How to Develop a Pitch Deck for Sustainable Green Impact Investment

Using research models and findings from Middlesex University GreenFin Research Cluster, Robyn Owen created a learning activity for postgraduate students studying entrepreneurial finance. This activity requires students to demonstrate their understanding of the challenges and opportunities of seeking sustainable investment funding. They do this by creating a pitch deck.

Four students sit around a small table chatting and smiling.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Presenting an effective, credible, and environmentally sustainable pitch deck improves a green start-up’s chances of accessing impact investment. Venture capital investors, accelerators, business angels, and crowdfund contributors consider pitch decks a crucial part of the investment process.

Students worked in groups of four or five for three hours in one afternoon, although you could spread the tasks over more than one teaching session. During the first 45 minutes, I briefed students on the commercial background and academic research on sustainable green impact investing, most of which is available in this article.

The groups chose between two incomplete pitch decks from recent venture cases I had helped. The Resources section includes examples of where to find similar examples. Over 90 minutes, each group reviewed the pitch deck and prepared to present an improved version using no more than six slides.

Each group presented during the last 45 minutes, followed by questions from the other students and me. I gave qualitative feedback but did not grade their work.

Students commented positively about the exercise, saying it helped them connect classroom teaching with what is required in the real world.


Increasingly, new ventures are developing sustainable business models. For these ventures sustainability refers to their stated missions to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs are wide-ranging, incorporating social, environmental and governance issues. Arguably (Dasgupta Review, 2021, of all these goals, businesses should be at the forefront of saving the planet from climate catastrophe (SDG 13) and biodiversity loss in land (SDG 15) and water (SDG 14).

Many start-ups face difficulties in raising early-stage risk equity finance, often due to their lack of trading track record and collateral to support bank lending. So-called “Green start-ups” face the additional burden of proving their environmental impact credentials to potential funders (Reducing early-stage Cleantech funding gaps). A recent study conducted by GreenFin emphasizes the importance of clearly communicating their SDG goals and expected environmental impacts to potential investors.

There has been rapid growth of UK green impact investors. For example, the Green Angel Syndicate has trebled its investor membership since 2020, and there are new venture capital firms that address niche green sectors such as agricultural technology (“Agtech”). These impact investors want to “make a difference”, so they seek to ensure that their investments are not simply “greenwashing” but will shift the environmental performance of businesses. Consequently, screening potential investments for their environmental impacts is a significant hurdle for green start-ups to overcome.

Below is a summary of GreenFin’s guide on presenting an effective, environmentally credible, sustainable pitch deck.

What green impact investors actually look for

Viewers of Dragons’ Den will know that investors screen early-stage ventures for their potential market application and the likely scale of return on their investment. Much research debates the relative importance of the business concept or the management team’s competence.

A clear factor from the Middlesex University Cleantech investment research is that green impact investors are typically no different from other investors — they are not philanthropists who give their money away. Green impact investors seek high-performance returns and, in many cases, expect their cleantech investments to outperform other types of investment. The only difference is that they also want a positive environmental impact. 

Here are the essential pointers for a successful investment-ready venture, all of which are summarised in a pitch deck:

  • Return on investment — impact investors also look for environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts and green impact investors specifically look to environmental SDG mission goals.
  • Quality of management — signalling the team’s qualifications and relevant industry and management experience, including serial entrepreneurship success, will inspire investor trust.
  • Clear value proposition and returns — demonstrating a structured business concept, with staged development and potential market scalability, is crucial.
  • Clarity of presentation/application — overcoming the information asymmetries and technical complexities by avoiding jargon and clearly stating the market problem and the proposed solution.
  • Willingness to share ownership and work with the investors—investors will take an equity share of the business and regularly review business progress to ensure that the management team can achieve progression milestones, such as technology readiness levels (TRLs). Where management lacks skills, investors may step in or, for example, appoint non-executive directors. 
  • Exit strategy timetable — understanding follow-on funding requirements and the end game: investment horizon, trade sale, licensing, or IPO.
  • Reduce environmental impact — highlight how the business will, for example, introduce new and improved approaches that demonstrably address climate change and net zero, circular economy use of products and raw materials, or biodiversity loss. 

Notably, financial forecasts and models are always required but seldom the deciding factor: 

Financial forecasts are not the main factor . . . we need to believe in the team and the business scalability.

Experienced seed environmental impact venture capitalist.

The role of pitch decks 

Pitch decks are a presentational tool to facilitate new and scale-up venture investment pitches for external funding. They offer a concise PowerPoint-style slide presentation summarising the venture to potential investors. A pitch deck alone will not secure investment — it must be accompanied by a more detailed business plan and financial projections. It can, however, help the proposal stand out from the crowd in attracting investor interest.

A pitch deck is a form of venture promotion to potential investors. A successful presentation may lead to more detailed negotiations.  It is worth noting that investors receive hundreds of applications annually and only meet with a small proportion, often less than 10% and eventually invest in about 2%.

Basic rules

Pitch decks are formulaic, and there is general consensus on what they should contain:

  • Use no more than 12 slides for a presentation of approximately 10 minutes.
  • Keep messages simple, clear and on brand.
  • Use attractive visuals to get the messages across. One option is to use simple, pre-recorded short video links for concise and eye-catching messaging.

Content and order of presentation

  • Title page – presenting the company name, logo/branding and strapline
  • Elevator pitch – one executive summary slide which encapsulates the pitch (which will capture interest and demonstrate the market niche and value of the venture proposition)
  • Present the market problem
  • Size of the target market
  • Venture solution – how the venture works
  • Business model – accessibility, operation and pricing
  • Marketing strategy – scalability timetable
  • Competition – business offer versus immediate competition
  • Business projections
  • Founding team – experience, qualities
  • Funding received, required now and in the future, with a progression timeline and potential business valuation for investor exit


While ‘green’ impact investors are undoubtedly interested in their financial returns, what differentiates them from standard investors is their desire to invest in environmentally positive ventures ‘that will make a difference’. This requires selecting suitable environmental impact indicators that can be measured against current industry baselines to demonstrate improved environmental performance.

A good starting point is to badge the presentation with clear UN SDG mission statement objectives. Currently, the clearest indicators include climate and net zero (CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions), and the circular economy and earth gain (reduced material input and waste and product maintenance, lifespan, re-use and recyclability).

From a wider environmental perspective, consideration should be given to the scope of environmental impacts of the business. The following terms are generally understood:

  • Scope 1: premises and onsite activities,
  • Scope 2: energy use (amount and whether renewable), and
  • Scope 3: supply chains and whether physical materials and services are sourced locally and transported by green, low-carbon carriers.

From a health and biodiversity perspective, attention should be given to the reduction in pollution such as NOx, VOCs and PMs (micro plastics and rubbers) that affect human and animal health and land and water quality. Environmental mitigation activities should be set out and where possible, their positive environmental impacts such as clean water and improved land habitat should be presented.

Final thoughts

Environmental sustainability should be at the heart of all business activity. However, it is particularly critical for businesses advancing solutions that seek to save our planet and address climate change or biodiversity loss. These entrepreneurs and their investors require greater guidance and support.

In particular, problems remain for more complex ventures addressing the circular economy and biodiversity. Businesses are formulating theories of change for industries where baseline data are still being created, so it is difficult to establish science-based credible benchmarks. However, these are emerging through the work of the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and DEFRA’s biodiversity metric (habitat) metric for Biodiversity Net Gain, which became a standard for UK development in February 2024.

The advice is to draw on these resources to develop metrics demonstrating the venture case and win over investors. You can access more comprehensive guidance in the evolving Middlesex University How To Guide: Climate and Nature Positive Investment.

About the author

Professor Robyn Owen is Co-Leader of Middlesex University GreenFin Research Cluster and Deputy Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Environment and Development Research (CEEDR).

She is currently Principal Investigator in a three-year programme of UKRI Natural Environment Research Council Research into UK SME Nature Positive Finance.

Her specialism is entrepreneurial green finance and early-stage innovation finance.

Useful resources and references

Owen R, Lyon F, Burnett A and Lodh S, (2022). SME Financing for Biodiversity: Building Nature Measurement and Impacts into SME Financing (‘SME FinBio’). Centre for Enterprise, Environment and Development Research (CEEDR) and GreenFin Research Cluster, Middlesex University, London.

Owen R, Burnett A and Harrer T (2022). A how-to guide on climate and nature positive investment. Centre for Enterprise, Environment and Development Research (CEEDR) and GreenFin Research Cluster, Middlesex University, London.

Owen et al (2020). Redefining SME productivity Measurement and Assessment for a Low Carbon Economy. Report for the Productivity Insights Network (see pages 29-34)

Owen R, Harrer T, Lodh S, Simon M, Pates R, Pikkat K (2020). Redefining SME Productivity Measurement and Assessment for a Low Carbon Economy. Report for the Productivity Insights Network (see pages 29-34).

Harrer T and Owen R (2022) Reducing early-stage Cleantech funding gaps: an exploration of the role of Environmental Performance Indicators. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research.

McCready R (2023) 30+ Best Pitch Deck Examples & Templates from Famous Startups. Venngage Inc.

Strategic Sustainability Consulting (2016) Use a “Pitch Deck” Format for Your Sustainability Project.


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