Korea is a country that is committed to growing a sustainable environment. Former president Lee Myung Bak was the first to address the nation’s environmental development. “If we make up our minds before others and take action, we will be able to lead green growth and take the initiative in creating a new civilization,” Lee claimed in one of his speeches. Since then, the government has been creating plans for a greener country. Therefore, Seoul City found the Sustainable Development Commission to support actions towards a more sustainable environment and a healthier society. Also, more Korean startups are following the trend for a greener city.

There are more and more Korean tech entrepreneurs coming up with concepts focused on sustainability. Especially Korean Millenials are focused a lot on minimalism, zero waste, and other initiatives that will bring about sustainability in the tech ecosystem in Korea. Therefore it is refreshing to see the number of ambitious game-changers taking up the eco-friendly and green way of doing the business seriously. While the Korean government is taking steps in setting ambitious emission reduction targets for 2030, it is the continent of Korean sustainability startups that are truly bringing the innovation we need to tackle climate change, before it is too late. Here are a few below. 

Korean Sustainability Startups to Know

Montsenu – saving the earth from plastic waste

Sustainble Lifestyle

Montsenu is a lifestyle brand that turns wasted PET bottles into useful products. Humans produce over 200 million tons of plastic waste every year. Every piece of plastic ever made still exists today. This causes negative impacts on oceans and animals as more and more plastic waste floats around in the world’s oceans. Therefore, Montsenu’s mission is to protect the environment. By using PET bottles, the company creates clothes and fashion items to reduce plastic waste. Currently, Montsenu recycled around 976kg of 500ml wasted plastic bottles. The process involves breaking the PET bottles into small flakes and then melted into small pellets. Then it is melted again and filtered and spun into threads.

Asia’s Representative for a sustainable lifestyle

The Korean sustainability startup aims to be Asia’s representative for a sustainable lifestyle. The collections on Montsenu are defined by Julian Junbum Park’s signature Timeless design and attention to detail. Julian is the founder and Creative Director at Montensu. The collection cover men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, footwear, and accessories, and denim. 

With more and more consumers willing to pay more to buy sustainable products, more fashion designers like Junbum Park are coming forward to support the environment. The future of fashion is heading towards being more green and sustainable. 

Rewind – reducing plastic usage

Reducing Plastic Usage
Korean Sustainability Startup Rewind

Similar to Montsenu, Rewind addresses overall plastic production. In Korea, on average a person uses over 500 coffee cups per year. When it comes to the disposal of these cups, over 90% aren’t fully recycled. While the natural recycling process of plastic takes over 500 years, mechanical recycling processes face a lot of criticism due to the high energy costs. Rewind wants to approach the issues of plastic usage. Instead, the company focuses on biodegradable products made out of corn, sugar cane, and straw.

Switching to Biodegradable Products in Korea

Compared to regular plastic cups, Rewind’s products only take 180 days to naturally dispose of. Therefore Rewind presents an eco-friendly alternative for cafes and restaurants in Korea. In addition, Rewind plans to distribute their plastic cups and straws to more cafes, restaurants, and hotels all around Korea. Once businesses confirm their usage of Rewind’s products, they become certified “Green Cafes”.

We Eat – promoting a healthy lifestyle

Promoting Healthy Lifestyle

Getting the right nutrients and vitamins in the morning gives you the energy you need for the day. A well-balanced breakfast also helps to kick-start your metabolism for a healthy diet. Researchers believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, Korean employees struggle with eating breakfast in the morning due to their busy schedules. We Eat wants to approach this issue by providing curated morning boxes for office workers. Through their “We Eat”-app, workers add their food preferences and receive healthy breakfast meals every day. Additionally, We Huddling provides vending machines to offices that contain healthy snacks. Korean coworking spaces like Heyground and Root Impact have already started using We Huddling’s vending machines.

The Future of Sustainability Startups in Korea 

Entrepreneurs in Korea will continue to enter the green industry through the 2020s because they will not only get support from the Korean government but also from more conscious consumers. In addition, investors in Korea are looking for startups that have a positive impact on the environment. In fact, more corporations in South Korea like Samsung, LG, etc. will be pressured into creating sustainable products. Therefore even if sustainable startups in Korea don’t turn a profit, there will be huge values in regards to PR and goodwill that will attract corporate partners and investment from Korean VC firms. Early-stage startups in Korea that fail to embrace sustainability initiatives risk prosperity and even survival. 

Sustainable startups in Korea can play an important role in changing the behavior of larger companies in Korea. While they might not replace them as producers, they can provide the technology that makes existing industries in Korea a lot more sustainable. These startups will be key in bringing new innovations into established industries. As the issue of climate change continues to rise, more established companies in Korea will turn to sustainable startups for new ideas and innovative technologies.