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The concept of sustainable development has become a highly visible and central part of commercial activities for many companies.

But what is it?

The Sustainable Development Commission, the UK government’s independent adviser on this issue, defines sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The concept is open to  interpretation, but, in essence, it is a framework for development that balances different and often competing needs against an awareness of environmental, social and economic limitations.

Shell’s contribution to sustainable development is about both what it does, i.e., supplying energy to meet growing needs, which, in turn, helps to support economic growth and development, and how it does it, i.e., bringing safety, environmental issues and local communities to the heart of its business.

For example, at a local level, Shell projects and facilities are a part of many communities around the world.

The organisation aims to have a positive effect in those communities and, through its business, can create jobs and business opportunities, and support community development projects.

Shell also supports community development projects directly and indirectly through the Shell Foundation.

Established in 2000, this independent, UK-registered charity has applied business thinking to tackling global development challenges.

It focuses on job creation by small enterprises, making supply chains more sustainable, improving urban design and transport systems, and enabling access to energy services and products.

Access to modern energy continues to be a major challenge in many parts of the developing world.

Worldwide, nearly three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook their meals or heat their homes, according to the World Health Organization.

In addition, daily exposure to harmful smoke from traditional cooking practices is one of the world’s biggest, but least known, killers.

Building on the Shell Foundation’s support, Shell is providing $6 million in targeted funding to facilitate clean cookstove markets

Nearly four million people die prematurely each year from illnesses such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer that are related to indoor air pollution.

In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke levels can be 100 times higher than the acceptable level for small particles.

Exposure is particularly high among women and young children.

Traditional cooking practices also pose major challenges to economic development.

Fuel gathering is a time-consuming task that limits other more productive activities, for example, it takes children away from school.

In addition, in less secure environments, women and children may be at risk of injury and violence during fuel gathering.

The methane and sooty particles emitted by inefficient combustion in stoves are also powerful climate change pollutants.

Since 2002, the Shell Foundation has been a pioneer in addressing household air pollution and energy access through business thinking.

This represents a radical departure from the more traditional solutions, which have seen non-governmental organisations and governments give away or subsidise improved stoves.

The principle has been to use a market-based approach: fostering a global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions to make clean cooking more affordable and accessible.

Over the past decade, the Shell Foundation has invested over $30 million to help establish a viable clean cookstoves sector, which is benefitting more than four million people.

Over that time, the Foundation has helped to develop and scale up one of the world’s leading clean cookstoves businesses, Envirofit International, and is tackling critical market barriers such as product design and  affordability; fostering market demand; and creating new distribution channels to reach the poorest customers.

In 2010, Shell and the Shell Foundation jointly founded the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

The Alliance aims to improve access to cleaner energy solutions for the world’s poorest people and has the goal of enabling 100 million homes worldwide to adopt clean cooking solutions by 2020.

Building on the Shell Foundation’s support, Shell is providing $6 million in targeted funding to facilitate clean cookstove markets.

This facilitation includes business expertise, for example, a secondee, to help develop global standards and make sure that customers can obtain good-quality cookstoves that are approved and tested in each local market.

David Martin, Shell Executive and Global Alliance Advisory Board member, says, “To date, our $6-million contribution to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has gone towards developing international standards for clean and efficient stoves, rigorous testing protocols and local testing centres.

We have focused our support on Nigeria, China, South Africa and East Timor, and we will work with the Alliance to expand this support over the coming years.”

Impact readers who completed a recent questionnaire made a welcome contribution to the funding of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves programme.

For each completed questionnaire, Shell Global Solutions donated to the Global Alliance.

Readers who took part in the survey raised a total of $1,200.