Investments in this strategy aim to provide cleaner, more efficient cookstoves to women while also giving them income-generation opportunities as business owners and entrepreneurs at the center of the clean cookstoves value chain. The below overview and associated metrics pack are intended as a gender lens complement to the Navigating Impact Clean Energy Access theme.


Dimensions of Impact: WHAT

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider the scale of the addressable problem, what positive outcomes might be, and how important the change would be to the people (or planet) experiencing it.

Key questions in this dimension include:

What is the problem the investment is trying to address? For the people experiencing the problem, how important is this change?

Worldwide, women are the primary users of cookstoves, often bearing familial responsibility to prepare meals and secure cooking fuel, such as firewood. As a result, women take time away every day from education or income-generating activities to collect cooking fuel, which requires as many as four hours per day travelling long distances alone and by foot, and puts women at increased risk of gender-based violence (1). They also cook in often poorly-ventilated kitchens, exposing them in the process to household air pollution that kills nearly four million people annually and causes cancer, pneumonia, heart and lung disease, and blindness (1). In addition, inefficient cookstoves can be unsafe, causing household fires and burns.

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, cooking is one of the most dangerous daily activities for women in the developing world (2).
Investments in clean cookstoves can address challenges that disproportionately affect women:

  • Increased access to clean cookstoves can reduce the health and safety issues caused by household air pollution and decrease the time women spend collecting cooking fuel. Women can then reallocate this time to educational, income-generating, and leisure activities.
  • Increased opportunities for women in owning or being employed by cookstove-related businesses -- like restaurants, catering, and cookstove production and distribution -- can increase income-generation, empowering women financially and giving them greater household decision-making power.

What is the scale of the problem?

According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, three billion people—40% of the world’s population—cook with traditional, inefficient biomass fuels (see Improving Alternatives for Cooking strategy for further detail).


Dimensions of Impact: WHO

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider whom they want to target, as almost every strategy has a host of potential beneficiaries. While some investors may target women of color living in a particular rural area, others may set targets more broadly, e.g., women. Investors interested in targeting particular populations should focus on strategies that have been shown to benefit those populations.

Key questions in this dimension include:

Who/What is helped through this strategy?

Low-Income Women in Rural Areas of Developing Countries: Low-income rural populations, particularly women, can often only access fuels that inefficiently convert to energy. They therefore spend large amounts of time or money gathering or purchasing fuel. Investments to mitigate these issues can meaningfully impact their health and safety.

Women in Conflict Zones and/or Refugee Camps: Collecting cooking fuel is one of the most dangerous activities in the world for women (2). Exposure to gender-based violence when collecting fuel is greater in conflict zones and refugee camps (2). Investments to increase access to fuel-efficient cookstoves can reduce the danger these women face in securing fuel.

What are the geographic attributes of those who benefit?

Access to efficient cooking fuel is most limited for people in emerging markets, particularly in rural areas. This strategy can have particularly large impact in conflict zones and other areas where traditional fuels are difficult or dangerous for women to reach.


Dimensions of Impact: CONTRIBUTION

Investors considering investing in a company or portfolio aligned with this strategy should consider whether the effect they want to have compares to what is likely to happen anyway. Is the investment's contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How much and Who?

Key questions in this dimension include:

Is the investment’s contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How Much and Who?

Investments in this strategy will likely contribute to better health and safety outcomes than would otherwise occur. Evidence suggests that involving women—the primary users of cookstoves—in design, production, and distribution can help to remove market barriers that impede the production, deployment and adoption at scale, and sustained use of clean cookstoves and fuels (1).

How Much

Dimensions of Impact: HOW MUCH

Investors deploying capital into investments aligned with this strategy should think about how significant the investment's effect might be. What is likely to be the change's breadth, depth, and duration?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How many can receive the outcome through this strategy?

Three billion people rely on inefficient cookstoves and thus could benefit from access to clean cookstoves. According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, women and girls globally use 90% of their incomes in ways that benefit their families and communities. The economic benefits ripple outward to women, their families, and their larger economies. For case studies on gender-related outcomes in off-grid energy investments, see ICRW’s Gender-Smart Investment Resource Hub.

How much change can beneficiaries experience through this strategy?

Examples of impact from projects aligned with this strategy include: 

  • Women potters producing cookstoves in Cambodia under the Cambodian Fuelwood Saving Project of Group Energies Renouvelables, Environnement et Solidarité experienced a 61% increase in average daily income (1).
  • In India, energy products sold by Sakhi Unique Rural Enterprise (SURE), which engages rural women in the supply chain to distribute clean-energy products, including improved cookstoves, across the last mile to consumers, reduce fuel and health expenditures by 20% (1).
  • The Upesi stove, a clean cookstove that is designed to meet the needs of Kenya’s rural consumers and produced and disseminated by women’s groups, has reduced acute respiratory infections in children and mothers, respectively, by 60% and 65% (1).


Dimensions of Impact: RISK

Key questions in this dimension include:

What risks do investments in this strategy run in terms of either people/planet experiencing impact or society as a whole? What is the probability that those risks happen?

Drop-Off Risk: Like other products and services distributed in rural, developing areas, clean cookstoves greatly risk drop-off in use if their designs and business models do not properly consider ongoing maintenance and replacement or the consumer education required for proper use. Investors can mitigate this risk by involving the intended beneficiaries in consultations during product design and development and by providing education and training resources concerning product installation, maintenance, and use.

Stakeholder-Participation Risk: In countries with more pronounced gender inequality, women may be unable or unwilling to fully and openly participate as stakeholders in design processes. Investments then risk being less than fully representational of local needs and desired outcomes, making product adoption less likely. Engaging community groups that may have knowledge of local needs, that are already trusted by local stakeholders, and that have greater confidence to speak honestly can help to ensure adequate representation of stakeholders’ needs.  

What are likely consequences of these risk factors?

Failure to adequately address these risks could dilute positive impact by reducing adaption and/or sustained use of clean cookstoves.

Illustrative Investment

Have an illustrative investment we should consider? Let us know!

Define Metrics

Core Metrics

This starter set of core metrics — chosen from the IRIS catalog with the input of impact investors who work in this area — indicate performance toward objectives within this strategy. They can help with setting targets, tracking performance, and managing toward success.

Additional Metrics

While the above core metrics provide a starter set of measurements that can show outcomes of a portfolio targeted toward this goal, the additional metrics below — or others from the IRIS catalog — can provide more nuance and depth to understanding your impact.