Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Ben Jeffreys (BJ): I’m from Australia, and originally started off in the business world trying to increase my impact through a career in CSR. However, it was tough to find options in this field, so I decided to work in the development sector with Oxfam before moving into social enterprise.
I moved to Cambodia in 2015 with my family to startup ATEC, which was the winner of the inaugural Google Impact Challenge.
Ben Jeffreys, Founder & CEO, ATEC International
MB: Please introduce your business and the problems you’re trying to solve.
(BJ): Access to clean, modern cooking solutions is an unmet need of 4 billion people, costing the global economy $2.4 trillion per year, plus contributing more greenhouse gases than the global airline industry.
ATEC exists to solve clean cooking and climate change through disruptive technology, offering modern cooking solutions that are made highly affordable through carbon credits. Our goal is to be the global leader in clean cooking by 2030 for all Base of Pyramid (BoP) households.
Currently there are two products in the ATEC range: the ATEC Biodigester, which turns cow and pig manure into safe and clean cooking gas and organic fertiliser for crops, and the ATEC eCook stove, an e-cooker that offers the safest cooking solutions, affordable to BoP households via Pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) instalment options.
ATEC biogas stove and rice cooker with customer
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now and what support do you need?
(BJ): Building reliable, cost effective supply chains in the current climate is proving highly challenging. Global supply chains post-COVID are currently like a tool box that’s fallen off a shelf. Everything you need is there, but it’s messy and inefficient.
We’ve recently appointed a new COO who will work closely with our teams to help us build stronger supply chains moving forward. We want to ensure that we can pass the cheapest prices through to the customer without compromising on quality.
The ATEC team
MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?
(BJ): ATEC’s goal is to be the global leader in clean cooking by 2030 through disruptive technology. We have rolled out in Cambodia and Bangladesh, and are now preparing to expand into the African continent and other South Asian countries through working with existing PAYGO distributors. Leveraging climate finance through carbon credit is one of our key areas to explore intensively.
One of the major targets of ATEC is to define a path for other sectoral organisations working towards climate change, and finding innovative ways to finance the sector.
The ATEC eCook Stove
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
(BJ): Be resilient and never lose sight of your big goal. To deliver profit and real purpose often means you’re working in a BoP market where margins are exceptionally tight. You will question if it can be done, but as a leader you must make the impossible not just seem possible, but inevitable.
MB – Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from:
(BJ): Focusing too much on short term results rather than scalability and building for the long term.
MB – How do you spend your time away from work?
(BJ): Mainly running after my three young daughters! That, combined with things that keep me fit – mountain biking and tennis mainly.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
(BJ): “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
(BJ): “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
(BJ): Discipline, you can never actually be good enough at it (and my tennis forehand).
MB – What’s one thing you want to achieve in 2022?
(BJ): Proving to the world that our impact flywheel, that utilises carbon financing to accelerate solving clean cooking, is not just possible but inevitable. We may succeed or we may fail, but at a minimum we must mark out the path for others.
Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2021 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.