PhD defence: Ecosystems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship


On Friday 14 June 2024 at 14.15 hrs., Jip Leendertse will defend his PhD thesis Ecosystems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

Sustainable startups are new ventures in which the development of a business (profit) is combined with the preservation of the social (people) and natural (planet) environment.  They can play an important role in solving major environmental societal challenges by introducing new sustainable technologies and business models.

However, the sustainable entrepreneurs, compared to regular startups, also have additional challenges in establishing their business and in creating good business performance. The potential of the startup depends on the extent to which they can overcome these limitations. In his dissertation, Jip Leendertse shows how sustainable startups can do this and how they can be supported in this.

A sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem

Leendertse concludes that an entrepreneurial ecosystem for sustainable start-ups consists of generic elements that apply to all start-ups (such as favourable regulations for entrepreneurs, the availability of forms of venture capital, or the available talent in a region) and sustainability specific elements. For example specific knowledge about sustainability, the presence of existing organizations that are actively involved in sustainability and the extent to which environmental pollution is burdened. Together, they form the sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Leendertse's research shows that the quality of the generic entrepreneurial ecosystem (i.e. not the sustainability-related elements) is the most important factor in explaining the presence of sustainable startups. And: that these factors are more important for sustainable startups than for regular startups.

Challenges for sustainable startups

Sustainable startups face additional challenges, making them more dependent on their environment. Compared to regular startups, they need more funding. They often do not fit into existing laws and regulations or with the prevailing norms and values. In addition, they have to balance environmental and business goals. And because the market doesn't take into account the negative externalities (such as pollution) that sustainable startups solve, it's harder for them to get paid for their products.

Leendertse also shows that the presence of sustainable startups is positively influenced by the presence of other (regular) startups, the presence of sustainability-related formal institutions (such as the share of tax revenues from environmental taxes) and to some extent by sustainability-related informal institutions (such as how important citizens consider climate change). Sustainability-oriented actors such as businesses, NGOs, research institutes and universities, as well as resources such as patents containing sustainability-related knowledge, also play an important role.

First focus on a strong generic entrepreneurial ecosystem

Policymakers can use the results of this research to develop policies aimed at building ecosystems for sustainable entrepreneurship in their region. They can make efforts to improve both the generic entrepreneurial ecosystem and the sustainability specific elements. For example, by improving the availability of investment capital, improving regulations for general companies, or making it more attractive to become more sustainable through regulation.

Leendertse advises to initially focus on building a strong generic entrepreneurial ecosystem, precisely because the quality of entrepreneurial ecosystems is more important for sustainable than for regular startups.

Jip Leendertse is a post doc at TU Delft and a PhD student at the Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.) and the Copernicus Insititute of Sustainable Development.

Start date and time
End date and time
University Hall, Domplein 29 Utrecht and online
PhD candidate
J. Leendertse
Ecosystems for Sustainable Entrepreneurship
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. F.C. Stam
Dr. F.J. van Rijnsoever