security, and payments as well as employee health and well-being.

As a result, unprecedented opportunities unlocked for the European start-up and SME sectors:

  • through the €1.8 trillion European green recovery budget or/and
  • the rising demand for scalable/digital sustainability innovations by European corporations.

IDC’s research across 700 European organizations shows that 65% of them are planning to dedicate 10%–50% of their strategic budget to sustainable IT products and services (IDC’s EMEA COVID-19 Impact Survey from November 2020).  This is reinforced by the fact that 62% of European enterprises are already incorporating sustainability objectives into their RFPs when choosing IT services partners.

Benefits of Working with Sustainability Start-ups

Engaging with European sustainability start-ups offers some clear benefits to both enterprises and more established technology providers:  

  1. Accelerating Sustainability Innovation

There is a really exciting sustainability-focused start-up ecosystem in Europe, IDC recently conducted some research to identify and start to map European start-ups associated to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, technology start-ups in the region showcase excellence for the Responsible Consumption and Production Sustainable Development goal (Goal #12) through innovation around supply chain solutions based on blockchain and AI:

  • Automotive organizations such as Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen count on European start-ups to support their needs to create traceable and responsible supply chains, ensure responsible sourcing, and foresee sustainability related risk across their supply chains.
  • Fashion and food industries, represented by Intermarche, Kering, and LVMH, for example, reached out to the European start-up community while searching for innovative ways to enable their customers in verifying product origin and ethical sourcing practices.
  1. Bridging the Sustainability Data Gap

Lack of reliable and fact-based data to navigate sustainability initiatives is one of the top barriers for European corporations to progress rapidly towards their desired environmental and social goals. This is particularly challenging for organizations looking to automate data insights and to integrate and analyze them in order to transform into actions that can support their sustainability goals.   

Solutions enabling the monitorization of energy consumption of production and operations, building indicators, energy sources and energy grids analytics, waste management, etc. are offered by European startups today. Startups offer diverse solutions for real time sustainability data inputs across broader business ecosystems which are dependent on the organizational ability to synthetize for the required purposes. 

  1. Discovering High Impact Sustainability Use Cases

IDC’s new research provides a look into various unique sustainability use cases developed by European technology start-ups such as:

  • Providing mass population with powerful sustainability tools (e.g. a credit card that offers a carbon footprint bill together with the price paid may have significant impact on purchasing decisions while reinforcing the pressure to supply carbon footprint calculations for all products.)
  • Providing HR departments with a tool to ensure unbiased hiring practices using neuroscientific games to assess skills, behavioral traits (analytical thinking, stress resistance, adaptability, emotional control) and to predict role and culture fit.
  • Active sustainability governance collaboration and alignment across partner ecosystems and purpose led procurement to deliver on environmental, social, and economic goals.


Would you like to learn more about the European Technology Start-ups for Sustainable development? Check out IDC’s latest research or contact zkovacova@idc.com