Behavior Change | Clean Cooking in Bangladesh


In 2016, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves contracted social and behavior change communication (SBCC) agency Purplewood, to carry out a pilot behavior change and demand generation campaign in 12 districts. PW distanced the effort from existing associations of improved cookstoves and adopted a category branding approach. The category was called, ‘Modern Stoves’. By the end of the campaign, brand, logo and product benefit recall had jumped to 80 percent. The following are some learnings from the effort.

Clean Cookstoves: A Solution-Problem Approach

The very concept of ‘Clean Cookstoves’ was born through a reverse process, with a solution seeking a problem. While there was indeed a global challenge to be met, it was up to development practitioners and project planners to define how marketing would bridge the gap between demand and supply.

Six Modern Stoves featured in the behavior change campaign (photo: Purplewood)
Six Modern Stoves featured in the behavior change campaign (photo: Purplewood)


A clean and/or efficient cookstove uses cleaner fuels (e.g. electricity, LP gas, pellets) and emits comparatively lower levels of smoke and greenhouse gases. In some cases, clean cookstoves help save on fuel costs and on time invested in gathering firewood and cooking.

A variety of clean cookstoves have already passed rigorous testing and certification. Constant R&D helps make incremental improvements to the available technology. As a result, many of the consumers are satisfied with their purchase. While the products themselves are tested and refined on a regular basis, the product concept is less consumer-oriented. Clean cookstoves are still conceived and analyzed as a ‘green technology’ or a ‘solution to respiratory illnesses caused by smoke inhalation’. These notions relate directly to the functional benefit of improved cookstoves: less smoke.

Behavior Change Experience in Bangladesh

During the 2016 pilot behavior change campaign, one of the first insights drawn from consumers was that the ‘renewable energy’, ‘green technology’ or ‘climate change intervention’ framings are entirely products of the development sector. Therefore, they did not embody the needs, wants and emotions of consumers.

“Times are changing, change your stove” – the campaign call to action.

Data collected during the 2016 Bangladesh pilot, funded by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC), suggests an interesting trend. The pilot campaign featured two consumer interaction windows: a dial-in helpline and a Facebook page. The helpline received over fifteen thousand calls, while 234 unique conversations were opened on Facebook. Of these, virtually zero interactions referenced respiratory health concerns or any concern for the environment. On the contrary, many interactions were about wall stains, indoor cooking, portability, warranty etc. Consumers treaded cautiously, but they were interested in exploring ICS options.

A girl holds the Modern Stoves 'windmill' logo during a behavior change campaign fair (photo: Aminur Rahman Mukul, PW 2016)
A girl holds the Modern Stoves ‘windmill’ logo during a behavior change campaign fair (photo: Aminur Rahman Mukul, PW 2016)

Many requested visual evidence (videos and photographs). Nearly half of those who expressed an interest to buy an ICS also offered to travel to a retail outlet or showroom. Future campaigns would do well to focus more on generating visual evidence and content.

In the end, a Modern Stove is a convenience product. In households where mothers have long cooked on earthen traditional cookstoves, daughters are now opting for smarter options. The latter, younger generation is eager not to spend the entire day in smoky kitchens. Even in rural areas, many would rather find gainful employment.

This is where the change is coming from. There is potential for behavior change when it comes to clean cookstoves. But the change driver is ‘convenience’, and not ‘environmental consciousness’ or ‘health-awareness’.

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