For our latest Top 32 list, we’ve profiled the UK’s leading ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) businesses and the senior figures that lead them.
Following the fallout of COP26 and the business community’s shift to a more sustainable and socially-conscious future, these businesses have shone through as leading the way within their respective industries.
How have the top 32 been chosen?
We asked our readership to suggest companies and individuals who deserved to have the spotlight shined on them for what they are achieving in the ESG space.
This list is in no particular order.
Zouk Capital is a private equity and infrastructure fund manager dedicated to investing in the sustainable economy. Zouk’s investment strategy focuses on the opportunities emerging at the intersection of infrastructure, technology and sustainability that stem from some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges facing the world today. Based in London, Zouk manages approximately £1bn, including the £420m Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF), sponsored by the UK Government and focused on the public EV charging market.
Amanda Lyne & Paul Turner
Amanda Lyne and Paul Turner formed ULEMCo in 2014. The idea behind this Liverpool-based company was to commercialise intellectual property and capability in hydrogen combustion engine technology. They convert vehicles to run on commercially available hydrogen and work with HGV and LGV fleet operators with zero-emission hydrogen vehicles. With HGV’s accounting for 18% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, their work is an important landmark in the future of delivering goods sustainably.
Founder and CEO Whittle focuses on enriching Jigsaw24’s company culture by driving diversity, wellbeing, sustainability and community. Besides ensuring they meet ESG frameworks, he encourages every individual across the company to lead with their own passionate initiatives. This has resulted in amazing business firsts, such as partnering with a local university to create a bursary for a female computer science student, a small but real way of addressing the lack of women in tech. He also oversees the firm’s carbon reduction plan including offsetting 800 tonnes CO2e via 3,413 native trees. They also switched their HQ to 100% green energy, gaining ISO Energy and Environmental Management credentials, and setting up EV purchase schemes and charge points for staff. Jigsaw24’s goal is to achieve net zero carbon by 2025.
bClear Communications has recently gone carbon neutral, having first reduced and now offset its annual carbon emissions. The company has always held an environmentally conscious stance, emitting minimal emissions since it was founded in 2005 and through its ESG policy has been able to achieve its carbon-neutral status early. Its offsetting scheme enables the Portishead-based Specialist PR agency to support safe water projects implemented throughout five districts in the Northern and Eastern regions of Uganda.
For 10 years, Wrigley has been the CEO of South West-based Best.Energy – driving them from a small start-up in Cornwall to a flourishing international business; with over 100 active distributors worldwide, and installed technologies producing 2.1 billion data points every day globally. The company’s stated mission is to help people around the world to ‘switch on to efficiency’. His commitment to spreading that message has taken Best.Energy around the world; with big brands like 7-Eleven, Wates, and McDonald’s – all on their rapidly growing client list.
After setting up the business in 2015, Gill has driven his team to work with other industry leaders to ensure fair pricing and lobby for reform change for the water industry. Under his leadership, Everflow Water has even created software to improve quoting, billing, and the overall experience for customers. He is now on a mission to encourage other business leaders to make a difference to the environment by pledging to save water within their companies through the #100Pledges campaign.
The World We Want
Mudhar is the Founder of The World We Want, an enterprise launched to accelerate the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, such as climate change and inequality by 2030, by uniting and galvanising change-makers, organisations, non-profits, governments, businesses, celebrities, philanthropists, and citizens to lead on collaborative impact-led strategies. She has also been a prominent speaker at key events such as The World Humanitarian Forum, UN Global Compact Uniting Business Live and UN Global Compact Target Gender Equality.
Swash is Group CEO of Moneypenny and under her leadership, the company has grown from £19m turnover to £48m and doubled employment to over 1,000 staff. From anticipating the needs of employees in the ‘new normal’, to ensuring its offices feature as many carbon-reducing features as possible, Swash is making impressive steps towards its ESG goals. The firm also works with external stakeholders to assist with levelling-up across The Northern Powerhouse, and locally in Wrexham with the Welsh Government. Moneypenny was also the first business of its kind to join the Good Business Charter.
Fusion Community Initiatives
A former paramedic, a military veteran and holder of two world records on Everest (from which he was lucky to escape with his life), O’Malley has built and led Fusion Community Initiatives from nothing over the last six years, despite a year in hospital and cessation of operations during the pandemic. The company works to engage corporates in the delivery of projects to communities in need. These projects act as a platform for Fusion to use their bench of experienced military leaders to coach the behaviours of high-performing teams, to develop leadership skills and to connect and engage employees, building meaningful relationships quickly through worthwhile work, whilst aligning with corporate vision and values.
Roberts is the Founder and CEO of Healthy Nibbles. Helping the UK’s leading companies to become healthier and more sustainable, creating a destination of choice for top talent through a suite of products, services, and data to support nutritional health and wellbeing. Committed to the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose, Healthy Nibbles have secured B Corp certification, alongside 1% for the Planet, Investors in Young People, as well as delivering a number of innovative ESG initiatives.
Debar is the Founder and Director of the world’s first climate-positive publisher. SRL Publishing is an award-winning company which puts the environment before profit. The firm operates differently than the rest of the industry, as to not add to the 77+ million books a year that are printed just for a higher profit margin. SRL Publishing measures their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, add 15%, and offset this by supporting projects which meet the highest verification standards. They also calculate the number of trees’ worth of paper that have been used for their products, add 15%, and plant.
Chief Investment Officer and a Founder of Cameron Hume, Cameron has over 30 years’ of investment management experience. Edinburgh-based Cameron Hume is a specialist ESG fixed-income investment manager. It recently won its first ESG mandate from an Australian pension fund and now has more than $1bn assets under management. The firm integrates ESG factors into all aspects of fixed-income investment through its flagship fund – and commits to building sustainable portfolios through extensive ESG data.
Deepki is the only company in Europe offering a fully populated ESG data intelligence platform to help commercial real estate investors, owners and managers improve the ESG performance of their real estate assets, and in the process enhance their value. Recently launched in the UK, the company’s SaaS platform enables clients to collect ESG data, get a comprehensive overview of their portfolio’s ESG performance, and report to key stakeholders, facilitating their transition to net zero. The platform is supported by carbon and ESG experts across the continent.
Strategic advisory and capital raising service finnCap Group has created a simple ESG scorecard for companies based around 15 data points, five in each of E, S, and G. Growth companies can measure their ESG performance against key policies, standards and frameworks. In addition, finnCap has also partnered with sustainability fintech leader World Wide Generation to launch a digital sustainability reporting tool for SMEs. Earlier this year, Founder and CEO Smith and her company partnered with Business Leader to promote a month of ESG-focused news and reports.
Since 1980, the Bristol-based bank has had a mission to help create a society that protects and promotes quality of life and human dignity for all. Their sustainable financial products have enabled individuals and organisations across the world to use their money in ways that benefit people and the environment. For example; in 2020, the bank provided 33 million organic meals through its financial services and over 700,000 households worldwide were provided with green electricity from 561 energy projects.
Jackson is the Founder and CEO of Octopus Energy Group, the green energy tech pioneer, and certified B Corp, with over 2.4 million UK customers. The business has further operations in 11 countries and 15 million accounts licensed worldwide to its green technology platform, Kraken. All the company’s electricity comes from 100% renewable sources. In Q4 2021, Octopus raised £400m from the Al Gore Generation Fund, showcasing the rise in investment in ESG-focused companies.
OVO Energy/Vertical Aerospace
Founded in 2009 by Fitzpatrick, OVO is a Bristol-based firm that provides 100% renewable energy to its customers – helping towards the country’s net zero goals. A ‘unicorn’ business, OVO has also helped plant thousands of trees and created a ‘zero carbon community’ where people within the energy and tech community can discuss ideas to help towards the transition. They also run the OVO Foundation, which aims to give every child a greener, fairer world to grow up in. From installing solar panels in Kenya to constructing houses with young homeless people in the UK, they are tackling both societal and climate challenges. Fitzpatrick is also the Founder of Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace, whose revolutionary tech is decarbonising the air travel sector.
Tessa Clarke & Saasha Celestial-One
Fast-growing community sustainability app OLIO was founded in 2015 by Clarke and Celestial-One, and is used to give away unwanted food and household items, for free, with the aim of reducing waste and helping people consume more locally and sustainably. The company now has more than five million users, however, following a recent £43m fundraise, OLIO is looking to further expand its presence worldwide to help tackle the annual £1bn food waste problem. OLIO has over 30,000 Food Waste Heroes, who are trained members of the community collecting and redistributing unsold or unserved food from businesses such as Pret a Manger, Tesco and Costa Coffee.
Anthesis is a global sustainability professionals’ group, and one of the UK’s fastest-growing private companies and is known as the ‘sustainability activator’. From strategy to implementation, Anthesis offers unrivalled services to help businesses achieve economic and ESG goals. Since establishing in 2013, the company has made 13 acquisitions of leading sustainability firms and grown to have more than 700 experts across 40 countries, helping drive towards a net zero future. Anthesis has clients across industry sectors from corporate multinationals such as Reckitt Benckiser, Cisco, Tesco, The North Face and Target, and also supports early-stage companies through Anthesis Ventures.
Longevity Partners provides all services required to future-proof property investment portfolios. The global ESG consultancy operates in 38 countries for more than 100 institutional investors (including BlackRock and J.P. Morgan) across all asset classes. From carbon footprinting to climate risk and ESG strategy development and implementation, its experts provide all the tools to respond to ESG performance requirements from pension funds and asset owners. Longevity works hand-in-hand with real estate owners to position their assets for the demands of tomorrow while improving the well-being of users and net operating income today.
Stephanie Burras CBE
Ahead Partnership is a purpose-driven social enterprise that has been working with a wide range of businesses across different sizes and sectors. Over the last 15 years, the organisation has delivered social value projects that help overcome inequality, promote opportunity, and deliver positive change within society. The team is headquartered in Leeds, but operates nationally, developing and delivering innovative programmes and partnership solutions to help address specific societal needs. Its client portfolio includes international companies such as PwC, Arup, Landsec, John Lewis Partnership, First Group and Pinsent Masons.
Dr Graham Cooley
Sheffield-based ITM Power is a clean fuel and energy storage firm that manufactures integrated hydrogen energy solutions to enhance the utilisation of renewable energy that would otherwise be wasted. This technology only uses renewable electricity and tap water to generate hydrogen gas on-site and has a product offering capable of being scaled to 100MW+ in size. Cooley leads the firm’s drive for improved air quality worldwide, the growth of renewable power generators in the energy mix, and a need to decarbonise industrial processes.
Rugoobur is the President of the London-based electric vehicle manufacturer that is aiming to create EVs at the same cost as its petrol and diesel equivalents. Last year, the firm also launched a new passenger bus designed for coronavirus-era social distancing. A few months later, the firm launched on the Nasdaq, following a merger with US-based SPAC, CIIG Merger Corp – valuing the company at around $13bn – in what is one of the largest ever stock market launches by a UK tech company. With the goal of creating zero-emission cities, Arrival recently partnered with Uber to create a new era for the ride-sharing platform.
Cervest’s AI-powered climate intelligence platform puts the power of a thousand climate scientists into the hands of decision-makers across businesses, governments, insurance companies and financial markets to help them quantify, manage, and adapt to climate change at an asset level. A Certified B Corp, Bassi’s company’s vision is to democratise access to climate intelligence through its open-access platform, driving a shared responsibility to protect the world’s critical assets.
The peer-to-peer social e-commerce company allows its 30 million users to buy and sell used items, helping to cut down on fast fashion and wastage from the industry. With offices in Manchester, Milan, Los Angeles and New York, the platform created by the London-based company is often used by celebrities to sell items, with the proceeds going to charities across the world. Targeted at the Gen Z audience, Depop has helped create many social media influencers who promote a more sustainable fashion industry. Last year, the firm was acquired by Etsy for $1.6bn.
James Basden, Nicholas Beatty & Steven Meersman
At Zenobē, their goal is to make clean power accessible to millions. They do this through its innovative use of battery storage. By making clean power as well as making transport economically and environmentally sustainable, they are driving the transition to a zero-carbon economy. Established in 2017, they are the leading owner and operator of battery storage in the UK, having raised over £300m and a 25% share of the UK’s e-bus market. With approximately 225MW of batteries in operation or construction they are supporting the National Grid with the uptake of renewable power.
Rob Jolly & Dannan O’Meachair
Established in 2017, Onto is an electric car subscription service that was founded by Jolly and O’Meachair to accelerate the EV revolution. The company offers a sustainable flexible, and affordable alternative to traditional car ownership, by offering EV car ownership without a long term commitment. The Warwick-based company raised $175m in funding in 2021 to expand its offering and has now got over 3,000 members. This year its community saved 2.3 million kgs of C02.
Founded over a decade ago, Bboxx designs, manufactures, and distributes decentralised energy solutions to enhance access to power throughout the world, but mostly in Africa. Co-founder and CEO Hamayun’s goal is to solve energy poverty and unlock potential through energy access across the world. Currently, 759 million people live without access to energy, with a further 840 million connected to unreliable grids – Bboxx is tackling this issue.
Harrison is the CEO of investment firm, Schroders. As a global asset and wealth manager, Schroders delivers a broad range of investments designed to meet the diverse needs of institutions, intermediaries and high net worth individuals, while keeping ESG at the heart of everything they do. The business channels capital into sustainable and durable businesses to accelerate positive change in the world. Schroders’ business philosophy is based on the belief that if they deliver for clients, they deliver for Shareholders and other stakeholders.
Sharon Bange & Sinead Gray
A multi-award-winning ESG PR and communications consultancy, Kindred is run by Managing Directors Bange and Gray. The company helps brands and agencies connect with the rising tide of consumer awareness. As customers demand more transparency and action from companies in all industries, Kindred helps drive behaviour changes for a better society and environment. For over 20 years, the company has provided campaigns that have led to actionable, positive change in a range of industries.
Kebony is a wood modification technology company, whose vision is to reduce CO2 emissions and tropical deforestation by using its patented wood modification techniques, which produce wood in an environmentally-friendly way. This unique process is also a superior alternative to traditional wood treatment, based on impregnation with biocides (wood preservatives). They recently raised €30m to help produce sustainable materials for the residential and non-residential construction industries across Europe.
Huttly has worked in office supplies for over 20 years, accumulating a wealth of knowledge, but also with growing frustration with an industry that promotes a race to the bottom; resulting in highly competitive pricing and delivery terms, at the expense of innovation, progress, and most importantly sustainable thinking. He realised that to see change, he needed to lead the way. So, he founded Red-Inc, a company that considers people and planet over profit. Created to break the mould of traditional supplier models by reversing outmoded and wasteful industry practices. Red-Inc is now a highly successful, award-winning business and the first office supplies company to be B Corp certified.