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DCS #11 Chris McKinney of BURN

Published: 13 Jul 2023

Last Updated: 19 May 2024

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In this episode of Developing Carbon Stories, we are speaking with Chris McKinney, Chief Commercial Officer of Burn Manufacturing, a vertically integrated modern cookstove company in sub-Saharan Africa. They produce efficient biomass, liquid fuel, and electric cooking stoves that tackle deforestation caused by the production of charcoal for household cooking. Over the last decade, they have proven that cookstoves can have transformative social, financial, and environmental impacts.

Read more about the cookstoves projects.

More about Chris McKinney.

More about Burn Manufacturing.


Pauline Blanc: Hello, my name is Pauline Blanc, and this is Developing Carbon Stories, a podcast about product developers developing the most innovative and impactful carbon projects around the world. Developing Carbon Stories is a project by Abatable, a carbon procurement and intelligence platform that enables companies to purchase high-quality carbon offsets.

During each episode, we speak with an entrepreneur from a different part of the carbon ecosystem and talk about their journey so far and how they are acting on climate change. In this episode, we’re speaking with Chris McKinney, Chief Commercial Officer at Burn Manufacturing, a clean cooking company, producing efficient biomass, liquid fuel, and electric cook stoves.

Hi Chris. Thank you so much for joining our podcast today.

Chris McKinney: Hey, Pauline. Oh, thanks so much for having me, it’s great to have the opportunity to be on the podcast. We really appreciate a lot of the work that Abatable is doing. So glad to be talking to you today.

PB: Thanks. Yes. We also really value…We’ve been working with Burn for a while now. It’s been a great collaboration so far. Let’s dive right in. I have a couple of questions for you. The first one is, I was really curious about how you came to work into this space, into the climate space? Can you tell us a bit about that?

CM: Sure. Yeah, yeah. Well, I’ve always had a love of nature and an interest in doing work that meaningfully contributes to a lot of the biggest problems that we have in the world today. So that’s been kind of a throughline through, through all of my life. My first kind of foray into climate was in university, where I did a bit of research on biofuels and also did research relating to PV solar.

But my work in this space really started in earnest with Burn. When I joined Burn, I found the company very, very serendipitously. So back in 2013, I had originally landed a placement in Kenya with the Peace Corps, which is an American program that places volunteers in low-income countries.

However, one week before I was meant to jump on a plane to Kenya, the Westgate terrorist attack happened here, and that forced the Peace Corps to exit the country entirely. So, kind of just like that, a whole year of planning that I’d put into my life, went up in smoke, and left me kind of at a loss.

I still had my heart really set on coming to Kenya though, and was yeah, very determined to get on that plane. So, I asked around a bit and I happened to have an acquaintance who knew about Burn and he told me this fascinating story of this kind of bootstrapped group of founders with this very ambitious plan, who’d just set up a state-of-the-art, clean, cookstove factory and business in Kenya.

But to do that with no money and very few staff. So, I had never really heard of clean cooking at that time, but I thought, well, you know, I’m an engineer. I, you know, these kinds of people sound like my kind of people and maybe, maybe they could use my help.

So, I got in touch with Burn and took a bit of a leap of faith. I jumped on a plane, came out to Kenya, and started working on the buildout of our first production line. So that was 10 years ago. And I’ve been with Burn ever since in a variety of roles, kind of setting up and starting several different functions in departments at the company and leading me to where I am today, looking after the whole commercial side of our business.

PB: That’s amazing. What a great story. So, you were really with the first founders and employees, and it’d just be great to hear what the vision was for Burn, you know, 10 years ago and how, how did it come from a, how did it become from, you know, move from a vision to the company that it is today?

CM: Yeah, yeah. So, the idea for Burn was really born with our founder and CEO Peter Scott. Peter had a really moving experience in the nineties seeing deforestation firsthand in the Congo caused by charcoal production and this kind of seeing this tragedy of these old-growth forests on the path to extinction, he began asking himself a question that still drives the rest of our team today, which is “what is the single most effective thing that he could do and we could do to save forests?”

And what we found really is that the very best way to, to drive down deforestation in Africa is to provide improved cooking technology to the billions of people who currently cook on open fires and cook with charcoal and wood.

So that was the really, the whole kind of initial idea and vision behind burn was to set out to develop the world’s very best cookstoves that could entirely replace open fires and other types of traditional and inefficient stoves. So just to kind of back up a bit and give some context to that, to that cooking problem more broadly, today around 2.4 billion people lack access to two clean cooking.

And when we say that we’re talking about mostly women and girls who are affected by this. They’re on average spending an hour, an hour and a half every day collecting firewood and then another two- or three-hours everyday cooking over open fires.

CM: You know, for us, it’s kind of hard to imagine, but if you can, it’s basically the equivalent of lighting a campfire inside your house every day, three times a day just to cook. So, this kind of cooking is incredibly, obviously smoky and inefficient and has huge health ramifications for women and children in terms of respiratory illness, I mean, just in terms of respiratory illness alone, around 4 million people die prematurely every year from, from cooking on open fires. But it’s not just health, you know, it turned out that there’s a whole range of problems associated with this lack of clean cooking.

It’s also bankrupting many families, especially across Africa. Charcoal in particular is really a big contributor to poverty with many families spending up to 20% of their budget on charcoal for cooking. So it was, it’s kind of interesting, like it was initially a deforestation mission that moved us into this clean cooking space.

But once you kind of fully grasp the poverty and the public health issues of this problem as well, they can even make the environmental issues seem to pale a bit in comparison, but we really have to, if you take a step back, look at clean cooking also as a major environmental and climate change issue.

So, cooking on solid fuels alone represents around 3% of global emissions. That’s about the same as the entire aviation industry, which we know is a major contributor to climate change. And when you look at it from the deforestation aspect, cooking on solid fuels is also responsible for about a third of the greenhouse gas emissions that arise from deforestation.

So, it’s a really multifaceted problem that has environmental and many other kinds of ramifications, and unfortunately is still, is still getting a lot bigger. Even just in the last 20 years, the number of people relying on these solid fuels to cook has increased by another 50%. So, Burn was really founded on the mission to address all of these challenges.

And yeah. So, I can also dive in and tell you a little bit more about how Burn is doing this.

PB: Yeah, that would be great.

CM: So yeah, our whole operation was set up with the idea of making the world’s very best cookstoves and then distributing them to the people who needed them the most.

And what we see now with well into doing this is when women adopt our stoves, all of a sudden all of the time that they’re saving from collecting firewood, they’re able to spend that on other things, other more productive things. They’re also saving a lot of money, which gets reinvested into education and better food for their families.

And of course, they’re saving a lot of fuel, which ultimately helps them reduce a lot of carbon emissions. Last year, we just had an independent peer-reviewed study that came out specifically on burn stoves in Kenya, and it found that our flagship stove, the Jikokoa, when they measured all of these benefits, stacked up they found a net benefit to the users of the stoves and to society of over a thousand dollars over the course of the stove’s lifetime.

So, it’s really kind of a profound impact that these products have been able to create. And we’ve been able to do this mainly because we’ve been laser-focused on making products that are truly usable and truly the highest performing that they can be in a real-world environment.

So, our approach is to meet people where they are based on their incomes and based on the fuels that they can afford and deliver them the very best stoves that make sense in that context. So, this approach is really starting to bear a lot of fruit even just over the last 10 years.

We’ve added a range of products to our portfolio. Coving wood, charcoal, ag waste, LPG, and most recently, electricity as well. So today we are the largest modern cookstove company in Africa. And we recently crossed over the milestone of delivering our 3,000,000th stove, which we’re incredibly proud of.

We employ about 2,500 people between our headquarters and our two factories in Nairobi and across our other field teams in 10 other countries.

PB: That’s amazing. And first of all, massive congrats on that milestone. I think it’s really huge. And I personally really love cookstoves and love Burn for everything that you’ve mentioned around… It’s not just tackling deforestation, but it’s tackling gender issues, it’s tackling health. I think I mentioned this to you when we met in Egypt at COP 27, I actually wrote my Master’s dissertation on deforestation and cookstoves and focusing on Haiti. And of course, this was like student-level research, so not as advanced as the work that you’re doing, but the two main things that came out that were really interesting was adoption was really one of the main issues.

And it was interesting because a lot of the people I spoke to have this vision of…well, there were two issues. First of all, a lot of organizations were handing out cookstoves for free cookstoves or all their alternatives.

And what happened is that they were then selling them on to neighboring countries like the Dominican Republic. And there was also this thought that the food doesn’t taste as good if it’s not cooked with charcoal. So that was just my experience. I wanted to check with you, what are some of the challenges that you faced, whether it’s adoption, whether it’s anything else.

Can you tell us a bit about that? That’d be great.

CM: So, yeah, sure. I mean, we’ve kind of had no shortage of challenges over the last 10 years. Many of them self-inflicted, I think. But for a good reason. You know, I’d kind of hone in on probably three major challenges that we’ve had.

One, there was a major lack in Africa at least of any kind of clean cookstove infrastructure be that awareness or distribution channels or yeah, manufacturing capacity or any of this. So, we really had to build every piece of that value chain ourselves from R&D to the production, to the distribution, to the after-sales service. And that ended up being a major lift to build all of these functions vertically integrated into our company.

Number two, we’ve had a major cost challenge. So, you know, we’ve always believed in the dignity of our customers above all else, and the fact that they deserve really the very best technologies that are available to them.

And so, we’ve set out to build the most fuel efficient and the easiest to use stoves possible. But in doing so, we’ve developed products that would normally in a normal commercial environment, cost upwards of $40. Which is just out of reach for many of the people who really need our stoves.

And thirdly, we’ve had a financing challenge. You know, especially when we started operations back in 2013, carbon markets were really in the doldrums at that time, and even if you were using carbon markets for cooking, you could only kind of use that to maybe deliver a few dollars per stove.

So nowhere near enough to fundamentally change anything about delivering these stoves or the affordability of these stoves. And just in general, there was a belief that cookstove projects at that time were not very investible. So those have kept us very occupied over the last 10 years. Fortunately, I think we’ve now really cracked the first challenge. We’ve built out all of that infrastructure all the way from the ideation of a stove to the delivery of that stove to a home in the last mile and beyond that point.

So that’s great to have all of that infrastructure now built out. And really in the last three years we’ve made significant headway on the affordability and financing challenges as well in no small part due to carbon markets. Carbon has had a really transformational impact on our business above everything else, and it really enables us to subsidize the price of our stoves to a level that’s accessible to the mass market.

We don’t subsidize all the way down to free in general for some of the reasons that you’ve mentioned, but we do place very large subsidies on the end cost of the stove to the consumer. And in most cases, this subsidy results in something like a 5 to 10X increase in uptake versus a normal commercial price.

So, it’s just this massive enabler of mass market adoption. I mean, just as one example, for our wood stove projects in Kenya, we’ve been able to reduce the cost of those stoves by around 95%, down to around 3 US dollars. So, we’re able to now deliver those stoves to the last mile in a way that’s accessible to the people who need them.

Yeah, I mean today it’s I guess our scale is really only limited by the flow of that financing coming in. You know, the challenge today is even though we’re currently getting out around a quarter million stoves every month, that’s still barely scratching the surface if we look at the scale of the overall problem.

PB: Thank you so much, Chris. I have a kind of a follow-up question, based on that. How, so of course, you know, when you started talking about all the issues that cookstoves and Burn are tackling around health, deforestation, and all of that, that’s a great pitch for investors and, and for companies who are looking to buy your credits.

What’s your pitch to people that are buying your cookstove or that you wanna sell your cookstoves to. How is it that you’re pitching it to them?

CM: Yeah, I mean great, great question. It’s interesting because there’s been a lot of debate in our industry about what that pitch should look like, what that communication should look like in order to convince people to not just adopt stoves, but also to use the stoves.

I mean, a major kind of buzz word in the space for a long time has been behavior change with the idea being that, you need to educate people on the benefits of clean cooking for them to be willing to adopt and use these technologies, you know, but I think we’ve really proven out now that if you have a really good product, if you have something that people really love and they love to use and it really delivers benefits to them, that that is not the key barrier to adoption or to purchasing a cook stove.

The key barrier really is an affordability barrier. I think what we’ve really seen is people who cook on open fires, for the most part, are really intimately aware of the downsides of what they’re doing. They experience it firsthand. And they, the real problem is that they just don’t have any other accessible option most of the time.

So, when we go and deliver a stove to a home, we’re, yes, of course, we’re talking about the main benefits that the stove will deliver to that home. So those are often, again, the time savings that they’ll see by you know, spending less time collecting fuel, money that they’ll save if they’re buying that fuel, the reduction in smoke.

But we’re also selling a story around, you know, kind of moving up the energy ladder and moving to more aspirational products. I mean, of course everybody sees a path for themselves in life of kind of moving up a socioeconomic ladder. And our cookstoves are in, most cases, a big piece of that where people, you know, compared to an open fire or a traditional stove that you might hide away, put in a corner of a home where people can’t see it.

What we often see with our cookstoves is that people are actually, they’re putting them like when they’re not using them in the main living area, or even if they’re in a kitchen area, they’re shown off in that kitchen area. And it speaks to people really viewing these as a big step up in, or a kind of enabler of mobility that they’re proud of.

So, we also focus heavily on that at kind of the point of distribution.

PB: Thank you so much. That’s really great to hear. So, you mentioned the challenges. So manufacturing, cost financing. Were there any other challenges that maybe, you know, you were really, the team was really surprised by something that you really didn’t expect would be a challenge along, you know, the last 10 years that you’ve been working on this. Any big surprises?

CM: Oh gosh, yeah. I will. I feel like my job has been just 10 years of consistently finding surprises and then figuring out ways to deal with them. It’s been a real rollercoaster the way that we’ve kind of gone about this. We didn’t really have a perfect plan and nor did we know all of the variable’s kind of going into building this operation, we really started it with the idea that this problem needed to be solved and we would find the solutions, no matter what it, no matter what it took.

So, along the way we’ve kind of made lots of, mistakes and we, especially early on when carbon markets were not really a viable option to sustain the, the business, we tried and tested many different models, most of which, ended in failure, to just to try to find some kind of workable solution that could keep us alive in the interim.

So, I guess I don’t have one specific standout, one that comes to mind, but it really has been just a journey of a million surprises.

PB: I’m sure, I’m sure, I’m sure, especially in the current VCM environments, I’m sure every day is a super new surprise. Moving on slightly, I wanted to ask you a little bit about how the stakeholders that you work with perceive carbon markets and you know, how much of the carbon credit element is explained to the people who are selling the stoves, who are using the stoves. How does that, how does that actually work?

CM: Well, I think it’s interesting. It’s been a bit easier for us in a couple ways on that front. I guess one, you know, we’re, we are all here on, on the ground where our projects are being run. That’s everybody from our C-suite all the way down to the staff on the factory floor and the last mile field agents distributing the stoves.

All of those teams are either here at our headquarters in Nairobi, or are part of our operations across one of the 10 countries that we operate in. And I think that really differentiates us from many other players in the space who do have more scattered operations, where maybe you have one hub of expertise, maybe your design teams are in London or San Francisco or your finance teams or in New York and or in your manufacturing maybe in India or China.

This is just not really the approach that we wanted to take from the beginning, and it’s helped keep a kind of cohesive vision in the company throughout our journey. I think, you know, when we started out, many people thought it was kind of crazy to commit to serving the continent from within the continent, and that there was a, there were a lot of assumptions made that that came with obvious tradeoffs.

Well, sure, your products can be closer to the end market, but then they’ll be more expensive to land in those markets. Well, you know, you can enable local engineering talent, but then you won’t be able to iterate as quickly on designing your products as maybe an experienced team in San Francisco would be able to. But from the beginning we saw those things not really as trade-offs, but as things that could be win-wins in the long run.

And I think that has borne out to be true. I mean, as we speak, we’re now able to land our products in most African markets at a lower cost than if we had manufactured them offshore. And, and we’ve really proven this out at scale. And this kind of ethos has also really helped us on the carbon communication piece that you’ve mentioned.

We’re able to kind of keep one cohesive message for the company. But I think the other thing that it really lands home is we’re operating in a part of the world that is the, the part of the world that’s most impacted by climate change. That especially includes our staff and our customers.

They’re intimately aware of the impacts of climate change, much more so than like many of the people I knew when I was living in the United States. They’ve seen the weather pattern shift. They’ve seen crop failures, so for them this issue is really acute. In a way it’s the beauty of the type of project that we run is that we are not just, you know, reducing the emission of CO2 and or having impacts on these other areas that I described. But we’re doing that for stakeholders, for, you know, for users and for staff who are already the people who are most vulnerable to climate change.

And I think that’s a, that’s kind of a beautiful synergy that the product that the project has. And it, and it really makes kind of the emissions benefits and the environmental benefits of our products also very acute for our staff and, and our users. It takes very little kind of explaining to kind of show that, okay, well here’s how, you know, these kinds of fuel-efficient or fuel switch stoves are stopping deforestation and cutting out emissions from fuels that otherwise would’ve been burned.

And we can trace a real, a very clear line from that back to the climate change problems that we’re experiencing today in these countries.

PB: Yeah. Thank you. That makes a lot of sense. And I really commend the approach that you’re taking. As you know, I’m obsessed with policy.

Policy is what I focus on all day, every day, and I wanted to ask you, what’s the legislative landscape currently for developing projects like Burn’s? What are the challenges that you’re facing? Anything that you’re particularly excited about? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

CM: Well, I’d say for most of our history actually, the nature of our business has meant that we actually had kind of a lower legislation and policy burden than maybe some other types of projects. You know, fundamentally our operation at the end of the day was producing these stoves and distributing them and that didn’t really, you know, other than having to abide by a few fairly cookie-cutter sets of policies here and there, it’s been quite straightforward. Obviously in the last few years as carbon has acted as this major accelerant for our business and allowed us to vastly grow our scale.

But also, you know, added this other element into our business that opens up a whole new world of kind of legislation and policy that we have to concern ourselves with. You know, in the markets that we operate in across Africa, this carbon policy is still very nascent for the, for the most part.

I think most policymakers we speak to really don’t have a strong concept of how it works and how it should be governed. So, a lot of our work at this stage is very early stage. It’s just engaging with all of the relevant stakeholders and decision-makers and walking them through how, how these projects work, and illuminating the benefits that our products bring in terms of their ability to save lives and forests.

PB: No, absolutely, and I personally always struggle with cookstoves and policy because if you’re thinking about a nature-based project, it tends to be tied to the land, and then you can think about carbon rights and who has the right to sell those credits from a land ownership or a tenure perspective, but with cookstoves, it’s really interesting, right?

It should be obvious that the rights are with you, but I think it’s still an area that’s not very well defined. So, it’ll be interesting to see how that develops. I don’t know if you have any thoughts about that.

CM: No, I mean, I, yeah, I think it’s a great point. It’s something we were just discussing earlier today with my team, which is, you know, even the kind of little bits of carbon legislation that, and policy that we see coming out today on, on the continent, they seem to be very forestry focused, I would say. And they, they kind of, there’s still a lack of awareness that just how different forestry projects and, and cook stove projects are, whether it’s from a carbon rights perspective or a perspective, how do you return the value of that carbon back to the communities who are part of the project.

They’re very different and kind of capturing that nuance when awareness of carbon in general is still nascent is, it’s a challenge.

PB: Yeah, no, for sure. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops, but yeah. We’ve noticed the same. Policy tends to start with forestry and then, you know, advance to, to other project types, but I haven’t seen a lot on cookstoves.

I wanted to ask you, you’ve mentioned a little bit, That, you know, you have operations and are working across, across Africa. It’d be great to hear where Burn is interested in expanding to, and hearing a bit more about, you know, the geographies you’re working with today and where you’re considering expanding.

CM: Well, I guess, yeah, we think about expansion in a few different ways. Even if you just look at the 10 countries that we operate in today, there’s still massive untapped potential. So, I think just one of the ways that we think about expansion is, well, how do we really deep dive in in these markets and make sure that we’re, you know, especially in order to make an impact on deforestation, that we’re as fully saturating these markets as, as we possibly can.

So, I think that’s one of the first things that we have our eyes on. But of course, there is, beyond those 10 countries, there are still, there’s still a massive unmet need across the rest of Africa and, and large swaths of Southeast Asia as well. So, those are all kind of on our map as we look out over the next 5 or 10 years,

PB: And Chris, can I just ahead, can I just follow up on, ongoing deeper? What is the, what’s the challenge in… what do you think is needed to, to go deeper?

CM: Yeah. Well, if, I guess there are a few different sides to that challenge. So, one, there’s a direct relationship with the financing.

So, in this case, carbon financing that flows in. So, you know, every additional dollar of carbon financing that we bring in is, you know, that’s also allowing us to get out another stove. So that’s a very direct and linear kind of relationship.

Of course, there are operational challenges to scaling those operations as well, but, I think the beauty of our model is that once you have the basic pipeline built, the basic setup in terms of you know– how we typically set up in a country is we set up our distribution operation with a kind of tree structure of, you know, country managers all the way down to last mile field agents.

And that structure is very replicable to new regions as we grow it. We also set up, you know, a call center and an after-sales support unit and an MRV team in those markets. But those teams are all, again, once the, the big hurdle is setting them up in the first place and not then scaling them beyond that.

So, when we go to set up in a market, we go in assuming that we’re going to be there forever. And that makes the initial setup harder, but it makes the kind of scaling once we’re there a lot, a lot easier. So yeah, I think probably the main kind of rate limiter there would be on the, on the financing side to go deeper.

The one other piece that we’re kind of exploring now is how do we bring even more local value add into those countries, which can also lower our cost to deliver stoves into those countries. So, for instance, at the moment, not only do we have our two factories in Kenya, But we’re now setting up a factory in Nigeria.

And later in the year, we’ll also set up another factory in Ghana. And these will allow us to deliver products at even a substantially lower cost to end customers than before. Which obviously also will have a knock-on effect on our ability to go deeper.

PB: No, that makes no sense. And sorry, I interrupted you. I think you were gonna say something else about expansion.

CM: Yeah, well, I guess there’s the geographic expansion. But then I think probably how we think about expansion is in terms of technological expansion. So, you know, innovation is in Burn’s DNA and we’re all constantly iterating our products to be better suited to the users in the markets that need them and adding more and more products to our portfolio.

I think electric is probably the best example of this today. It’s a place where we’re growing very rapidly in electric cooking. We’ve spent the last three years developing a custom range of electric cooking products that are highly efficient and again, highly usable. And the beauty of this solution in particular is that there’s no deforestation associated with using electric cooking.

There’s no indoor air pollution. So, all the health benefits, or health costs of cooking on open fires can be completely eliminated. And maybe most importantly, from the perspective of the end user, we’ve also found that in most of the markets we operate in, electricity is also the cheapest way to cook for them on a running basis.

So, they can, so families can cook in a way that is the most affordable for them with no knock-on health effects and no knock-on environmental or climate change impacts either. And so that’s, we see that as a really kind of beautiful, comprehensive solution from that perspective. And we’re currently distributing these high-efficiency electric stoves across four countries and scaling that up very rapidly.

So, I think that’s an area that we see a lot of growth in coming into the next few years.

PB: Amazing. That’s really great to hear. I wanted to ask about the follow-up on the geographical aspect, and I was really curious about how is it that you assess and choose where you’re gonna move in, where you’re gonna start working next from a country or region perspective? What, what is that you’re looking for?

CM: Well, I guess I go all the way back to kind of. What is Burn? Burn ultimately is a social enterprise, and we’re founded on this mission of saving forests and lives. And so, we’re really, when we look at this question of where to go next, we look at where the problems that we hope to address are most acute.

This is, and I think this maybe sets us apart a little bit from some other players in the market. But it’s a really fundamental kind of piece of who we are. So, we’re looking at where it is. Deforestation, really the most acute, whereas you know, poverty, the most acute, and these are, these can often be places that are difficult to operate in, but for those reasons are also incredibly important for us to, to operate in.

I mean, as an example, even when we look at Kenya for instance, you know, even within Kenya where we look to expand and where we look to distribute stoves, well, we’ve actually stopped distributing in most of the major urban hubs like Nairobi today because we don’t see that there’s really a long-lasting clean cooking problem in these areas.

We’re seeing that, at least in Nairobi and a couple of other similar areas, clean cooking is now growing fast enough that it’s not necessary for us to be there. So, we’re moving out of the major cities and we’re moving into the rural areas and the more far-flung areas and the areas that have much more acute fuel crises and don’t have access to other clean fuel supply chains.

PB: Thank you. This is gonna be a very work interview question I have next for you. Where do you see Burn in five years? No, I don’t like that question. If I was asked that question, I wouldn’t like it, but I’m still gonna ask it to you.

CM: Yeah, I make a point of never asking that question in interviews, even though I know people always have their answer prepared. But, no, especially for a business, it’s an important question. Right. We have to set this vision to make sure we’re driving in the right direction every, every day.

You know, I think I mentioned we just crossed this 3 million stove milestone. It’s kind of striking if I go, if I rewind 5 years, we were probably somewhere in the ballpark of 300,000 stoves distributed at that time. So, we’ve kind of seen a 10X the growth in stoves distributed over these five years, last five years and into the next five years, I would expect to see about the same.

Where when we talk in five years, we should have distributed around 30 million stoves I would think. And along with that comes a lot of other things. You know, not only do we have these new factories in Nigeria and Ghana, but we should have facilities set up to produce biomass stoves, electric stoves, LPG stoves in several other countries across the world.

And going back to electric cooking, I would expect by that time we’ve really moved that to a highly scaled solution where we’re in the tens of millions of homes who’ve adopted a Burn electric cookstove. So those are some of the more tangible areas that I would see in the next five years or so.

But, you know, again, innovation is really built into our DNA. So, I’m sure when we talk again, in five years, there will be other technologies that we’re rolling out at scale that we haven’t even really thought of today.

PB: That’s really exciting. I really look forward to continuing working together and following your trajectory.

My very last question is, you know, what challenges do you think developers like Burn will be facing in the coming years? What worries you the most, not just you, but maybe similar developers?

CM: Yeah. I think there probably is a lot of shared concerns. Most of the challenges though, I think we see really as opportunities.

Our work has been nothing but challenges from the very beginning. And the whole ethos of the company has been “How do we tackle these challenges one by one by one.”So, if anything, I’m kind of looking forward to some of the new challenges that we have coming up in the next few years.

I think one of the big ones that’s probably on all of our minds in the space is financing. And how do we see that, you know, the funding flows into, well in particular clean cooking projects continue to grow rapidly. The funding gap is still massive for these kinds of solutions.

If we want to, we can eliminate the emissions impact and the deforestation impact and the health impacts and the poverty impacts that go along with cooking on open fires. But just by one estimate, by the Clean Cooking Association’s estimate, we need, I think it’s in the ballpark of 25 billion, to achieve that goal of a hundred percent universal access to clean cooking.

And at the moment our investment in the space is hovering somewhere around a hundred to 150 million per year. So, we’re off by a couple orders of magnitude still, and that definitely keeps a lot of us up at night where we’re just not, um, eating into this problem anywhere near the rate that we, that we need to.

That being said, I feel like in some ways we have kind of reached a tipping point here, where now we really are proving out at scale the impacts that, um, these types of projects can have. And I think the results that we’ll see come along with that, like from the study I’d mentioned earlier, that was done on Burn stoves.

I think we’ll see more and more of these studies coming out, showing that yes, indeed, even at an on-the-ground level, this impact is really profound. And hopefully that then acts as a catalyst to drive even more funding into the space.

PB: That’s great. I said, it wasn’t my last question, but I actually, another one popped into my head as you were speaking and, you know, given how important the finance from Carbon Credit is to your business and being able to carry out the activities you’re doing, if you had one message for a company that’s, you know, considering purchasing credits, but not sure what project type and maybe interested in cook stoves.

What would be your, you know, high-level pitch to them? How would you convince them that this is the right type of project and Burn is actually the right company to be pushing?

CM: You’re really putting my sales pitch on the spot here, Pauline. But, I think, you know, one of the big things for us is, you know, assuming if you’re looking at buying carbon credits, it’s because you care about making an impact on the climate change problem that we’re all trying to work on. And from that perspective, again, if you’re looking at a Burn project, it’s a project that creates impact for the actual people who are being most affected by climate change.

And it’s doing it in a way, where there’s no other alternative kind of tool to make that impact. So, getting somebody in rural Congo a cookstove, that’s not part of any company’s internal Scope 1 or Scope 2 emissions. It’s not going to happen on its own, even if we drive a lot of action on companies and countries reducing their own emissions.

So, it really requires these alternative funding mechanisms to make that impact happen. And it makes a very direct impact on the people who are most vulnerable to climate change in the first place. And on top of that, it comes with, it’s not just reducing a ton of CO2 if, you know, if you buy a cook stove, carbon credit.

It comes with all of these other benefits that are really so important for the long-term health and sustainability of the world. The health benefits and the poverty benefits and the gender benefits that we’ve been talking about. So, I think in that way it’s really something that touches just so many different facets of impact and is a real kind of a profound solution.

PB: Thank you so much Chris and thank you so much for taking the time and indulging with my questions. I really, really enjoy the conversation and I look forward to staying in touch and continuing working with you.

CM: Yeah, it was a real pleasure, Pauline, and look forward to talking to you again.

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