Embedding environmental sustainability in the start-up ecosystem

Business activities have a massive effect on environmental conservation, and start-up companies represent a significant part of the future of business. This project will develop a proof of concept to demonstrate how to build capacity amongst entrepreneurs, their supporters and financial backers to integrate sustainability into business models from the outset.

Project Aims

The long term vision of the project is to embed sustainability into the start-up ecosystem, reflected by an increase in the number of start-ups incorporating sustainability considerations into their business models and the number of investors and supporters demanding sustainability performance from their investments. However, the aim of this initial project is simply to demonstrate proof of concept – to identify what information would be most useful to feed into future businesses and how to feed it in to the key audiences.

Key Activities

  • Assessing current levels of awareness and engagement amongst start-ups and their investors in Cambridge through semi-structured face to face and online questionnaires
  • Development of materials for assisting start-ups and investors to better integrate sustainability concepts
  • Identification and testing of potential models for piloting, replicating and scaling up the integration of sustainability into start-up companies

Conservation Impact

Business activities are one of the primary drivers of conservation impacts, with the top 3000 companies responsible for an estimated $2+ trillion environmental damage. Reducing these impacts from key sectors is an objective of many conservation strategies, but one sector that has been neglected is the start-up sector. This is despite the fact that many of today’s start-ups are likely to be tomorrow’s dominant forces in business, and the fact that the changes businesses need to be making are much easier to make before a business becomes established. This project aims to address this gap.


A final report summarising:

  • the findings of the surveys of entrepreneurs and investors regarding existing sustainability capacity and future requirements,
  • the materials developed
  • the findings of the trialling of distribution methods and pilot studies,
  • recommendations for future development, scale up and replication.

Teaching materials

CCI partners Involved

Tropical Biology Association is dedicated to building the capacity and expertise of people and institutions to conserve and manage biodiversity in tropical regions. Its network spans 40 countries.
Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) is part of the Cambridge University Engineering Department. The IfM integrates research and education with practical application in industry. It disseminates its...
The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) works with business, government and civil society to build the capacity of leaders to address global sustainability challenges. Seminars,...
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs....
Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) provides innovative business management and entrepreneurial learning across a portfolio of undergraduate, graduate and executive programmes. Research...

Other Organisations Involved