Innovating smart energy products that improve lives globally.
Pushing the Social Impact Envelope, Thousands of Cook Stoves at a Time
Imagine living in a country that was not only named the world leader in deforestation* but where over 75% of the population relies on wood or charcoal for energy to cook. Faced with a rapidly growing population and shrinking resources for energy, the people of Nigeria needed alternate cooking solutions that would lessen their fuel consumption while also decreasing the harmful smoke emissions in their homes due to traditional cooking methods.
Enter Envirofit.org. Envirofit is an industry-leading social enterprise public benefit corporation based in Fort Collins, Colorado that innovates aspirational products and services that increase energy access for families living in emerging markets. Universal energy access requires scalable solutions. In 2003, Envirofit was founded on the idea that enterprise principles can transform the development of energy technologies in emerging markets and deliver impact at scale. With a goal of improving harmful traditional cooking methods, Envirofit set out to change the way energy products were designed for people living in emerging markets and to create life-transforming products that people desire and are willing to buy.
Developing the right solution for different people means integrating locally and addressing cultural boundaries to understand a community’s needs. Over the past decade Envirofit has designed and delivered clean cooking products and services for families as they transition up the energy ladder from wood to charcoal, to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Envirofit’s cooking products and services enable families to cook faster while reducing fuel use, smoke, and toxic emissions. To deliver local solutions, Envirofit has established regional headquarters and production facilities in East Africa, West Africa, Asia, and Latin America to build products based on each area’s unique requirements. These regional headquarters also support local economies by creating jobs and business opportunities.
In 2012, Envirofit opened a production facility in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, to produce high-quality cookstoves tailored to fit the Lagos communities. One of these primary needs is reducing the amount of fuel needed for cooking. “Our stoves have to show every household that they save heavily on fuel consumption for cooking,” stressed Envirofit’s Country Director, Biodun Olaore.
In addition to making cooking more affordable, the stoves provide many other benefits. In Nigeria, cooking is regarded not only as a daily routine to put food on the table, but also as a cultural practice highlighting traditional cooking methods to carry on family legacy through generations. Unfortunately, research revealed that these traditional cooking methods can release toxins in the home that are equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. The Envirofit Lagos facility produces a line of wood and charcoal stoves that reduces a household’s toxic emissions by up to 68% while still reducing fuel consumption by up to 66%. This clean cooking technology has improved the quality of life for over 250,000 people in Nigeria.
The local production of these energy-efficient clean cookstoves also provides the added benefit of creating jobs in a country with a 14% unemployment rate. “Employees are proud to be part of this innovative product being manufactured in Nigeria, by them,” says Olaore. “This has also brought a means of livelihood to the youth, as the bulk of our employees are the economically active youths.”
In 2017, Envirofit launched SmartGas, a new service that is revolutionizing access to LPG through the first and only commercially available SmartMeter technology. SmartGas allows families to pay-as-you-cook using mobile money, making cooking faster, easier, and more convenient. These technological advancements allow families to pay for services they need on a daily or weekly basis. By allowing customers to borrow smaller sums and eschew rigid repayment schedules, the advent of SmartGas opens more possibilities for reaching the underserved more than ever before. Envirofit plans to grow this service in the future to help more families transition up the energy ladder.
When Envirofit started, the concept of social enterprise was a new business model at the time. The company wanted to accomplish their social mission leveraging a market-based approach that would allow them to be self-sustaining rather than rely on donations. They chose a .ORG domain for their website because it clearly aligns with their primary identity as a social venture committed to serving a global community. “We had considered the possibility of using a .com, but it just didn’t feel right to us,” explains Jessica Alderman, Director of Communications, “.ORG, with its focus on doing good and making the world a better place, was a natural fit.”
Today, Envirofit is a growing and successful business that has brought clean cooking solutions to 10 million people around the world. By focusing on listening to their customers and adapting clean cooking technology to fit their customers’ needs, Envirofit will continue to pursue their mission until everyone has access to clean cooking energy.
*Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), State of the World’s Forests 2005
Our mission is to create products that reduce pollution and energy dependency while yielding health, environmental and economic improvements.
- In 2007 Envirofit partnered with The Shell Foundation’s Breathing Space Program to develop clean cook stoves.
- Envirofit International’s first commercial clean cook stove model was produced in India in 2008.
- In 2009, Lorenz and Bauer were named Heroes of the Environment by Time Magazine.
- In 2013, The Economist named the Envirofit founder as innovators of the year.
- Serving more than 8 million people in energy poverty, Envirofit’s smart stoves reduce climate change, create new jobs, and enable families to save money.