The World's Most Innovative Companies of 2022

Fast Company’s annual ranking of businesses that are making an outsize impact

Innovating on behalf of customers never goes out of fashion. Our definitive annual showcase of the best in business features inspiring stories across a wide range of industries, from advertising to wellness, and every corner of the globe. The companies we honor below are pressuring the carbon economy by creating a market for removing CO2 from the atmosphere (Stripe), developing chemicals without the traditional reliance on fossil fuels (Solugen, Twelve), electrifying lower-income housing (BlocPower), and using data to help countries (Climate Trace), companies (Watershed), and individuals (Doconomy) minimize their carbon footprints. They’re adapting to our world of hybrid workplaces by building tools with the stresses of remote work in mind (Microsoft), creating virtual whiteboards that turn every meeting into an opportunity for collaboration (Miro), and developing design software that lets every employee be an effective visual communicator (Canva). Other businesses are knitting new, closer relationships between fans and the things they love, whether that’s the global K-pop sensation BTS or Justin Bieber (Hybe); athletes from the NBA, UFC, or La Liga (Dapper Labs); or simply a burrito bowl (Chipotle). These stories, found on our list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, plus the hundreds of other ones honored across our sector lists, are brimming with insights into how organizations can make a meaningful impact—on their own organizations, their industries, and society at large.

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01
Stripe
For kick-starting the carbon-removal industry
01
Tackling climate change is going to require more than cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Society is going to need to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. By the next decade, the world may need to remove tens of millions of tons of CO2 from the air annually; by 2050, that number could grow to 10 gigatons a year. Natural solutions, such as planting trees, can only go so far. Stripe Climate lets customers of the online payments company join its strategy to fund ambitious carbon-removal technology by contributing a percentage of their digital sales that flow through Stripe’s software. In spring 2021, Stripe adjusted its onboarding process to allow new customers to join the program. Soon, one in 10 was opting in. Tens of thousands of businesses are now part of Stripe Climate.
02
Solugen
For devising an emissions-free way to turn sugar into industrial chemicals
02
Solugen has developed a process of turning corn syrup into industrial chemicals using enzymes and metal catalysis—removing oil, coal, and natural gas from the process. “If you follow the [sugar] molecule,” Solugen cofounder Gaurab Chakrabarti says, “everything becomes quite simple.” That comment belies the complex science at work in the company’s Houston bioforge, which creates none of the emissions of petrochemical processes and has yields of up to 90%. The company launched with four chemicals (organic acids and aldehydes), with 17 in development. They’re being used in water treatment, concrete production to reduce cement use, and in agriculture to deliver nutrients to crops.
03
Twelve
For turning the tide on petrochemicals
03
The startup’s carbon-transformation process uses a metal catalyst and renewable energy to break CO2 and water molecules into smaller atomic bits, and then re-forms them into new chemicals that can be used in manufacturing. Twelve has already partnered with the Air Force to make jet fuel from CO2, and it’s worked with Daimler and Procter & Gamble to demonstrate that it can re-create ingredients needed to make car parts and Tide, respectively. The new chemicals are a one-for-one replacement, so Twelve’s customers can lower their carbon footprints without affecting product performance. The startup raised $57 million last summer as it works to build out its process to industrial scale.
04
BlocPower
For tackling climate change by giving every homeowner the opportunity to electrify
04
In the United States, consumption of fossil fuels by residential buildings generates 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, making the sector the third most emitting, after transportation and industry. Solar panels and advances in energy efficiency have made a dent in the building sector’s carbon footprint, but until recently, no one was addressing the heart of the issue, at the heart of the home: removing the furnaces, boilers, stoves, and other oil- and gas-based products that drive demand for fossil fuels. These outmoded appliances are exactly what BlocPower is tackling. Led by cofounder and CEO Donnel Baird, the startup is electrifying buildings by installing technologies like heat pumps—and it's focusing its efforts on low- and middle-income communities. "I just know in my bones that we can address the climate crisis at scale," Baird says. "I don't know if we will. But I know we can."?
05
Climate Trace
For tracking down country-level emissions data
05
With 59 trillion bytes of data from more than 300 satellites and 11,000 sensors, Climate Trace, a coalition of organizations formed in 2020, updates and maintains greenhouse gas emissions estimates to give countries the insights they need to direct climate mitigation efforts more effectively. It released its comprehensive data sets last September, bringing carbon reporting up to date. (Official emissions estimates submitted to the UN trail reality, even in countries that are required to report every year, like the United States.) It also has intelligence on where countries such as India create the most CO2, allowing Climate Trace to assist them in their carbon-reduction goals. Finally, Climate Trace and its partners can also isolate emissions sources by geography—for example, plastic waste sites in Indonesia—to encourage cleanup.
06
Watershed
For putting companies on a carbon diet
06
Only a fraction of companies calculate the full CO2 effects of what they produce. The startup Watershed, which launched in February 2021, uses software to help companies like Airbnb, DoorDash, Shopify, Sweetgreen, and Warby Parker assess all their emissions, develop a reduction strategy, and connect to carbon-removal solutions. Most companies only measure their Scope 1 (direct greenhouse gas emissions from within the company's control) and Scope 2 (electricity and other energy purchases) emissions. Only about one-fifth of businesses measure so-called Scope 3 emissions, which take into account the production of a product and its use; that makes up about 80% of a business’s true carbon footprint. Watershed looks at the climate impact of a company’s entire “value chain,” as it’s known, and helps it determine an aggressive plan to get to net zero via a mix of reducing operations emissions and funding carbon removal. By the end of Watershed’s first year, it was helping customers manage emissions equivalent to more than four times the carbon footprint of San Francisco, the site of Watershed's headquarters.
07
Doconomy
For calculating the cost of our lifestyles
07
Swedish environmental impact technology firm Doconomy quantifies environmental impact with such tools as its Lifestyle Calculator, released last September. Users complete a detailed survey, and Doconomy estimates an individual’s annual emissions in categories such as transport, home, shopping, and diet. (Transportation is typically the largest contributor to a personal carbon footprint.) In 2021, it also launched the 2030 Calculator, a tool that simplifies the process of calculating the carbon footprint of manufactured products at a high level of accuracy across multiple product categories. This allows brands to quantify the impact of all stages of their value chains up until the point of sale of a product, based on factors such as materials, processes, energy, and transportation. They can also offer their customers a transparent look at the true environmental impact of their products and services.
08
Microsoft
For humanizing productivity
08
When Microsoft decided to create a snapshot of work and collaboration during a time of unprecedented change, it had plenty of resources to draw on, from a 30,000-person survey to anonymized Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn stats to brain research conducted in its Human Factors Lab. As the company analyzed more than a trillion data points, “We started to see trends and patterns that we’d never seen before,” says corporate VP of modern work Jared Spataro. Along with creating an annual report on its findings, Microsoft is now using them to inform new product features such as a scheduling option designed to ensure that employees get breaks between meetings—a valuable mind-clearing exercise that’s often overlooked in the age of video calls. Given the scale of Microsoft’s business software footprint—as of July 2021, Teams alone had almost 250 million monthly active users—no company is in a better position to help take the pain out of productivity.
09
SpaceX
For building a rocket that just runs
09
In 2005, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk scoffed at the idea that rockets had to be expensive to be reliable. Instead, they could be the Honda Civics of the sky. “You can have a cheap car that’s reliable,” he told Fast Company. “And the same applies to rockets.” Last year, SpaceX made strides toward that vision, completing a record 31 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket, including its launch of the first all-civilian crew into orbit at a cost of $55 million per seat; NASA had been paying $80 million per seat in 2017. “They’ve had this incredible impact on the sector in lowering the cost of launch and expanding the number of opportunities, which really is key to this second golden age of space,” says Andrew Rush, president and COO of aerospace manufacturer Redwire, which sent four advanced materials and plant science payloads to the International Space Station via the Falcon 9 in December. SpaceX rockets aren’t as trusty as a Civic, but for space, they may be as close as we’ll get.
10
Canva
For making designers of us all
10
Canva is a word processor for our modern visual culture, adjusting anything you see—text, an image, a background, an animation—with a simple tap. Its easy-to-use, templated design platform allows people to create business cards, birthday invitations, social media ads, sales presentations, coffee mugs, and yearbooks. “We’re trying to reduce the time [it takes] to get you feeling confident in your ability,” says CEO Melanie Perkins. The service, which debuted as a free tool before adding paid Pro and Enterprise tiers, has systematically rolled out tools for every content form imaginable. The result is an increasingly robust product that has democratized the way design works—at home and across large organizations. Canva, which is valued by private investors at $40 billion, expects to surpass $1 billion in revenue this year.
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11
Hybe
For conjuring a musical multiverse
11
America’s hold on global pop culture is over. The world’s most popular musicians are the K-pop group BTS, capable of selling out both L.A.’s SoFi Stadium and McDonald’s meals. Behind their success is Hybe, the South Korean media conglomerate that consistently finds new ways to release content and cultivate fandom. Hybe, which recorded $1.04 billion in revenue in 2021, acquired Ithaca Holdings last April for $1.05 billion, becoming the parent company of Scooter Braun’s talent business (which includes Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber) and giving Hybe more star power as it explores new technologies and content formats. The goal, as Hybe CEO Park Ji-won says, is to “further build this intimacy” between artists and fans.
12
AB InBev
For brewing change locally
12
The planet’s largest brewer spent 2021 focusing on local impact. In Latin America, AB InBev debuted Tienda Cerca, an app that lets people check product stock (not just AB InBev’s) in nearby stores, and used area crops for regional beers, including a yucca microbrew in Colombia and a rice and corn lager in Ecuador. AB InBev’s innovation arm launched EverGrain, which upcycles spent barley into a nutrient-rich ingredient for use in foods like pot pies and pizza dough. The company is also using barley straw to make six-pack boxes for Corona, paying farmers for a formerly unused by-product. “We can influence other brands to follow our path,” says Felipe Ambra, Corona’s global VP.
13
Miro
For improving collaboration between far-flung teams
13
For some brainstorms, there are simply not enough walls—or sticky notes. So there’s Miro. The digital whiteboard has taken on the challenge of remote and hybrid work by scaling up so large enterprises can host virtual meetings of up to 1,000 people in the same room—akin to the kind of engineering big-room planning sessions that once would have required a hotel ballroom. Whether it’s a meeting with five people or 500, Miro has added such features as clustering every idea generated with one click, integrating its visual collaboration into everything from Zoom to Microsoft Teams, and introducing templates so anyone can run an effective goals meeting or design sprint. “The philosophy behind Miro is to make sure the product doesn’t dictate to an organization how to do things but supports how they operate,” says CEO Andrey Khusid. Between April 2020 and January 2022, Miro grew from 20,000 to 130,000 paying customers. It now works with 99% of the world’s 100 largest companies.
14
Fanatics
For leading memorabilia into the future
14
With a database of more than 80 million fans globally buying its licensed team merch, Fanatics has conquered sports apparel. Now the online retailer is remaking sports fandom. In August, it secured trading card rights for Major League Baseball, the NFL Players Association, and the NBA—gaining a foothold in the $13 billion trading card industry. It then kicked off 2022 by acquiring leading card brand Topps. Founder and CEO Michael Rubin explains Fanatics’s criteria for evaluating opportunities: “How can we innovate for the fan? If we can’t answer that, we’re out.”
15
Snap
For augmenting smartphone cameras with a fitting room
15
More than 200 million Snapchat users play with over 6 billion augmented reality lenses every day. Snap is now expanding its focus from what its users put on their face to how they outfit their bodies. The company made advancements in body tracking, cloth simulation, and object recognition in 2021, technologies that are all “critical in order for fashion to look and feel realistic,” according to Carolina Arguelles Navas, who runs Snap’s global AR product strategy. Snap’s efforts translated into users being able to slip on Gucci sneakers or Crocs or see the drape and flow of a Prada strap dress. Snap also added voice and gesture controls so users could set up their phones as virtual mirrors and then control color and style choices remotely. The company reports that all these features, combined with full-screen ads that fashion brands could buy to drive people to their own AR changing rooms, made Snap users 2.4 times more likely to purchase a product after the AR try-on than without it.
16
Flexport
For easing supply-chain chaos
16
“Our first priority is to solve customer problems,” says Ryan Petersen, CEO of Flexport, which has built a software platform for companies to manage every aspect of their supply chain. Flexport has risen to recent challenges, bringing online everything from customers’ factories in Asia to the trucks that deliver to fulfillment centers. With each node it digitizes, there’s more data to help customers resolve issues and inform new Flexport services, including order management, ocean freight procurement, and customs assistance. The company makes money—over $3 billion in 2021—from how much customers use its services.
17
Dapper Labs
For introducing normies to Web3
17
Dapper Labs, which makes and markets nonfungible tokens, created NBA Top Shot—virtual trading cards featuring basketball video highlights—and helped turn 2021 into the year of the NFT. The company generated $100 million in revenue last year from NBA Top Shot, which introduced the idea of collecting scarce digital assets to millions of people. This early success is the product of Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou’s vision and patient approach in an otherwise frenetic sector. Dapper built its own blockchain, Flow, to handle transactions speedily and its own crypto wallet to facilitate credit card payments, which had never been done before. Dapper was also obsessed with refining the experience. Notably, neither “blockchain” nor “NFT” appear during the process of purchasing an NBA Top Shot video pack, and the company created an exciting, even joyful, feeling that closely mirrors the fun of ripping open a pack of trading cards. Dapper also learned from a generation of digital natives, such as YouTube and TikTok influencers who wow fans by unboxing “hauls” of makeup or toys. “We looked at where people were spending their time,” Gharegozlou says.
18
Back Market
For legitimizing used electronics
18
Since its online marketplace for renewed electronics launched in 2014, Back Market has been teaching shoppers that new is not always better. Last year, it began offering extended warranty repairs and launched a mobile app with a diagnostic tool that allows buyers to confirm their refurbished gear is in top shape. It also, crucially, built out tools for refurbishers. The company now sources and tests repair components, trains and certifies refurbishers, shares data with them on trending products, and offers customer service on their behalf. Back Market’s customer base grew from 5 million to 6 million in the last half of 2021. “We are at the beginning of a trend that will be quite massive,” says Vianney Vaute, Back Market’s chief creative officer.
19
Farfetch
For serving labels, including its own
19
The luxury fashion marketplace, which works with high-end boutiques and labels, helped small businesses weather the pandemic by giving them tools to list their products online and manage orders and shipping, propelling Farfetch’s sales to grow by more than 30% in 2021. The company also began mining its customer data for its own women’s wear line, There Was One, which offers staples like organic cotton T-shirts and biker jackets made from traceable leather. José Neves, Farfetch’s founder and CEO, says the company uses data to inform design and predict demand: “The idea is that we don’t ever overproduce.” There Was One will be the first of several Farfetch brands, he says, all addressing “specific niches.”
20
BYD
For fueling tomorrow’s EVs
20
Founded in 1995 by chemist Wang Chuanfu, this Warren Buffett-backed Chinese battery company has become a powerhouse of a carmaker, too. Backed by innovation in core technologies (includings its DM-i ultralow-fuel-consumption hybrid-engine system and lightweight lithium-iron-phosphate Blade battery), BYD, which started making cars after acquiring a carmaker in 2002, grew sales of its hybrid and all-electric passenger vehicles by more than 231% last year, selling nearly 600,000 of these “new energy” cars globally. (Tesla is the only other carmaker to sell more EVs last year.) BYD also sold roughly 85,000 EV buses, garbage trucks, forklifts, and other specialty vehicles. By producing all the essential components for its EVs itself—with plants in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the U.S.—BYD avoided the supply-chain disruptions that hobbled other carmakers last year. And unlike Tesla, which bundles batteries from partners like Panasonic, BYD makes its own—and sells them to other automakers. When Toyota launches its first affordable all-electric sedan in China later this year, it will use BYD batteries, motors, and other key components.
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21
LivePerson
For schooling bots on human interaction
21
Four years after launching its first chatbot, customer service platform LivePerson has turned “conversational AI” into an everyday reality that does everything from help Dunkin’ customers sign up for its loyalty program to administering COVID-19 screenings in a range of professional workplaces. In 2021, LivePerson added a feature called AI Annotator that lets a company’s human reps fine-tune bots by identifying areas for improvement and proposing fixes, democratizing a process that formerly required data-science expertise. While only 25% of LivePerson chat interactions are fully automated, founder and CEO Rob Locascio expects that percentage to hit 75 over time. One way or another, he adds, “I don’t see a world where we’re going to be talking on the phone to call-center agents in the next four or five years.”
22
Chipotle
For transforming social platforms into launchpads
22
No brand has rolled social media savvy into its marketing mix—and thrived by embracing new platforms—like Chipotle. Chipotle turned its Discord server into a virtual job fair because burritos are gamer fuel—and its $15-an-hour base wage appealed to the young audience. It created a Halloween-themed corn maze in Roblox, offering $1 million worth of free burritos to users who succeeded. The game was so popular—attracting 5 million players—that it was (incorrectly!) blamed for a days-long Roblox outage. Even when Chipotle isn’t breaking the internet, it’s giving its fans something to talk about, such as an apparel collaboration with Carhartt that sold out in minutes. “You need to be thinking about this stuff every day, about being first, being new, and being on the right platform at the right time,” says Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt. That mindset helped Chipotle grow revenue 26% in 2021, to $7.5 billion, with 46% of its sales now digital.
23
Fifteen Percent Pledge
For restocking the shelves
23
Less than a week after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, Aurora James, founder of the fashion label Brother Vellies, dashed off an Instagram post calling for retailers that were committing to racial justice to dedicate 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. “People were not connecting Black small businesses with the racial justice movement,” she says. Within days, Sephora embraced the idea, and the Fifteen Percent Pledge was born. In the months since, 29 major retailers—including Macy’s, West Elm, Ulta Beauty, Gap, and Hudson’s Bay—have signed on, and more than $10 billion in revenue has shifted to Black-owned businesses. Sephora also retooled its incubator program to focus exclusively on founders of color. Pledge takers that committed to hiring and diversifying their director-level (and above) staff have more than doubled representative executives. To keep the momentum going, in November, the pledge created the 1,500-member Business Equity Community, a database that helps connect Black-owned brands with retailers. It also partnered with Google to provide members of the group access to digital training and tools to help grow their brands. The organization is even reaching consumers directly: Its 2021 Gift Black holiday gift guide, which highlighted everything from jewelry to dog coats, helped drive $1.8 million in sales to 65 Black-owned businesses. “The world is moving; consumers’ shopping habits are changing,” says James, “and they want diversity on their shelves.”
24
Deduce
For outsmarting hackers across websites and apps
24
Big tech companies like Google or Facebook have plenty of data to help detect when someone's trying to log in as you, but smaller companies often don't have the same ability to spot fraudulent login attempts. Two-year-old Deduce seeks to bring this capability to the rest of the internet. Through a network ingesting privacy-compliant data from over 150,000 sites and 300 million user profiles, Deduce can identify and alert customers to novel, emerging fraud techniques as well as coordinated hacks targeting the same user across multiple companies. “It takes a network to beat a network,” says CEO Ari Jacoby. In 2021, Deduce launched two new products: Identity Insights, giving companies early warnings of fraudulent behavior, and Customer Alerts, providing users instantaneous notifications of suspicious activity. Deduce claims it now protects more than 200 million accounts, with a customer base growing at more than 500% year over year.
25
Ramp
For inventing a better corporate card
25
Barely a year after its launch, Ramp is the fastest-growing corporate card in the United States. Its 3,600 enterprise customers—from the real estate broker Douglas Elliman to the creative agency Red Antler—use Ramp to build custom parameters into their cards, making it easy for its customers to keep costs in check and enforce expense policies. Last July, for example, Ramp became the first corporate card able to program cards at the merchant level, so companies can either restrict use with specific vendors or create an approved list of the only vendors where charges can be made. In a volatile economy, saving money has gone from a “nice to have,” says Ramp CEO Eric Glyman, to being key to a company’s prospects. Ramp earns a fractional fee off every transaction, and when you’re talking about a card that hit $1 billion in annualized spend less than 15 months after launch, those tiny fees add up.
26
Faire
For matching independent retailers with brands
26
When what you’re really selling is personal taste, there’s Faire. Founded in 2017 by a quartet of Square veterans, Faire is a wholesale marketplace that connects independent retailers (350,000 of them) with some 50,000 independent brands. During the pandemic, Faire introduced first-of-their-kind virtual trade shows, to link the two sides of its market, and it now offers exhibitions on specific themes, such as fashion. The company also went global last year, pushing into Europe. “U.S. brands are desperate to crack the European market,” says cofounder and CEO Max Rhodes, “and European brands are desperate to crack the North American market.”
27
Roblox
For expanding its universe
27
While others talk up the concept of the metaverse, Roblox has been busy adding new layers to its already robust one. It hosted concerts by Lil Nas X (late 2020), Twenty One Pilots, and Tai Verdes, and brands, too, have begun rushing in to enhance the experience. Nike debuted products, games, and social spaces; Ralph Lauren fashioned a winter wonderland landscape with ice skating; and Vans built a virtual skate park. These digital happenings, says Christina Wootton, Roblox’s VP of global brand partnerships, shift brands’ relationships from advertising and virtual goods to “creating memorable moments” for users. Roblox has almost 50 million daily active users (almost half of whom are older than 13), who spent more than 3.6 billion hours exploring last year.
28
Food52
For whipping up a powerhouse media empire
28
Food52 may have started by bridging the gap between aspirational gourmet magazines and intimate food blogs, but its menu has grown alongside the expanding interests of its community, which is focused on the entire home. Last year, Food52 spun its robust content arm into an even more powerful—and broad—commerce platform by acquiring both the cookware brand Dansk and the lighting and home goods company Schoolhouse. “Our goal is for people to see [Food52] as a source of not just beautiful, incredibly well-made home products,” says cofounder and CEO Amanda Hesser, “but also a source for inspiration and information around home design.” With 2021 revenue exceeding $100 million—and most of it coming from e-commerce—Food52 continues to build content and experiences around its products. The company has launched a video-streaming app with a lineup of original cooking shows and curated travel experiences. It’s now planning to open a flagship store in New York with a live test kitchen.
29
WarnerMedia
For playing to the home crowd
29
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of choice—especially the choice to stay home. WarnerMedia knew this when it announced in late 2020 that anyone craving new movies could see its entire 2021 slate either in theaters or on HBO Max on the release date. It was a gamble, but it paid off: Godzilla vs. Kong and Dune reaped pre-pandemic-level grosses, and smaller films thrived too. “We were the first over the wall,” says WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar of the simultaneous release strategy, “and many companies followed us.” By the end of 2021, subscribers to HBO Max, which had original hits with Hacks and the Friends reunion, were up 13 million.
30
GoodLeap
For financing greener homes
30
For climate-conscious homeowners, solar panels are just the first step. There’s also battery storage, resilient roofing, heat pumps, and electrical panel upgrades. GoodLeap has quickly established itself as the technology bridge between good intentions and the installers, manufacturers, and banks who can fulfill them, thanks to its underwriting engine and payment plans. Plus, having “just one single monthly payment for all these things,” as founder and CEO Hayes Barnard notes, is speeding adoption of these products. Last year, GoodLeap originated more than $5 billion in loans for over 140,000 homeowners. These installations are on track to offset the carbon-emission equivalent of 545,000 cars, while saving homeowners billions in utility bills.