For the last 18 months the Shell Foundation has been developing what it calls its ‘Room to Breathe’ indoor air pollution awareness-raising campaign. The campaign aims to save lives, improve livelihoods and reduce climate change emissions through the active promotion – using Social Marketing – of methods that reduce indoor air pollution. It focuses on promoting ‘improved cook stoves’ as ‘the’ internationally-recognised most effective method for tackling indoor air pollution.__

This article describes the growth of the campaign in India as a key tool within the wider tool-box that makes up the Foundation’s efforts to tackle indoor air pollution. The campaign was developed to tackle one of the key challenges independent research shows indoor air pollution-actors face: lack of awareness amongst indoor air pollution-affected households of both the negative impacts of indoor air pollution (health, environment, others) – and the potential solutions, such as improved cook stoves. Through partnerships with microfinance institutions the campaign has subsequently expanded to tackle other major barriers to improved cook stove purchase such as affordability. This article provides some of the key conclusions and lessons learnt of a trial campaign and shows how these findings were incorporated into the design of the current awareness campaign that is still underway.

The campaign also operates on National and Global levels, lobbying key health and environment opinion-leaders with the aim of pushing indoor air pollution up agendas, in turn leading to a measurable increase in resources - both financial and other - applied to tackling indoor air pollution.

For the last 18 months the Shell Foundation has been developing what it calls its ‘Room to Breathe’ Indoor Air Pollution (IAP) awareness-raising campaign.

This aims to save lives, improve livelihoods and reduce climate change emissions through the active promotion - using Social Marketing - of methods that reduce IAP.

The UK’s National Social Marketing Centre (National Social Marketing Centre 2010) defines ‘Social Marketing’ as ‘the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals for a social good.’ The Room to Breathe campaign clearly fits into this definition but it is important to note the description in this article of the shift that has taken place in the campaign from pure ‘health messaging’ to messaging that almost crosses the barrier into traditional product marketing.

It runs on three levels: Local and National (currently in India but with the potential to expand elsewhere) – and Global.

On the Local level, it promotes Improved Cook Stoves (ICS) to IAP-affected households in parts of southern India. These ICS are currently produced by three organisations – Envirofit, First Energy and SELCO – though there is the potential to work with others.

On the National level it lobbies key health and environment opinion-leaders with the aim of pushing IAP up the agenda in India, in turn leading to a measurable increase in resources – both financial and other – applied to tackling IAP.

Finally, in late 2010 and beyond it hopes to join with other organisations to launch a similar opinion-leader campaign on the Global level.

The ‘Four A’s’

The Breathing Space team, which is responsible for the Shell Foundation’s IAP work, categorise the many challenges faced by those trying to tackle IAP as the ‘Four A’s’:

  • Awareness: Lack of awareness about IAP has made it the poor-relation to other global killers such as Malaria and HIV/AIDS – and other global solutions to energy, poverty, climate change issues, such as Solar. This low awareness stretches from IAP-affected households to the corridors of power in the international community;

  • Affordability: Lack of ability by IAP-affected households to afford ICS - ‘the’ internationally-recognised most effective method for tackling IAP - is also a major hurdle.

  • Availability: Lack of access to high quality, durable ICS (with somewhere convenient to go if they need repairing) that fulfil user-needs and desires around fuel use, convenience, cooking times, smoke-levels, taste of food and other issues is also a big challenge.

  • Accountability: Attempts to tackle these challenges are further hampered by a lack of recognised industry benchmarks defining what an ‘ICS’ is, poor monitoring and evaluation capacity and insufficient rigorous evidence of the impact of IAP on both health and the environment.

This article describes the growth of the Room to Breathe campaign as a key ‘Social Marketing’ tool within the wider tool-box that makes up the Foundation’s efforts to tackle IAP. It is a tool that was developed with a clear eye on tackling the first ‘A’ - Awareness, but has expanded to help tackle the other three ‘A’s’ too.

Shell Foundation and IAPTo put the Room to Breathe campaign in context, here is a short summary of Shell Foundation’s IAP work:The Foundation, through its Breathing Space programme, has been tackling IAP since 2002 with the aim of achieving a verifiable significant long-term reduction in the incidence of IAP at the global level, by deploying approaches that are market-oriented and commercially viable. Why market-oriented? Because we believe the only way to make a serious reduction in an issue that impacts half the world’s population is to get the market involved. Giving away or subsidising stoves is not sustainable: no organisation has the resources to supply enough – and when free stoves break there is rarely a supply-chain in place to repair them, leading to users reverting to their old ways.We want to help sell 10 million ICS in five countries in the next five years, of which 50% will be inIndia. Our strategy is two-fold:*To help our key strategic partner, US non-profit Envirofit International (www.envirofit.org), to develop a financially-viable global ICS business.*Catalyse the wider infant ICS-industry by helping to remove the barriers (The ‘Four A’s’ – see main article) - to its development.These two objectives are closely linked. By supporting Envirofit we hope to prove such businesses - often seen as too risky - are viable. By helping the wider IAP-sector tackle some of the barriers it faces we hope to help others – for example, in India, Philips, First Energy and SELCO - develop too so that over time we will see the fall in IAP we strive for.Like most players in the IAP space we have had successes and failures. Key achievements since 2002 include:*Helping to sell more than 400,000 ICS through relationships with a variety of partners;*Helping to develop arguably the leading industry-recognised standards for ICS, the ‘Shell Foundation-Aprovecho’ standards;*Playing a leading role in convincing the IAP-sector that the commercialisation of it (ICS sold at scale through market-oriented approaches) is the most viable way to achieve a significant reduction in the global incidence of IAP;*Committing more than US$15m since 2002;*Supported Berkeley Air, one of the leading independent Monitoring and Evaluation organisations in the IAP sector.

The need for awareness-raising

Through tackling IAP since 2002 we are well aware of the lack of awareness amongst IAP-affected households about both the negative impacts of IAP (health, environment, other) – and methods to tackle it.

However, before launching any awareness-raising campaigns we commissioned an independent survey of more than 1200 IAP-affected households across five of 29 districts in the southern Indian state of Karnataka (population estimated at 60 million, equivalent to Britain’s), to assess existing knowledge, attitudes and practices. The interviews were roughly 90% rural:10% urban, split equally men to women. Most came from poor or medium income households with the average monthly income being 3,000 Indian Rupees (US$60). Good quality ICS in India cost around US$10-US$60.

Key results included:
  • 80% use wood for cooking
  • When asked if they thought smoky kitchens could cause health problems, 86% said ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’. But when prompted with a list of illnesses people focused on the obvious: headache - 50%, breathing-related - 46%, cataract - 56%. They failed to link IAP to more severe health impacts: lung cancer - 20%, low birth weight - 24%, death - 16%.
  • Only 10% of respondents identified ICS as a method for tackling IAP (despite it being ‘the’ internationally-recognised most effective solution).
  • Even when prompted with a list of methods, only 20% ranked ICS in their top three solutions, with ‘use a chimney’ and ‘change to LPG’ ranking higher.
  • 80% of respondents said they were willing to consider buying an ICS for US$16, 30% said they would consider buying an ICS for US$30.

Health miscalculation

From November 2008-February 2009 we ran a trial campaign in parts of Karnataka with a view of establishing the most effective way to reach IAP-affected households.

Our messaging was almost exclusively around health (Figure 2). ‘Khidki Amma – the village gossip’ spread the word about IAP and five ways to tackle it:
  • Dry wood before burning it
  • Keep children away from fire
  • Use a chimney
  • Open the window and
  • Use an ICS

It also used the catchphrase ‘My kitchen, my pride’ to emphasise the cleaner kitchen that would result
from using an ICS instead of a traditional stove.

We trialled a variety of mediums:
  • Van campaigns - vans touring villages and conducting street theatre, games and other educational activities;
  • Static - posters and wall paintings;
  • Broadcast - we ran a range of TV and radio adverts (though note this was on local cable TV and radio stations not state-wide or national channels).

Figure 2: A poster from Shell Foundation’s awareness-raising campaign trial, November 2008 - February 2009, which took place in parts of the southern Indian state of Karnataka – and focused on health messaging

Key conclusions (from a post-trial survey):
  • Physical demonstrations of ICS by both the man and woman in the house are required; they want to ‘touch and feel’ this new-fangled piece of technology. TV and radio adverts alone are not enough;
  • The campaign was good at raising awareness about health impacts (from 43% to 69%) but negative health messaging is not enough to convince people to adopt ICS (83% said they would buy but only 2% bought).

Current campaign expansion

In October 2009, the Room to Breathe Local campaign, using the lessons learnt from the trials, began a sizeable expansion that is still underway.

Stove is King

As a result of the trials we radically shifted our messaging – from health to anything that would convince people to buy an ICS. We did this because with a lifespan of up to five years an ICS bought and used regularly can lead to the significant and sustainable IAP reduction we are looking for. In contrast, evidence (key conclusions above) showed health messaging did not convince people to buy while the impact from convincing them to adopt other ‘free’ behavioural shifts, such as ‘drying wood before burning it’, can be limited because it is much easier for people to revert to their old habits.

Figure 3: An example of a poster from the Room to Breathe campaign expansion, Oct 2009 onwards, which focuses on messaging designed to convince people to buy an ICS

Triggers and barriers to purchase

The campaign drew on a wide number of surveys and market research to hone in on the key triggers and barriers to ICS adoption – and subsequently to match these to our campaign messaging (to maximise impact). Here are just a few key findings:
  • Depending on the survey, between 62% and 94% of respondents said ICS purchase was a joint decision between man and wife;
  • Altogether, 65% of respondents said ICS were too expensive, while 48% said they needed payment options (like instalments);
  • Crucially, the hierarchy of triggers were very different for women and men:

Hierarchy of Triggers to ICS purchase
*Less coughing and sore eyes - from less smoke *Cleaner kitchen and utensils - again from less smoke *Time saved - from collecting less wood *Healthier children - again less smoke *Still a happy husband - as the food is still tasty *Money Saved - on buying less fuel or on medicine because the family will fall ill less often*Time Saved - from having to collect less wood*Taste - the food retains its smoky-flavour*Portability and Durability of ICS*Cheaper than LPG and the fuel is always available (Note: we do not emphasise this in the campaign as we do not want people using LPG less and ICS more as this would actually increase IAP.)

Barriers tended to be less gender specific. These included: ‘claims don't seem credible’, ‘too expensive’ (exacerbated by seasonal fluctuations in income), ‘fear of the unknown’ - and ‘suspicion about availability’ (where could they get one and could they take it back if they have problems).

Our campaign messaging was thus honed to reflect this hierarchy of triggers and barriers. They were also tailored to men and women.

Figure 4: The inside of a Room to Breathe information leaflet. Messaging is targeted at men and women and is tightly aligned to surveys and market research that identified the hierarchy of triggers and barriers to purchase

Acting like a Tourist Board

Room to Breathe currently promotes ICS sold by three different organisations – Envirofit, SELOC and First Energy, as shown in Figure 5.

In the same way a Tourist Board promotes hotels using a Star rating but never subjectively promotes one hotel over another (i.e. never says ‘we think this one is better than that one’), the campaign promotes these partners’ stoves equally.

Rather than a hotel-style five star rating, it just has one rating called the ‘Blue House - Symbol of Trust’ - see bottom left corner of the creative in Figures 3 and 5 - which is part of the overall campaign logo (Figure 1). To qualify for participation in the campaign, ICS must, when compared to a three-stone fire in laboratory tests:
  • Reduce fuel use by at least 40%
  • Reduce emissions by at least 55%
  • Come with a minimum 1-year guarantee.

Futhermore, ICS partners must deliver stoves to customers in a timely manner (following an order) and must provide a local aftercare service. They are also required to report sales figures regularly to the Foundation.

This approach allows the campaign to catalyse several key players in the infant commercial ICS market in India – and offer consumer choice. In some areas (where all three partners operate) we will promote all six stoves (two per partner – see Figure 5). In other areas we may only promote one or two partners.

Figure 5: The front and back cover of a leaflet promoting ICS. In the same way a Tourist Board promote hotels using a Star rating but never subjectively (‘this one is better than that one’) promotes one hotel over another, the Room to Breathe campaign promotes several ICS partners whose stoves pass certain minimum standards.

Getting the message to market

As important as the message hierarchy is the medium for reaching the audience. Using lessons learnt from the trials – and other Social Marketing best practice – we devised a two-pronged strategy:

1. Focus on one District – we selected one District, Shimoga, estimated population 1.5 million, in Karnataka and are currently undertaking a blitz of communications activities designed to convince the population to adopt ICS. A secondary objective is to create a ‘demonstrator effect’, illustrating how such a blitz could be replicated in other parts of India – and hopefully attracting others to the table. For example, the Chief Minister of Karnataka has enthusiastically endorsed the campaign – and says he is willing to adopt targets for 15% of households in some other Districts across the State adopting low or non-smoke cooking technologies.

Activities in Shimoga include van campaigns, touring every village and town with a population of 2000 upwards (110 in total) and conducting extensive awareness-raising activities, focused around demonstrating ICS. We also employ one woman per 2000-5000 population towns. She goes door-to-door to 15 houses-a-day, raising awareness about IAP and inviting people to stove demonstrations.

2. Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) – to keep the campaign cost per ICS-sale to a minimum and simultaneously address the Affordability ‘A’ we are looking to partner with 4-5 medium-sized MFIs in southern India. Many MFIs are now willing to consider loans for products like ICS that improve the lives of their customers – and see such loan offerings as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors. The MFIs will provide access to their membership and a loan product for ICS. We will provide campaign literature and a dedicated stove promotion team, who will over several months work through each MFIs membership, conducting stove demonstrations to as much of the membership (and the members husbands) as is feasible. As of March 2010, we had gone live with Grameen Koota, a Karnataka-based MFI with a membership of 350,000, and we are close to signing partnerships with 2-3 other MFIs.

Conclusion:The jury is out!

On a Local level, Room to Breathe has firmly launched. Backed by 18 months of planning and trials we hope it will play a significant role in tackling not just the ‘Awareness’ challenge but also a large part of the ‘Affordability’ challenge too. Crucially, we need to get the cost of the campaign per ICS sold down to an absolute minimum – ideally US$1.5-US$2 per ICS; we are not there yet.
On National and Global levels there are two areas where the Room to Breathe campaign is making a difference. The first, is the expansion of the current India-based local campaign to IAP-affected households in other countries, of course allowing for different local cultural characteristics. The second, is to target national and global key opinion leaders through niche advocacy campaigns with the aim of attracting more interest and resources (both financial and non-financial) to the IAP sector as a whole. We are, for example, currently in talks with the Indian government about how we can better work together – and we are partnering with the United Nations Foundations and other key players in the IAP world to create a Global Alliance on ICS. Watch this space for more developments! In the meantime we hope you will join the Room to Breathe campaign.


All surveys and creatives linked to the Room to Breathe campaign mentioned in this article will be made available shortly on the Hedon website and at the Room to Breathe Campaign website. The campaign is happy to make its creatives – posters, leaflets etc – available for use by other organisations.
Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Wednesday September 1, 2010 08:59:00 GMT.
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