Sustainable Development and Environmental Issues
Part 1: Clean Cook Stoves
One of the key characteristics of poverty stricken areas is the need for energy, which is satisfied through the use of highly polluting and destructive practices. The most common of these is the use of wood fuels, which produce a lot of soot and thus contributes to environmental degradation. Such cooking methods that depend on biomass combustion also result in environmental degradation through practices such as deforestation to produce biomass. Accordingly, the use of clean cook stoves that produce intensive energy at low biomass inputs, burn clean and require little maintenance, can result in better environmental outcomes. A study conducted by Jeuland and Pattanayak (2012) pointed out the importance of clean cook stoves in reducing the carbon footprints of users, particularly due to lower or no emissions. The clean cook stoves promote complete combustion of all the fuel materials fed into them, hence reducing the carbon dioxide release into the environment, which is one of the key environmental issues of contemporary times.
Jeuland and Pattanayak (2012) described various global environmental issues, including global warming, waste disposal, and the depletion of the ozone layer. Each of these issues are caused by human activity, through various outcomes. The use of clean cook stoves helps in controlling some of these outcomes such as global warming. A study by Vigolo, Sallaku, and Testa (2018) concluded that global warming is caused and facilitated by greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the combustion of carbon products, aerosols, and various other destructive chemical outputs from agricultural and household activities. Considering these issues, it is clear the reduction of GHGs can help in limiting the proliferation of ozone layer depletion, and subsequently reduction of the rate of global warming. Moreover, the excessive consumption of natural resources through processes such as deforestation to produce wood fuel, has resulted in the depletion of water resources. Clean cook stoves also promises to address this particular concern through reduced deforestation, and the protection of natural water catchment areas.
The main factor behind the use of traditional methods of cooking that are destructive to the environment is poverty. As such, while clean cook stoves may be considered affordable by the more fortunate members of the society, it would be a crucial resource for the poor in the community, particularly in the developing countries. A study by Jeuland and Pattanayak (2012) showed that the initial cost of a clean cook stove is higher than that of traditional cooking appliances. However, the cost of operation of a clean cook stove can be up to 34% lower than that of a conventional traditional cook stove per month, which gives a payback period of approximately 1.5 months for the clean cook stoves. Past the payback period, the low operational costs associated with these cook stoves can increase the disposable income of the families using them, subsequently leading to improved living standards.
The stoves come with health benefits such as the elimination of smoke which places the users of traditional cook stoves at risk of respiratory diseases. Therefore, the traditional cooking methods come with long term healthcare expenses and subsequently high health insurance costs. The adoption of cleancook stoves therefore has the potential of reducing economic drains such as healthcare expenses, and reduced productivity prompted by ill health. In this way, the cookstoves contribute to the improvement of the health economic indicator, which indicates that the economic benefits of clean cookstoves are not limited to the users but extend to the country as a whole and by extension to the global context.
Part B: Royal Dutch Shell and Sustainability
Section 1: External Factors that Influence Sustainability
The oil and gas industry has been described as one of the major contributors to the environmental degradation menace, not only through their environmentally destructive activities but also via the impacts of their products such as petroleum fuels on the environment. As such, environmental sustainability is one of the factors that can be challenging to discuss within a context where the core business of an organization is environmentally destructive. Therefore, the Royal Dutch Shell Company has been making significant efforts towards making an impact in sustainability, and various external and internal factors have been contributing significantly to the company’s decision making concerning environmental sustainability. From the company website, one of the factors that can be mentioned to influence this particular phenomenon is the social pressure around sustainability. There is increasing awareness of the need for environmental conservation and the effects of the petroleum industry on environmental sustainability. As such, companies such as the Royal Dutch Shell are at the center of global focus and their activities are scrutinized intensively to establish whether there are any efforts towards environmental conservation in spite of their business model.
The social factors of sustainability include the global inclination towards environmental conservation. Existing social systems promote partnership in environmental sustainability through inert-organizational collaboration (Law & Gunasekaran, 2012). In this spirit, Royal Dutch Shell has developed a sustainability strategy that works through involvement, both at the company level and at the international level, aimed at creating a visible positive impact on the communities within which the company works through improving the environmental conditions around those communities and protecting the lands and waters used by those communities. The partnership model embraced by Shell helps the enterprise to reduce its social and environmental impacts through sustainable operations. Some of these partners include Mercy Corps, The Nature Conservancy, and Clean Cooking Alliance, each of which brings in a specific element to the combined environmental conservation practice.
Secondly, the company is influenced by market trends and competition. Royal Dutch Shell business is set at a time when public awareness of the detrimental impacts of petroleum fuels is quite high, and it is impossible to develop a straight link between the cost of the company’s products and the purchase intention of buyers (Owusu, Asumadu-Sarkodie & Dubey, 2016). More people are moving towards clean and renewable energy sources such as solar systems and wind and nuclear power. Each of these sources of energy comes with specific pros and cons, and is pursued by different categories of users. In the Transport industry, electric cars are being developed to replace the petroleum energy based products that have been in use. With increasing identification of the need to shift from the environmentally destructive energy sources, companies producing petroleum products have to put in greater efforts and be more innovative towards creating the impression of environmental consciousness (Owusu et al., 2016). Each firm in that industry attempts to show the world that while its business model requires the use of petroleum, it is committed to replenishing the resources it uses and reducing the impacts of its operations. Competition among the petroleum industry players therefore, is influenced by social conventions, whereby the company that proves to be more environmentally conscious attracts more customers.
Royal Dutch Shell has also made deliberate efforts to compete sustainably in the global petroleum industry through its different sustainability programs. Particularly, the company has projects such as the reclamation of wetlands, protection of coastlands through the installation of artificial floating islands, and the installation of various water diversion points and oyster reefs that are aimed at improving the water quality (Shell, 2019). Each of these projects can be linked to the destructive impacts of the company’s activities on the land and water bodies, namely through replenishment of destroyed natural resources.
The third external influence to the company’s sustainable operations can be categorized into environmental regulations and government policies. With the international agreement on the need to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels across all countries as communicated through the Paris agreement, the developed countries have made significant strides in controlling the production, distribution, and consumption of fossil fuels. Verkuijl et al. (2018) report that supply side policies on the reduction of fossil fuels are gaining popularity across the world as a complement to the demand side policies. With these policy changes, the implication is that companies such as Shell, whose operations are based on the production and distribution of fossil fuel-based products, have to find strategies that allow them to remain profitable in the midst of contradictory government policies. Such companies are pushed to adopt strategies to either replenish what they consume or reduce what they produce globally.
While the Royal Dutch Shell Company has made significant efforts towards sustainability, the efforts do not match the company’s contribution to the global carbon dioxide emission volumes. Taylor and Watts (2019) report that although the companies producing fossil fuel products have vast capital, the technical expertise, and the moral obligation that should enable them to foster progress towards shifting to a low carbon future, their actions do not match the intention to shift as they often offer platitudes and derail the change progress in change. This perspective can be said to be valid in light of the strategies that are currently being used by Shell for sustainability. The strategies indicate the company’s focus on replenishing the wasted resources rather than reducing fossil fuel utilization.
The external factors play an important role in initiating internal transformations that drive sustainability efforts. However, various factors, such as the company culture, also play a crucial role in determining progress towards the set sustainability goals. The culture of a firm comprises of a combination of factors, for instance, the management support for sustainability programs, recognition of the common organizational sustainability strategy, and the availability of sufficient human resources for the execution of sustainability practices. Accordingly, the Royal Dutch Shell Company has created an organizational culture that supports sustainability, with governance as a core pillar in the strategy. This culture promotes the inclusion of the company’s key stakeholders into the organizational sustainability projects, recognizes the importance of global partnership towards environmental conservation, and is committed to safe, efficient, and responsible business operations (Shell, 2019). This culture is supposed to be reflected by all the organization’s employees and they are trained to be able to embody the company’s environmental sustainability culture.
The organizational culture also reflects the management support for sustainability programs namely through funding and provision of adequate human resources for sustainability projects. According to Goosen (2012), the management plays an important role in ensuring business sustainability since it is responsible for providing direction to specific sustainable development projects. In this case, the management support for programs that help in the reduction of the company’s carbon footprints can be construed to mean a lot, especially in the context of the company’s operations in the fossil fuels industry. Additionally, the company’s culture allows it to apply global standards to realize efficiency and safety through continuously working with the communities within which it operates.
While the company culture may be essential in promoting a common sustainability mindset among the stakeholders, the availability of financial resources can be a constraining factor to the execution of planned sustainability projects. A study by da Silva (2019), shows that sustainable development financing should not be considered a cost but an investment. However, many organizations compare the cost of engaging in sustainable development objectives with the benefits from the business and only go ahead with their plans if the two fit together. Royal Dutch Shell has had planning and execution periods, each aimed at improving the outcomes associated with sustainable development. To some extent, competition, such as that experienced in the industry now, drives innovation which becomes the basis for success. Shell focuses on the international efforts towards sustainability as the basis for organizational success in its projects, and while the company itself may not contribute 100% of all project costs, partnership with other organizations has enabled Shell to contribute strongly and to be considered responsible.
Da Silva (2019) also points out the need for coordination of different actors in operations, a practice that is embodied by the sustainability plans of the Royal Dutch Shell Company. According to the author, sustainable development planning requires collaboration to enable creation of linkages between the supply and the demand side of financing. Available financing should be linked to existing sustainable development initiatives, rather than having them run separately, in order for success to be achieved. Otherwise, an ambitious change program developed by an organization should have its own financing protocol, which may at times fail due to resource inadequacy. So far, Shell has done quite a good job at bringing together the resources and the projects on the ground.
The most probable global impact of Shell’s sustainable development strategy is the reduction of environmental destruction outcomes. One of Shell’s initiatives in sustainable development is to promote safe and effective operation. Under this initiative, the company commits to using global standards for environmental and safety management, which implies the intentional reduction of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. While the company’s products increase these emissions, reduction at the source can go a long way in promoting clean energy use and responsible fossil fuel use even among the consumers. Furthermore, the company continuously engages communities through awareness creation activities that can not only help in reducing emissions at the use stage, but can also encourage fossil fuel consumers to explore other sources of energy. In this way, the Royal Dutch Shell Company will help, albeit to a small extent, in reducing fossil fuel at both the demand and the supply side in addition to its other activities that center on replenishment.
Besides the focus on fossil fuels reduction, the company’s environmental initiatives such as preventing biodiversity loss, conservation of water bodies and reclamation of wetlands have the impact of increasing the total available natural resources. Compared to non-environmentally conscious operations, these activities have the potential of creating a positive impact on land use. They could also encourage public participation in environmental conservation activities, which is a key global outcome.
The Internet has played a big role in promoting sustainable development initiatives across the world. Through greater access to information and global communication capabilities, the internet has helped the Royal Dutch Shell Company to achieve its development goals. Souter, MacLean, Okoh, and Creech (2010) purported that the Internet has effectively contributed to sustainable development through advancement of policy recommendations, particularly on international trade across the world, sharing information on energy and climate change outcomes, measurement and assessment of sustainable development goals achievement and management of natural resources. These are in addition to the communication enabling roles of technology in the contemporary times.
Shell’s initiatives for sustainable development focus on the global policies that have been put in place to reduce of global warming and encourage energy conservation, in alignment with the Paris agreement. the company requires constant information sharing with other policy makers across the world, access to industry information, and communication with key stakeholders, each of which requires the internet, to follow through these initiatives successfully.
Da Silva, J.M. (2019). Foreword: Investing in a better sustainable development marketplace. Global outlook on financing for sustainable development 2019, OECD. Retrieved from www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-topics/Global-Outlook-on-Financing-for-SD-2019.pdf
Goosen, M.F.A. (2012). Environmental management and sustainable development. Procedia Engineering, 33, 6-13. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877705812012027
Jeuland, M.A., & Pattanayak, S.K. (2012). Benefits and costs of improved cook stoves: Assessing the implications of variability in health, forest and climate impacts. PLoS One, 7(2). Retrieved from journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0030338
Law, K.M.Y., & Gunasekaran, A. (2012). Sustainability development in high-tech manufacturing firms in Hong Kong: Motivators and readiness. International Journal of Production Economics, 137, 116-125. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0925527312000242
Owusu, P.A., Asumadu-Sarkodie, S., & Dubey, S. (2016). A review of renewable energy sources, sustainability issues, and climate change mitigation. Cogent Engineering, 3(1). Retrieved from www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23311916.2016.1167990
Shell (2019). What sustainability means at Shell. Retrieved from www.shell.com/sustainability/our-approach/sustainability-at-shell.html
Souter, D., MacLean, D., Okoh, B., & Creech, H. (2010). ICTs, the Internet and sustainable development: Towards a new paradigm. International Institute for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from www.iisd.org/pdf/2010/icts_internet_sd_new_paradigm.pdf
Taylor, M., & Watts, J. (2019, October 9). Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions. The Guardian. Retrieved from www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/09/revealed-20-firms-third-carbon-emissions
Verkuijl, C., Piggot, G., Lazarus, M., van Asselt, H., & Erickson, P. (2018). Aligning fossil fuel production with the Paris agreement: Insights for the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue. Stockholm Environment Institute. Retrieved from unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/11_12_13__SEI_Talanoa_Fossil_Fuels_0.pdf
Vigolo, V., Sallaku, R., & Testa, F. (2018). Drivers and barriers to clean cooking: A systematic literature review from a consumer behavior perspective. Sustainability, 10, 4322. Retrieved from www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/10/11/4322/pdf