• 40,000 Bangladeshi families to benefit
• 150 new jobs to be created
• Fuel efficient cook stoves to be sold in 2,000 villages
Marks & Spencer (M&S) has become the first major company to sign up to UNICEF's new carbon offset project. This initiative will improve the health and lives of vulnerable children while cutting carbon emissions that cause climate change.
M&S will kick start the project in early 2014 by providing funds for 40,000 fuel efficient, low pollution cook stoves to be manufactured, sold and maintained by local entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. The project will be delivered to the highest environmental and development standards and aims to qualify for 'The Gold Standard' carbon credit certification. The move by M&S is part of its Plan A (M&S's eco and ethical programme) commitment to be a carbon neutral company.
According to the World Health Organization some 49,000 people, 70 per cent of whom are children under five years old, die each year in Bangladesh due to the smoke generated from traditional indoor cook stoves. Indoor air pollution from solid fuel is the third biggest risk factor for deaths in South Asia and the number of deaths from indoor air pollution is greater than those from malaria or tuberculosis. Women and children, who tend to be primarily responsible for cooking, are the most affected.
The new stoves are 50 per cent more fuel efficient than traditional stoves, producing one tonne less carbon emissions each year. This is the equivalent of driving a petrol car 3,000 miles. The new stoves will be used by low income families from over 2,000 villages across Bangladesh. Over 150 new jobs will be created as local people will be trained to manufacture, market and install the stoves.
This innovative financing for development partnership brings together business and the international development sector to tackle both climate and health issues that directly affect the world's most vulnerable children.
Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF said:
"We are delighted that Marks & Spencer is supporting UNICEF's carbon offset pilot project in Bangladesh, which helps to reduce indoor air pollution and its serious consequences on the health of children. This demonstrates how innovative private sector partnerships can positively impact the wellbeing of children and the world that they inherit."
"This project will have a huge impact in a country that is extremely important to M&S. Being carbon neutral is a key part of Plan A and it's important that, wherever we can, we invest in high quality offsets that support communities within which we operate. We'll do this while at the same time working with partners like UNICEF, who can help us deliver our vision of becoming a sustainable, international multi-channel retailer."
Lord Paddy Ashdown, President of UNICEF UK said:
'It is excellent news that M&S is working with UNICEF on this project which will not only help to reduce carbon emissions, but will tackle a health problem which is harming thousands of children across Bangladesh. This is a groundbreaking example of our corporate partners working hand in hand with us to deliver real benefits to children's lives.'
Jonathan Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future said:
"M&S led the world in becoming the first major retailer to go carbon neutral and has now reinforced that leadership by supporting UNICEF's new carbon offset project in Bangladesh. This ticks literally all the boxes in terms of improved health, local economic benefits and reduced emissions of CO2. I sincerely hope that others will follow swiftly in their path."
The fuel efficient cook stoves help to reduce deforestation and limit local flooding. Currently 90 per cent of households in Bangladesh depend on biomass such as wood, forest cuttings and cow dung for fuel, but less than two per cent of those households use fuel efficient stoves. Bangladesh is one of the countries most at risk of the impact of climate change, especially in relation to rising sea levels that could make millions of people homeless.
The new stoves also enable households to save money on fuel, freeing up income for other essentials such as food and healthcare. In some cases where women and children have to spend time collecting firewood this may free up time for children, especially girls, to attend school.
Offsetting through UNICEF ensures that, by reducing carbon emissions, two major threats to children's health are tackled simultaneously – climate change as well as respiratory infections and disease attributed to indoor air pollution