Sustainable Startup Destinations - Utility Bidder

Sustainable Startup Destinations

Which countries offer the best opportunity for new eco-friendly businesses to emerge?

Solar plant

In the 21st century, sustainability is one of the most important considerations for businesses, economies and governments, as climate change and resource depletion are set to put intense pressure on global supply lines in the coming decades.

Ensuring your business can survive in the long term and nimbly respond to our changing environment is the essence of making it sustainable while maintaining as small of a carbon footprint as possible. The past year has seen energy prices skyrocket in many parts of the world, and businesses have struggled to keep up with rising business electricity rates.

A business can become sustainable in many ways, from ensuring waste products are recycled to offering eco-friendly commuting initiatives and the option to work from home. Many of these practices can help companies save energy and reduce their overheads while also helping to protect the environment. Businesses can also look for green energy suppliers when they compare business energy rates to find the most affordable and environmentally friendly provider.

For new businesses and startups, all of this can be overwhelming, with so many factors to consider, and the availability of sustainable options for businesses can vary significantly from place to place. With this in mind, we wanted to investigate which developed countries offer the best opportunities for sustainable startups to set up shop. To find out, we’ve looked at various sustainability factors across OECD countries, revealing the best locations to launch a sustainable business.

Switzerland is the best OECD country for sustainable startups

1.

Switzerland

Switzerland is the best country in the OECD for sustainable startups, achieving the highest score of 7.81. Located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is excellently positioned for businesses to access three of Europe’s largest economies, France, Italy and Germany, while also having a reputation as one of the world’s financial hubs.

Switzerland has a high number of startups at 9.4 per 100,000 people, showing that entrepreneurs already recognise the country’s fertile business environment. Combine this with Switzerland’s excellent performance across most of the environmental factors in our study, such as high rail-passenger kilometres and very low CO2 from travel, and the country’s top score in our index is more than understandable.

Sustainable startup score:

7.81/10
2.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has our study’s second-highest Sustainable Startup Score at 7.08. The UK performed particularly well for the number of startups in the country, with 10.1 per 100,000 people, while having high access to eco-friendly commuting options and very low CO2 emissions from transport.

However, the country’s comparatively low number of rail passenger kilometres suggests that people in the UK use the railways much less than in other countries. Rail is an excellent choice for eco-friendly travel instead of driving or flying, and travel indicates economic activity. Hence, a busier railway is a good sign for business and sustainability. The low amount of rail use in the UK could be caused by the country having some of the highest ticket prices in the world, along with notoriously unreliable train services that are often subject to delays and cancellations.

Sustainable startup score:

7.08/10
3.

Sweden

Sweden has the third-highest Sustainable Startup Score in the OECD at 6.75. Sweden has a moderate number of active startups, with 6.9 per 100,000 people. However, the country performs excellently regarding renewable energy, with 53.31% of national energy produced from renewable sources.

While Sweden also sees a low level of CO2 emissions from transport at 1.46 tonnes per capita, and more than twice the rate of rail passenger kilometres than in the UK, the country was let down by a low level of eco-friendly commuting options at co-working spaces and a recycling rate of just under 20%.

Sustainable startup score:

6.75/10

Top 10 countries for sustainable startups

KEY: Startups per 100,000 people Eco commuting provision score /10 National recycling rate Rail passenger kilometres per capita Transport CO2 emissions per capita (tonnes) Proportion of energy from renewables Sustainable startup score /10

Country

Mexico is the worst OECD country for sustainable startups

1.

Mexico

The country with the lowest Sustainable Startup Score is Mexico at 2.00. Mexico performed poorly across almost all factors, except transport CO2 emissions, for it recorded an impressive result of 0.84 tonnes.

The country has just 0.4 startups per 100,000 people and an eco-commuting score of 0.36, while less than 10% of its energy comes from renewable sources. People in Mexico also make little use of rail as a means of transportation, which can hamper sustainability and economic growth. Recent data for the country’s recycling rate was unavailable, so Mexico’s score was calculated using the other five factors.

Sustainable startup score:

2.00/10
2.

Turkey

Turkey has the second lowest Sustainable Startup Score, at 2.87. The country has just 0.7 startups per 100,000 people and performed poorly across most remaining factors.

Co-working spaces in Turkey have one of the lowest levels of access to eco-friendly commuting options, with a score of just 0.16, while the national recycling rate stands at a low 12.83%. However, Turkey did score slightly better when using renewable energy, sourcing a little under 20% of its power from renewable sources while achieving a very low level of CO2 emissions from transportation.

Sustainable startup score:

2.87/10
3.

Poland

Poland had the third-lowest Sustainable Startup Score in our study at 3.21. Poland was held back by having few options for eco-friendly commuting at co-working spaces, and just 9.37% of the country’s energy is generated from renewable sources.

However, rail travel is substantially higher in Poland than in our other low-scoring countries, with 417 passenger kilometres per capita. In contrast, the country’s national recycling level is a more respectable 26.92%.However, rail travel is substantially higher in Poland than in our other low-scoring countries, with 417 passenger kilometres per capita. In contrast, the country’s national recycling level is a more respectable 26.92%.

Sustainable startup score:

3.21/10

Top 10 countries for sustainable startups

KEY: Startups per 100,000 people Eco commuting provision score /10 National recycling rate Rail passenger kilometres per capita Transport CO2 emissions per capita (tonnes) Proportion of energy from renewables Sustainable startup score /10

Country

Estonia has the busiest startup scene in the OECD

1.

Estonia

Estonia has the highest number of startups per 100,000 people in the OECD, at 23.4. This gives the Baltic country the busiest startup scene in our study, showing it to be a thriving place for new and innovative businesses to call home. While the total number of startups might seem low at 282, the total population of Estonia is just over 1.2 million, which results in a very high rate per capita.

Startups per 100,000 people:

23.4
2.

United States

Hot on the heels of first-place Estonia, the United States has the second-highest number of startups per 100,000 people at 22.3. The United States has a vast number of startups, with 75,798 currently in the country, but the nation’s vast population of almost 340 million brings the overall rate under control. The United States is indisputably one of the world’s major economic powers. It is home to some of the leading centres of technological innovation, making it an attractive location for many startups.

Startups per 100,000 people:

22.3
3.

Luxembourg

The country with the third highest rate of startups is Luxembourg, with 11.7 per 100,000 people. Luxembourg is a tiny country between France, Germany and the lowland countries of Belgium and the Netherlands. Despite its small size, Luxembourg is a central European financial hub while also playing a significant role in the region’s politics, hosting the Secretariat of the European Parliament, which employs more than 4,000 people.

Startups per 100,000 people:

11.7

Top 10 countries with the most startups per 100,000 people

KEY: Population Startups Startups per 100,000 people

Country

Luxembourg has the best co-working spaces for an eco-friendly commute

1.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg is the country with the best options for eco-friendly commuting at co-working spaces, with a score of 9.4. Six co-working spaces in the tiny nation provided charging points for electric cars, while 17 provided bicycle parking spots. Additionally, there were 39 co-working spaces within a five-minute walk of public transport, meaning it’s easy to commute to work without relying on private cars. These totals were combined and compared against the local population to create a normalised score.

Eco commuting provision score:

9.4/10
2.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has the second highest Eco Commuting Provision Score in the OECD at 5.3. This high score means that people who use co-working spaces can often commute to work using more environmentally friendly methods. The UK has the sixth largest economy in the world, and the fourth largest in the OECD, so providing a high level of eco-friendly commuting options makes it an attractive choice for carbon-conscious startups.

Eco commuting provision score:

5.3/10
3.

Ireland

Ireland has the third highest Eco Commuting Provision Score at 3.2. Ireland’s economy has historically been closely tied to the United Kingdom’s, although the two countries may become slightly less entwined following the UK’s departure from the European Union. Ireland is a popular choice for many businesses and startups due to its enticingly low corporate tax rate, access to the EU single market, and proximity to post-Brexit Britain.

Eco commuting provision score:

3.2/10

Top 10 countries with the best eco-friendly commuting to co-working spaces

KEY: Population Coworking spaces with electric car charging points Coworking spaces with bike spaces Coworking spaces 5 min from public transport Total eco commuting provision at coworking spaces Eco commuting provision score /10

Country

Slovenia has the highest recycling rate in the OECD

1.

Slovenia

Slovenia is the OECD country with the highest national recycling rate, which stands at an impressive 58.5%. One of the best ways to tackle climate change and improve sustainability is to reuse and recycle as much as possible rather than sending waste to landfill. This high recycling rate makes Slovenia an attractive location for companies that want to ensure as much of their waste can be recycled as possible.

National recycling rate:

58.5%
2.

South Korea

South Korea has the second-best national recycling rate in the OECD at 56.5%. This highly developed economy in East Asia is the only non-European country to make the top ten list for recycling. South Korea offers startups and other businesses access to a highly skilled workforce, booming tech and automotive industries, and proximity to lucrative Asian markets such as China and Japan.

National recycling rate:

56.5%
3.

Germany

The OECD’s third-highest national recycling rate belongs to Germany and stands at 46.3%. Germany is the largest economy in Europe, with national GDP in 2022 standing at approximately $4.072 trillion, which gives startups plenty of opportunities to find a niche and grow their brand. The very high recycling rate in the country gives companies plenty of opportunity to make sure much of their waste is recycled, helping to build a respectable corporate ESG score.

National recycling rate:

46.3%

Top 10 countries with the highest recycling rates

KEY: Recycled waste (tonnes) National recycling rate

Country

People in Japan use rail travel more than any other country

1.

Japan

People in Japan travel the furthest by rail out of all OECD countries, with 2,128 passenger kilometres travelled on Japanese railways per capita. Japanese rail services are known for being some of the most punctual in the world, almost always running on time. The country is also known for the Shinkansen, or “bullet train”, a super high-speed railway that reaches all major Japanese islands besides Shikoku and connects to the northern island of Hokkaido via the world’s longest undersea tunnel.

Rail passenger-kilometres per capita:

2,128
2.

South Korea

South Korea has the second highest railway usage, with 1,932 passenger kilometres travelled per capita. Like Japan, South Korea also benefits from a highly developed high-speed rail system with bullet trains, making travel in and around the country quick and easy. This is great for business connections and commuting and offers a reliable carbon-efficient alternative to driving or air travel.

Rail passenger-kilometres per capita:

1,932
3.

Switzerland

Switzerland has the third most-used railways in the OECD, with 1,671 rail passenger kilometres travelled per capita. Switzerland is another country well-known for its highly efficient and punctual rail services, with a highly dense network that allows passengers to travel all across the country without using a car. Swiss trains also offer passengers one of the most scenic commutes imaginable, with breathtaking Alpine views visible from many services.

Rail passenger-kilometres per capita:

1,671

Top 10 countries with the most railway usage

KEY: Population Rail passenger kilometres (millions) Eco commuting provision score /10

Country

People in Mexico produce the least CO2 per capita from transport

1.

Mexico

CO2 emissions from travel are one of the leading causes of climate change, and Mexico has the lowest such emissions per capita at just 0.84 tonnes. To put this into perspective, the OECD country with the highest transport CO2 emissions per capita is Luxembourg, where this figure sits at 7.41 tonnes.

Transport C02 emissions per capita:

0.84 tonnes
2.

Turkey

Turkey has the next lowest CO2 emissions from transport at 0.94 tonnes per capita. This low level of CO2 emissions is a double-edged sword for sustainable startups, as it could indicate a largely immobile population and a less active economy. However, the low level of emissions also suggests that people don’t need to travel long distances in the country, which could mean shorter commutes for employees.

Transport C02 emissions per capita:

0.94 tonnes
3.

Hungary

Hungary has the third lowest CO2 emissions from transport, with 1.26 tonnes per capita. This is the lowest level among European OECD countries and could be due to the lack of large cities outside of the capital, Bucharest, which is by far the largest and most populated city in Hungary.

According to a 2022 census, Budapest is home to 1.68 million people, approximately 17.42% of the total population. However, the wider Budapest metropolitan area is home to twice this amount, representing 34.47% of the population. With such a large concentration of its population in the city, annual travel distances in the county are probably relatively low, which is reflected in the lower level of transport CO2 emissions.

Transport C02 emissions per capita:

1.26 tonnes

Top 10 countries producing the least CO2 from transport per capita

KEY: Transport CO2 emissions per capita (tonnes)

Country

Bus

Almost all of Iceland’s energy comes from renewable sources

1.

Iceland

Iceland is by far the country with the best record of generating renewable energy, with as much as 99.8% of the country’s power coming from renewable sources. 73% of the energy in Iceland is generated from hydropower plants, while 26.8% is generated from geothermal sources. Iceland is uniquely positioned on a fault line between two tectonic plates, meaning it has incredible access to geothermal energy.

Proportion of energy from renewables:

99.8%
2.

Norway

Norway is the OECD country with the second highest % of its energy coming from renewable sources at 71.6%. Renewable energy is the most environmentally friendly way of generating electricity, releasing no CO2 into the atmosphere and having a limitless supply.

Proportion of energy from renewables:

71.6%
3.

Sweden

Sweden has the third highest proportion of energy sourced from renewables in the OECD at 53.3%. This means that Nordic countries dominate the ranking for renewable energy, occupying all the top three spots, with Denmark in fifth and Finland in sixth, accounting for half of the top 10 countries for renewables.

Proportion of energy from renewables:

53.3%

The top 10 countries for renewable energy

KEY: Proportion of energy from renewables

Country

Bus

Methodology

We wanted to determine which OECD countries are the best places for sustainable startups. To do this, we analysed each country across six separate factors, compiling the data into a single “Sustainable Startup Score”, which we used to create our ranking.

The first factor we collected was the number of startups in each country sourced from Startup Ranking. We used population data from CIA Factbook to calculate the number of startups per 100,000 people in each location.

Next, we used data from Coworker to find the number of co-working spaces in each country that offered bike parking, electric car charging points, or were within a 5-minute walk from public transportation. We calculated the number of such eco-commuting provisions per 100,000 people in each country.

We then used OECD data to find the recycling rate , number of rail passenger kilometres and CO2 emissions from transport. The majority of OECD data was from 2021, but where data was unavailable for the same year, it was taken for the next most recent date as far as 2018. The number of rail passenger kilometres was calculated per capita to account for different population sizes between countries.

Data for the share of renewable energy in each country was taken from Our World in Data, representing levels in 2022. Data for Iceland was unavailable from this source, so we used information from Visit Iceland.

If a country was missing data for more than one factor, it was removed from the study. This applied to two countries in total: Costa Rica and Colombia.

Three countries were missing data for one factor, so their scores were calculated using only the remaining five factors for which data was available. These include Mexico and New Zealand, which were both missing data for their recycling rates. Iceland was missing data for the number of rail passenger kilometres because there are no passenger rail services in the country.

The scores for each factor were combined into a single “Sustainable Startup Score”, which gave each factor an equal weighting other than the number of startups per 100,000 people. This was afforded a double weighting due to its integral importance.

Data used to discuss population statistics in Hungary was sourced from City Population

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