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Inclusive Development: market-led solutions to the SDGs

CISL is creating a programme in Cambridge to explore how companies can become better agents of inclusive development in the global south. Drawing on researchers at the University’s Centre of Development Studies, it will evaluate the practices of leading corporations working in Africa to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why, contributing to the global evidence base on private sector development.

Working closely with civil society partners and academics, the programme will enable business, government and financial institutions to identify scalable, market-led solutions to the challenges underlying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We are looking for corporate partners to pioneer this work with us.


How the programme works

The programme comprises a small group of companies tackling business-relevant questions in co-operation with Cambridge research teams and specialist development and technology partners.

Specifically, we are keen to work with a group of leading companies with footprints in the global south to:

  • identify innovations in their markets, supply chains or wider business relationships with potential to advance SDG outcomes at scale
  • evaluate the impact of these innovations as they unfold, learning lessons about what works, what doesn’t, and why
  • magnify global interest in private sector development through ‘substantive case studies’, thought leadership, and journal papers.

Each company identifies an area of business where a particular opportunity or challenge exists relating to a critical SDG area like health, gender, income, work or governance.

Global evidence is synthesised in order to frame business opportunities, allowing new thinking to be trialled within the operations, sourcing or selling relationships of the partner companies.

The aim is to draw lessons for replication and scale, engage policymakers and move development thinking forward though example. The principal output will be improved business strategies for delivering the SDGs, communicated through case studies developed by a Cambridge team supported by local research institutions.


Case study: ‘Biogas for health’ pilot study, Kenya

Commissioned by

AstraZeneca, with Centre of Development Studies (CDS), University of Cambridge and Biogas International (Kenya) Ltd


Dr Jake Reynolds, CISL, Dr Alexandra Winkels, CDS, Dominic Wanjihia, Biogas International, Ashling Mulvaney, AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca logoProject overview

Inclusive development addresses poverty and growth in a systemic manner. Health and productivity are intimately linked and this project aims to assess the impact of clean cooking fuel on respiratory health, livelihoods and the environment.

Many households in rural sub-Saharan Africa rely on burning solid (wood) fuels and indoor air pollution results in poor respiratory health of women and children. Wood fuel collection is time intensive or expensive if purchased and has severe impacts on surrounding natural resources.

Over a period of 18 months, this pilot project will introduce and test the impact of clean cooking fuel in the form of both domestic units and community scale biogas (methane) plants in one locality in Kisumu county (Kenya). The particular site is Dunga Beach, located on the shores of Lake Victoria. Most households and local businesses use wood as fuel. However, organic material in the community such as kitchen waste, animal dung and water hyacinth (harvested from the lake) can be converted into biogas, providing a clean alternative to wood burning.

Project aims

The aim of this project is to analyse the impact of biogas technologies on respiratory health, livelihoods and the environment through the availability to households and small enterprises of an environmentally sustainable and economically viable cooking fuel. To this end, longitudinal data about health impacts, economic effects and natural resource use will be collected at individual, household and community levels. Observations relating to local institutions, diffusion of technology, use and adoption, and governance, will be monitored throughout the project lifecycle.

Lessons for inclusive development

There is an urgent need to find innovative solutions to social and environmental challenges in Africa and elsewhere, solutions which integrate delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) but are also scalable to reach large numbers of people, and replicable across locations. Appropriately done, this is where the reach, resources and practical expertise of the private sector comes can make a real difference. CISL’s programme on inclusive development is exploring how comp[anise can become better agents of health, gender empowerment, income, livelihoods and jobs. By working with companies to pilot innovations – on the ground or at a strategic level – it aims to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Read Dr Jake Reynolds' blog: Transforming lives through clean, green cooking energy.


Dunga fisheries 2

Contact us

If you are a company interested in pioneering this work with us, please .

About the partners

Institute for Sustainability Leadership, University of Cambridge  

CISL has been catalysing leadership towards a sustainable economy for almost 30 years. We have worked with 8,000 senior executives and policymakers internationally to help align their strategies with this objective. We form a bridge between these executives and cross-disciplinary teams of University researchers to elucidate new perspectives and solutions. Our thought leadership and industry collaborations have been a notable influence at some of the world’s most prestigious fora.

Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge

Located within the Department of Politics and International Studies, CDS is the University’s research and education hub on global development. It’s interdisciplinary training is grounded in the realities of development, with research capabilities spanning the political economy of development and markets; innovation in commodity chains; technology in a rural African context; health, gender empowerment; and the impact of renewable energy.

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