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ZHAW Sustainable Impact Program - Impact Entrepreneurship

Do you have a business idea that solves a social or ecological problem? Find out more about promoting sustainable ideas at the ZHAW.

With its Sustainable Impact Program, ZHAW wants to promote sustainability projects and initiatives by students and staff members. In this way, it aims to make an effective contribution to overcoming both local and global challenges in the field of sustainable development. The program supports young entrepreneurs with a project idea who want to make a difference in society.

By participating in the Impact Entrepreneurship Initiative, you pass through the following three stages on your journey from awareness to incubation: “Sustainability Safari” – “Sustainability Hack” – “Sustainability Incubation Program”.


The “Sustainability Safari” consists of two site visits per semester to impact start-ups, social enterprises, or start-up support organizations. These visits offer you the opportunity to broaden your horizons and expand your network. By giving the potential young entrepreneurs insights into a wide variety of methods and approaches in the startup ecosystem, they also help strengthen the practical relevance of the project ideas. The sustainability safaris are intended to inspire and motivate people in developing and implementing their own impact ideas.

Info and registration for the Sustainability Safari from 27 May. 2021

Sustainability Hack

The “Sustainability Hack” takes place once a semester. Students from universities in the greater Zurich area address various challenges, predefined by the participating schools of ZHAW, in the context of current sustainability issues. This stage involves specific coaching and workshops, where participants learn more about topics such as the development of business models, entrepreneurship, and design thinking in the area of impact entrepreneurship. Working out solutions together creates a stimulating exchange between students and members of staff. The most promising ideas and solutions are accepted into the Sustainability Incubation Program, where the impact ideas are developed further.

Sustainability Incubation Program

In the Sustainability Incubation Program, up to three promising start-up cases (impact ideas) by ZHAW students and members of staff are fostered to prepare them for the entrepreneurial world. This includes project ideas intended to have a meaningful effect on society and make a positive impact. They may, for example, increase the quality of life (social impact) or help to solve an environmental problem (ecological impact). One of the main features of this program is the individual support and advice that selected young entrepreneurs receive from a personal coach.

What do "Impact Entrepreneurs" do?

Impact startups have lofty goals. They want to tackle social issues such as poverty or the problems of climate change or environmental pollution in an entrepreneurial way. They try to find sustainable solutions to these problems and thus contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). First and foremost, they maximize social benefit rather than financial profit. Nevertheless, or precisely because of this, "social businesses" also generate sales and operate efficiently and profitably. For the implementation of their impact idea, impact entrepreneurs need funds and motivated employees and partners who are in it for the long term, so that their idea can take root and thus have a lasting, positive effect on society. "Impact" as a concept has become an integral part of our everyday life and is continuously gaining importance in society - and therefore for each and every one of us.

Impact entrepreneurship activities are not limited to individual industries, disciplines, or areas. They arise from the diversity of sometimes very different areas of life. Examples are:

What We Offer

  1. Sustainability Safari:
    Visits to impact startups, social enterprises, and support organizations create practical relevance, inspiration, and a network.
  2. Sustainability Hack:
    Mini-hacks to sustainability challenges (e.g., related to the SDGs) are discussed to familiarize young entrepreneurs with topics such as the development of business models, entrepreneurship, and design thinking.
  3. Sustainability Incubation Program:
    Supports up to three teams per year, Start-up acceleration and support over a period of 6-12 months, Co-working space: 1-4 free workstations at the Runway (Technopark Winterthur), Access to Innosuisse start-up courses (company formation/growth), Access to the Runway community and its network, Individual coaching: Coach with topic/start-up experience - personal coaching, Specific specialist advice from ZHAW experts and partners, Training & workshops


The Sustainable Impact Program is implemented as part of the ZHAW Sustainability Strategy. With this offer, ZHAW sustainable promotes promising initiatives for sustainable development by ZHAW students and members of staff.