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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

The participants of the first cohort of CISL's and BSI's trust in sustainability accelerator are sitting in an event room, all concentrating and smiling at an unseen presenter, as they enjoy a day in London of learning and practising their pitches.


Join this year-long programme to access training and expertise that will help accelerate the growth of your business, further develop your solution, find your product-market fit, and provide mentorship and networking opportunities. 


The programme kicks off in-person on 17-18 September 2024, followed by weekly virtual sessions and monthly in-person events.  

The accelerator section of the programme runs from mid-September to December 2024, with one-on-one mentoring support continuing through to August 2025.  

Who’s it for?

Startups with a digital solution that can build trust and deliver best practices for voluntary carbon markets.


Duration: September 2024  - August  2025 

Application deadline: Thursday 25 July 2024 

Early-bird applicant interviews (virtual): Monday 15 July, Tuesday 16 July 2024

Interviews (virtual): Friday 2 August, Monday 5 August, Tuesday 6 August 2024

Launch Event (in person): 17 – 18 September 2024  

Applications for this programme are open 

N.B. Please ensure you have availability for the Early-bird interview dates in July and the interview dates in August when submitting your application, we will not be interviewing people outside the dates displayed above. 


Join this programme to access training, expertise, mentoring, and networking opportunities designed to transform your digital solutions into robust product offerings. Gain support from the University of Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and the British Standards Institution (BSI) putting you in the right position to create impact and trust in the voluntary carbon market.  


What is this programme about?

Addressing our economic, social, and environmental challenges is a top priority. To reach our goals and ensure a sustainable future, we must leverage all available tools.  

Voluntary carbon markets can play a role for positive impact beyond a company's value chain by supporting global climate and environmental goals and providing social benefits for the communities involved. However lack of trust is a significant barrier to the growth and scaling of the market – recent investigations have shown that projects' benefits have sometimes been overestimated, and there a lack of transparency and coordination in a complex and fragmented market. There is a need to find solutions that ensure verifiable positive impact while avoiding greenwashing. 

Building on the success of last year's inaugural Trust in Sustainability programme, CISL's Canopy and BSI Sustainability Innovation Lab are seeking to showcase and develop innovative solutions for voluntary carbon markets.  

The British Standards Institution's (BSI) purpose is to deliver impact for a fair society and a sustainable world. BSI is already working with partners to provide more consistency and guidance across voluntary carbon markets, for example through its role on the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM). BSI is also working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to develop principles that bring clarity and consistency to UK nature markets. 

This programme, hosted at CISL's Entopia Building in Cambridge, will allow you to harness the joint experience and expertise of BSI and CISL to support the growth of your innovative and sustainable business, and the adaption and scaling of disruptive solutions in the voluntary carbon market.  

Our support includes: 

  • Developing your sustainability vision to guide your business  

  • Refining and enhancing your product offering  

  • Embedding best practices into your operational processes  

  • Joining a community of sustainable startups at the CISL Canopy Workspace  

  • Networking with an international community of leading sustainability experts and investors  


Who’s it for?

Startups with a digital solution that can build trust and deliver best practice for voluntary carbon markets. This could be through, but is not limited to, solutions that: 

  • Measure, monitor and model the impacts of carbon market projects 

  • Verify project claims 

  • Ensure viability and transparency among all stakeholders 

  • Enable more sustainable decision making by purchasers 


Why is this programme right for you?

  • Leverage the resources and network of leading industry experts from BSI and CISL to advance your product offering.  

  • Enjoy a year's membership at CISL's Canopy workspace, where you'll join a community of like-minded sustainability startups. Gain support and feedback to ensure you "get things right."  

  • Seize the opportunity to grow your business with market insights and gain a potential pilot project with BSI (subject to evaluation and discussion).  



This programme will offer both online and in-person elements over 12 months.

It will kick off with an in-person event on Tuesday 17 September - Wednesday 18 September in Cambridge.

It features an accelerator segment from September to December 2024, with weekly virtual sessions and monthly in-person events, followed by one-on-one mentoring support through to August 2025.

In-person sessions will take place at either CISL’s Cambridge headquarters, the Entopia Building, or in London.

We strive to balance in-person and virtual components to ensure founders gain the maximum benefit from the programme.  

Participants will receive continuous one-to-one mentoring support throughout the programme and a Canopy membership (6 months full-time and 6 months flexi). This membership provides:

  • Access to a central Cambridge workspace.
  • Canopy community programmes & events outside this accelerator
  • Networking opportunities within CISL’s 40,000+ member sustainability network.    

Additionally, participants may have the opportunity to partner with BSI on a pilot project, subject to evaluation and discussion.  


Join us for a Q&A webinar about the programme

On Tuesday 2 July, 1300-1400, we are hosting a webinar with programme directors and alumni to give you an overview of the programme and answer your questions.

Join us to understand more about the context of this accelerator and hear from alumnus Anna Roberts (iov42) about her experience.

This will be followed by a Q&A section of the webinar where you can ask our key contributors what you can expect from Trust in Sustainability II. 


Hear from last year's cohort

"If you want to feel inspired and learn from professors who are leaders in their field and who introduce you to a new way of thinking then this is the programme for you. What’s more, the CISL programme team are extremely well connected and introduce you to mentors and customers that can propel your start-up."

Francesca Kennedy Wallbank, Senior Sustainability Manager & 3 x Founder


"CISL's Trust in Sustainability accelerator has significantly impacted HACE in such positive ways. The community of other startups and mentors has helped us to become more established in the world of sustainability, whilst also acting as everything from advisors to field experts to friends. There is a true passion for both entrepreneurship and sustainability in the programme, which is incredibly inspiring. The cohort continues to bring fresh and innovative perspectives to our work and has been invaluable to the growth of HACE. As a small start-up, the programme’s collective contribution to the business has been critical and we can’t wait to see where our ongoing partnership with both CISL and BSI goes."

Eleanor HarryHACE Chief Executive Officer


"Joining CISL Canopy & BSI's Trust in Sustainability accelerator has been very powerful for us as a growing company. The time with cohort members and mentors has been incredibly helpful at validating our approach as a business. As a small organisation you can sometimes feel rather ‘alone’, but the sense of support and engagement from the wider CISL and BSI networks has been very encouraging and helped us feel part of something bigger - a movement for digital trust in sustainability. Alongside my colleagues, I’ve truly appreciated the quality time that people have given us; CISL has created an excellent support network of friends and partners who can offer fresh perspectives, sage advice and supportive challenge. Through our participation we’ve been given the confidence to double down on our focus area as an organisation, whilst also being presented with potential new opportunities which we would not have discovered through our business as usual operations."

Anna Roberts, Head of Market Development at iov42  


"CISL Canopy has been instrumental in propelling SkenarioLabs forward on our journey. Through their Trust in Sustainability programme with the BSI, we've gained invaluable insights, mentorship, and access to resources that have accelerated our growth trajectory. The connections we've made within the CISL Canopy community have been invaluable, opening doors to new opportunities and collaborations that we wouldn't have accessed otherwise."

Tom Somers, UK Director of SkenarioLabs


"Our time at the Canopy during the programme was exceptional, especially as we delved deep into discussions on building trust in sustainability. Working in a building that embodies sustainability principles was incredibly inspiring in itself. The sessions led by industry experts and CISL lecturers were timely as we refined our strategy. Additionally, being part of the CISL network gave us access to a network spanning academia and industry, perfectly aligned with our target market."

Drishdey Caullychurn, MBA, Founder and CEO of TEXpert AI




About BSI

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is a long standing and trusted organisational partner with a reputation for driving progress towards a sustainable world. Incorporated by Royal Charter and with 84,000 clients in 193 countries ranging from globally recognised brands to small local businesses, BSI embeds frameworks, best practices and solutions that create trust between consumers, companies, and governments. The BSI Sustainability Innovation Lab is at the forefront of the innovation and development that is needed to deliver clear, positive impacts for wider society. The Lab accelerates the adoption of disruptive digital solutions that bring trust to sustainability, and enable more sustainable decision making. Offering a creative and collaborative environment, the Lab promotes strategic partnerships any organisations can benefit from BSI’s 120 years of knowledge and expertise to transform their business models and create new customer solutions.


The Delivery Team

Viola Jardon

Viola is currently working as a Senior Programme Manager with CISL Canopy where she has worked with more than 150 early-stage start-ups with sustainability innovations. Her expertise and experience are in business innovation, go-to-market strategy and sustainability storytelling for the creative industry, tech industry, and the built environment. She is a business mentor for Tech Nation, Digital Catapult, Plug & Play, MSDUK and L Marks Corporate Accelerators and a business advisor for a few tech businesses. Before joining CISL, she was part of the founding team establishing the London Fashion Fund, which supported start-ups and entrepreneurs to address innovation and sustainability in the fashion industry. 


Sam Laakkonen

Senior Programme Director of the Canopy & Accelerator Team at CISL, Sam started his career as a management consultant in the City of London. He was headhunted to his first startup, FirstMark Communications Europe, which raised one of the largest Series A rounds in European history, over $1 billion. He has since been an early employee at Spotify, privately invested in 25+ startups, had 3 further exits from his own companies, helped 250+ startups accelerate growth, and works as an expert for the European Commission to distribute EIC equity and grant funding. Sam has been active in the Techstars ecosystem for a number of years, having been an Entrepreneur-In-Residence for Techstars Amsterdam, and a Lead Mentor on a number of programmes including Techstars Lisbon, Techstars Korea, Techstars Boulder and Techstars Energy in Oslo.


Zoë Loughlin

Zoë manages the Canopy, CISL’s Cambridge workspace and global community for impact-driven startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Zoë has over 10 years experience working in sustainability across the public and third sector and in the innovation ecosystem. She has specialised knowledge on waste reduction, recycling and sustainable food systems, previously working at Sustain (the Alliance for Better Food and Farming), the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership, WasteWatch, Glopolis, and Green Alliance. Zoë also cofounded a social enterprise focused on food waste reduction and held voluntary positions as Hub leader at Cambridge FoodCycle and on the Board for Cambridge Sustainable Food. Zoë joined CISL in 2016 as part of the Marketing, Communications and Corporate Relations team, working across programme marketing, external communications, publications, Network development, and the Unilever Young Entrepreneur Awards, before moving to her current position in 2022. Zoë has a BA in Geography from the University of Leeds, and a certificate in Business Sustainability Management from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

Wendy Niu

Wendy leads BSI's Sustainability Innovation Lab in Cambridge. She started her career at Innovia Technology, a global innovation consultancy, where she specialised in managing complex, multidisciplinary projects across a number of sectors, covering areas such as innovation strategy, product development and prototyping, and consumer-facing communications. She has also worked at the Royal Society of Chemistry, where she developed and managed activities to advance the chemical sciences, including "Digital Futures", a cross-organisational programme on the role of data and digital technologies in the future of science R&D. Wendy has a background in physics, with a PhD in Nanoscience from the University of Cambridge.