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Our3Q – Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise, Cambodia

Carlo – owner of SGFE (Sustainable Green Fuel Enterprise) that was created in 2008 with the aim of alleviating poverty and reducing deforestation in Cambodia, as well as improving waste management in urban areas, by developing a local economic activity: manufacturing highly performing charcoal using organic waste.

 

Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?

We are still open! In 2011 the management wanted to close the factory when I showed up and decided to take it over. And now we are 10 times bigger. We won the International Award for Environmental Projects: there are always about 200 applicants, the short list included 15 and then they go and visit each project. We had judges staying one week, checking finances, interviewing customers. It is a very prestigious award in the development sector. They give five different prices; we won the one for avoiding deforestation. It was important, but yet the biggest success is that we are still open, we are growing, getting bigger. And nobody believed it. Even myself after 2 months leading this company I was thinking: Oh my God, what am I doing?!?

 

Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?

To keep it growing, it goes through stages. Now we are trying to build awareness. We decided to do customers research to discover if they understand our idea. We asked them why they think our charcoal is good for environment and their answer is because it doesn’t make smog. They consider it as the only thing, they have no idea about traditional charcoal be the cause of deforestation. They buy our charcoal because of longer time of burning and lack of smog and sparks. They buy not because of health or environment but because it’s good value for money. If we increased our price most of them probably would change seller. So we are trying to build awareness, develop the brand, make people remember our logo as a good logo, a good company.

 

Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?

We try to work directly with customers to raise their awareness. For example, we organized open days at the factory; we invited all our 100 customers, about 60 showed up. We explained them about deforestation and working conditions. And I told them: look I’m open here, you can come and talk to our workers. I’m not ashamed of showing you around. I challenge how many other companies will open to show what they do. Even just seeing a white guy speaking Khmer made them remember me. I said some jokes so they liked me as well. Another thing is good service, good quality product, good branding. But everything has a cost, if we want to raise awareness we need a bigger budget. It’s not easy. Charcoal is the business of the poor. Customers are poor. It’s not that you can easily get rich. We may survive just selling charcoal but we would never be really able to grow. That’s why we have started to develop the idea of carbon credits.

 

Would you like to add somehing more?

Let me tell you more about carbon credits . Surely you heard about the Kioto protocol for CO2 emission reduction. It’s a sort of mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the ways to do that is to support a project which reduces CO2 emission, like ours. We had our CO2 emission reduction certified: one ton of our charcoal, by avoiding deforestation, can save 16 tons of CO2. In the last 5 years we reduced CO2 emissions by 25.000 tons. It’s not only saving wild life and natural forests in Cambodia, but it’s saving also people in Poland or wherever by reducing CO2 emission because global warming is global. How buying carbon credits looks in practice? If you for example travel somewhere you are taking an airplanes which produce CO2 emission. You can’t avoid this. What you can do is to buy carbon credits from a project like our which reduce gas emissions. By buying this carbon credits you are supporting us in doing our business and you can compensate your CO2 footprint. So if you have one ton or two tons after one year travelling around, you can buy with 15 euro your carbon credits. This is what we are trying to do, we have a trader, our carbon credits are certified, you can measure how many you need, then you do a transaction, you receive a code, everything is certificated. There is also no double counting. I can’t sell the same emission to two different persons. And by buying our carbon credits you not only save the forest and reduce CO2 emission, you also provide jobs to the poorest Cambodian people and allow their children to go to school.

 

The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.

exchangebabel.com

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 20th November, 2015

ID: 018/100

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