June 13, 2023

Green Startup Pledge: Enabling startups to take meaningful climate action

Since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, climate pledges have gained considerable traction across the globe. Companies, as well as investment firms, have made significant commitments to achieve net-zero emissions by specific target years such as 2030, 2040, or 2050. These pledges demonstrate a growing recognition of the urgent need to combat climate change and transition to a more sustainable economy.

Closer to home, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has introduced the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) for the top 1000 listed companies. This standard builds upon the voluntary standards developed in partnership with the Greenhouse Gas Coalition in 2013. The BRSR ensures that these companies prioritise sustainability and transparency, thus aligning with global efforts to address environmental challenges.

In India, industry sources project startups to contribute 35-65% of the economic growth and create over 100 million jobs by 2030. But while startups are an integral part of the global and Indian economies, their dynamic nature and early-stage development present unique challenges. Existing sustainability frameworks and requirements are often designed for more established businesses with stable operations and profitability. Startups, on the other hand, require a tailored approach that considers their growth trajectory, financial dynamics, and evolving business models.

Recognizing the importance of startups as both the future of the business community and a major growth engine, there is a compelling case for developing a climate pledge and sustainability framework specific to startup operations.

This is why ACT For Environment, in collaboration with BCG, developed the Green Startup Pledge – the world’s first climate pledge that’s designed exclusively for startups and which aims to address the unique challenges and opportunities faced by them in their sustainability efforts. By offering a platform to commit publicly to sustainable practices, the pledge paves the way for a greener, more environmentally conscious future while helping startups future-proof their business by reducing switching costs when sustainable practices are adopted early on.

GSP acknowledges the unique characteristics of startups and embraces their staged and volatile growth. By adopting a phased approach, the pledge allows startups to progress gradually in their sustainability journey. Startups committing to GSP will benefit from frameworks that are flexible, streamlined and aligned with their business operations. Reporting will be streamlined and stage-relevant. A resource platform of tools, resources and reputable vendors will be made available to support implementation with the aim of building better from the beginning or transitioning economically.

Unveiled at COP27 and Bengaluru Tech Summit last year as an example of India’s leadership in building the green economy, GSP will be initiated with Indian startups with the aim to scale globally with startups from around the world. Early supporters of the pledge include prominent VC firms such as Accel India, Peak XV Partners and Matrix Partners as well as unicorn startup founders like Deepinder Goyal (Zomato) and Nitin Kamath (Zerodha).

To begin with, a group of 6-10 startups will be identified for the purpose of developing, beta testing, and refining the implementation process. This phased approach ensures that the pledge aligns with the unique characteristics of startups, allowing them to make progress over time.

GSP aligns with ‘net zero by 2050’ goals along with feeding into the Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) and we’re excited to helm an initiative that will take startup-led climate action from India to the world!

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