The Green Initiative

SUMMARY: The Green Initiative is a social venture to increase the self-sufficiency of NGOs in the developing world through clean, affordable, reliable, and sustainable fuels. By allowing participants to simultaneously control operating costs and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, this solution reinforces the NGO network and represents a new model of financial and energy independence.

PROBLEM SPACE: In many developing countries, people are dependent on dirty, diesel-burning generators and/or intermittent grid electricity. At the same time, non-profit organizations are primarily funded by foreign donors, making them vulnerable to the ups and downs of the world economy. This triple-bottom-line venture ties these problems together into a pragmatic, effective solution.

SOLUTION: The Green Initiative (TGI) is a social venture serving the “base of the pyramid”. It began as a program to supply clean energy to a new Visitors’ Center designed by Cook+Fox Architects at the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC), Cambodia’s leading pediatric training and health care facility. Thinking holistically about children’s health, Cambodia’s environment, and AHC’s financial sustainability led to a biodiesel pilot project; as of September 2009 AHC is running all of its vehicle fleet and generators on 100% biodiesel (B-100) refined from waste vegetable oil. The project has expanded into a consortium of five Cambodian NGOs that are addressing urgent needs in health care and children’s welfare.

TGI’s interrelated benefits are environmental, financial, and social: biodiesel produces 67% lower hydrocarbon emissions and 48% less carbon monoxide than conventional diesel; NGOs are assured of a reliable supply and price for fuel, and can therefore focus limited resources on their core missions; and money spent on locally-produced fuel is creating jobs, supporting sustainable development. Currently these organizations are receiving a total of 8,000 L of fuel per month, produced at two refineries with combined capacity to produce up to 20,000 L/month. After one year of operation, TGI is on track to become profitable within the next six months.