Shell Foundation : Enterprise Solutions to Scale

Shell Foundation is an independent charitable foundation that was established by Royal Dutch Shell in 2000 to catalyse scalable and sustainable solutions to global development challenges.

It applies business thinking to a range a range of social and environmental issues linked to the energy industry – harnessing links to its corporate founder where possible to deliver greater development impact.

An ‘Enterprise-based’ Approach

The magnitude of global poverty requires solutions that reach billions rather than millions of people. Yet finding solutions that are effective on this scale is extremely difficult.

We believe that “enterprise-based solutions” are by far the most efficient way to generate development impact at scale in ways that are independent of charitable aid or subsidy in the long-term.

For us this means finding innovative ways to:

  • identify the market failures that prevent products and services with the potential to support sustainable development from reaching the poor
  • co-create new business models with long-term ‘social enterprise’ partners, both for-profit and non-profit, to service these markets, and
  • provide “more than money” business development support to help these partners develop the skills, capacity and incentives to operate at scale and achieve financial independence.

We believe that creating pioneers and building new markets can remove barriers to development – and contribute to sustainable employment and equitable economic growth.

Targeting Scale and Sustainability

By learning from both success and failure since our inception, Shell Foundation has evolved a new model to deliver sustainable impact at scale.

We now have several long-term strategic partners that serve large numbers of people across many countries and continents, addressing markedly different development challenges such as sustainable job creation, urban mobility, access to energy, clean cooking and sustainable supply chains.

A woman cooks using traditional ‘chulha’

Cleaner Cooking: a major social, economic and environmental challenge

Nearly half the people in India cook their daily meals on open fires or on traditional, inefficient cookstoves. This creates high fuel costs and thick toxic smoke which results in nearly 500,000 deaths each year and contributes to climate change.

Since 2002 Shell Foundation has been working to create a viable market for “clean” cookstoves in India: stoves that significantly reduce fuel usage, fuel emissions and cooking time.

In 2007 Shell Foundation co-founded Envirofit as a global strategic partner to design, produce and distribute clean cookstoves. With over 300,000 stoves sold, Envirofit is now the clean cookstove market leader across India.

A man unloading plants from his motorbike

Access to Reliable Electricity

480 million Indians still don’t have regular access to reliable electricity. Since 2008, Shell Foundation has been working with a team of talented entrepreneurs in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, to scale up a rural electrification company called Husk Power Systems. The company generates electricity through the gasification of rice husk – an abundant waste feedstock found throughout India’s rice belt – and sells that electricity on a pay-as-you-go basis to local communities.

With over 80 power plants, Husk Power Systems now serve over 200,000 people in Bihar state – with plans to expand to nationwide over the next year.

A man unloading plants from his motorbike
Buses and cars from overhead

Sustainable solutions to urban mobility problems in developing world cities

Co-created in 2002 by Shell Foundation and the World Resources Institute, EMBARQ is a global network of transport experts that finds sustainable solutions to urban mobility problems in over populated developing world cities. EMBARQ India’s team has worked with the Ministry of Urban Development, other government institutions and several cities to ensure that high quality infrastructure and systems are implemented – and that appropriate capacity is built locally to manage and expand these sustainable mobility systems.

In Ahmedabad, for example, EMBARQ has helped implement projects including the 27-km expansion of a dedicated lane for extended buses that now carry more than100,000 passengers a day.

Volunteers speaking to villagers

Last mile retail distribution to rural India

Shell Foundation is working with the rural marketing company, Project Dharma, a social enterprise established in September 2009, to serve the needs of rural households at the Bottom of the Pyramid by creating a rural distribution network providing customised products and services sold at a socially affordable price point.  The company provides income generating opportunities for rural entrepreneurs and consumers in order to create sustainable livelihoods at the rural level.

Woman carrying bale of cotton over her shoulder

Creating More Sustainable Global Cotton Supply Chains

CottonConnect was established in 2009 as a company with a social purpose, in collaboration with European retailer C&A and Textile Exchange (formerly Organic Exchange), to work with retailers and brands to make the world’s cotton supply chains more sustainable.

CottonConnect provides training to Indian farmers in Gujarat on sustainable farming best practice and provides links to major international retailers who are interested in sourcing sustainable cotton as well as optimising their supply chains.

To-date CottonConnect has worked with over 50,000 farmers in India.

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