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Cookstove projects save communities money and promote health
20-11-2013
Robert Stevens, ClimateCare

Is sustainable travel an oxymoron? Essential business travel is unavoidable and yes, it generates carbon emissions. Once you've put in place policies to cut unnecessary meetings and use public transport where possible, what else can you do? Whilst many still debate the merits of carbon offsetting as a means to take responsibility for this environmental impact, it seems that for many sustainable business leaders, the discussion has already moved on.


According to climate and development expert Edward Hanrahan, "Businesses today are looking for ways to take responsibility for their impacts across many areas -" yes carbon footprints are important, but equally important is the need to address impacts on local water and resources, habitats and communities. A growing trend is to support integrated projects that deliver measurable carbon reductions and support wider corporate responsibility goals."


One example of this switch is the recent surge in support for clean cookstove projects. A recent report, Manoeuvring the Mosaic: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2013, found that support for clean cooking projects has increased 80% since 2011.
So what is it about supporting cookstove projects such as this that ticks so many boxes for today's responsible business?


According to the UN's Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, almost 3 billion people still use solid fuel to cook their food and heat their homes. It's largely women and children that are exposed to the harmful smoke this generates and which claims the lives of around 4 million people every year -" more than tuberculosis and malaria combined.


Efficient cookstoves can reduce this household air pollution, making cooking safer and healthier. They also use less fuel, saving money that can be better spent on food and education. Many projects also inject further benefit into local communities by creating hundreds of permanent, local jobs manufacturing and retailing the stoves.


And it's not just positive outcomes for local communities; the local environment is also protected. For example, less wood is needed for fuel, so fast-depleting forests are protected. Carbon emissions are reduced and there is a sharp drop in the production of black carbon, or soot in the atmosphere -" a major contributor to climate change.


As the BBC's Roger Harrabin discovered recently when he looked at how improved cookstoves can reduce black carbon and safeguard eyes and lungs, they really are 'a wonder gadget'.


NGO Relief International run the Gyapa Stoves project in Ghana. To date local communities have not only benefited from reduced exposure to hazardous air pollutants, but have saved more than $22 million dollars in fuel costs. More than 500 local jobs have been created and the project has saved nearly half a million tonnes of CO2.


Jaguar Land Rover and Aviva are two organisations that have taken a lead in developing the market for clean cookstoves. Back in 2007 Jaguar Land Rover seed funded the first carbon-funded cookstove project in Uganda, which has now delivered stoves to over 300,000 families and created more than 1000 local jobs. Winner of BITC (Business in the Community) Responsible Business of the Year 2013, Jaguar Land Rover still supports this project as part of its annual commitment to offset manufacturing emissions with projects that also improve people's lives.


Aviva, the UK's largest insurer has supported cookstove projects since 2006 when it became carbon neutral, and more recently, Aviva made the business case for supporting cookstove projects even more compelling by applying the LBG methodology to a project for the first time. This gave them a robust measurement of lives improved as well as carbon emissions reduced, that they could report alongside their wider community investment activity.


Since 2011, Portman Travel has offset carbon emissions through ClimateCare, supporting its innovative climate and development projects including cookstove projects in Uganda and Ghana. Portman also supports the exciting LifeStraw Carbon for Water project, which provides safe drinking water to over 4 million people in Kenya, reducing their exposure to waterborne diseases as well as protecting the environment.


So perhaps now's the time to take another look at the role of offsetting, and rather than ruling it out as difficult or unfashionable, consider instead how to wrap it up into your support for integrated projects like this, that deliver maximum impact for your budget and maximum benefit for the environment and people's lives.


ClimateCare is an expert in climate and development which helps businesses, governments and NGOs meet their environmental and sustainable development goals. To date ClimateCare has worked with partners to cut more than 15 million tonnes of carbon and improve the lives of 11.5 million people through its integrated climate and development projects, including distributing clean cookstoves to more than 750,000 families. Visit www.climatecare.org or email business@climatecare.org for more information.

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