How Startups Can Help Build A Sustainable Future


At the COP27 global climate change conference last month, we shared Google’s long-standing commitment to advancing sustainability and our use of AI to address climate challenges and public health. The importance of collaborating across private and public sectors in these efforts was underlined in our conversations with global leaders, along with the need to continue investing in research and innovative solutions.

We believe that the global startup ecosystem plays a pivotal role in addressing these issues. Through our Startups for Sustainable Development program, we’re working with impact-driven startups using technology to build a more sustainable future. All are on a mission to address one or more of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from eradicating poverty and hunger to improving healthcare and advancing climate action. We provide them with long-term support to help them scale their impact: mentoring from expert advisors, connections to funding partners, and access to cutting-edge research and technology.

The program has evolved over the last two years, and now supports close to 400 startups in over 70 countries, working with a network of over 140 partner organizations. These startups include Climate Farmers, Earthly, mDoc, OKO and SkillLab.

Climate Farmers: Transforming agriculture

There’s a massive momentum for change, and we need to capture that.Ivo Degn
CEO, Climate Farmers

Climate Farmers seeks to transform agriculture with an infrastructure that facilitates farmers’ transition to regenerative farming practices, which are more economically and environmentally resilient than traditional methods. It combines advocacy and partnerships with financial rewards to support farmers through the transition. With a community of over 500 farmers in the EU, its ability to drive change is growing: the company is part of the EU Mission Board for soil health and organized the very first European regenerative agriculture conference.

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Two chickens peck the grass in between rows of apple trees
Climate Farmers are scaling the transition to regenerative agriculture with practices such as planting crops and raising chickens together.

Earthly: Helping companies invest in nature

Earthly is on a mission to close the gap in funding for nature-based solutions and help businesses remove at least one billion tons of carbon by 2030. It funds projects that not only remove carbon but also restore biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of local communities. Earthly has facilitated the planting of two million trees in the UK, Spain and Madagascar, helping businesses offset 100,000 tonnes of CO2. Their impact data also helps to drive engagement: one of their clients, a European bank, increased its investment tenfold over two years after surpassing its project goal.

mDoc: Facilitating care in Africa

I saw the opportunity to leverage technology to reach people.Nneka Mobisson
CEO, mDoc

Across sub-Saharan Africa, over 28 million people have died in the past decade from chronic conditions that can be managed or prevented. mDoc aims to address this by democratizing access to healthcare. Their digital platform facilitates access to affordable expert care and has over 100,000 members, 87% of whom are women, with the majority making less than $3 a day. mDoc has trained over 8,000 healthcare workers in managing chronic disease, cancer, maternal health, and more, and can point to tens of thousands of lives saved.

OKO: Safeguarding farmers’ income

OKO is helping to address food security and protect livelihoods in Africa by providing crop insurance for smallholder farmers to keep them in business and protect them against adverse weather events. OKO uses data-driven risk management to minimize costs and increase accessibility. To date, OKO has insured tens of thousands of farmers in Mali and Uganda, 97% of whom have never had insurance before. They also partnered with UN Women and the UN Capital Development Fund to increase their coverage of female farmers.

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Two men walk across a dusty field, with trees in the background. One of the men is wearing a green t-shirt and green baseball cap, both with the OKO logo, along with an ID tag and a face mask. The other man is wearing a long white robe, a long black scarf around his neck and a gray kufi.
Lassina (L), resident of Touréla, about 50km south of Bamako, explains to Adama Coulibaly (R), area manager for OKO, the damage to crops caused by the floods last year.

SkillLab: Turning skills into employment

SkillLab aspires to bridge the gap between the credentials sought by employers and the skills offered by job seekers. This gap hinders marginalized communities in particular, with significant societal, human and financial costs. SkillLab’s mobile app uses artificial intelligence to help people capture their skills, explore careers and apply for jobs offered by partner employers. Since 2018, the company has launched in over 30 countries, helping thousands of people through job and education placement.

Google’s Startups for Sustainable Development program is accepting applications from startups at all stages who use technology to address any of the UN’s SDGs in a measurable way. We also invite partners from the private and public sectors to join us and nurture the next generation of impact startups. Together we look forward to building a more sustainable future.

By Yossi Matias, Vice President, Engineering & Research | Irwin Boutboul,Startups for Sustainable Development Lead
Source Google AI

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