Man watering crops in Africa


Shell Foundation creates and scales business solutions to empower underserved populations in Africa and Asia to earn a living income through access to clean energy

In order to build sustainable and impactful markets, we provide patient support to early-stage businesses and intermediaries capable of delivering social change at scale via ground-breaking technologies or business models without long-term reliance on charitable support or subsidy.


Our experience has led us to develop a six step model to accelerate social innovation and build new inclusive markets in challenging locations.

How do we support our portfolio?

Backing genuine game-changers is risky and most entrepreneurs cannot find the early-stage support they need to succeed.

We have developed a high-touch support model to create lasting impact at scale.

75–80% of our funding support initiatives that are progressing to scale and sustainability (compared with under 20% in our early years as a conventional grant maker).

We support pioneering enterprises to test and prove ideas that can transform the way people live and work, providing:

  • Patient, flexible and risk-tolerant  funding to demonstrate impact, scale and viability
  • High touch day-to-day business support and strategic guidance
  • Links to private and public sector partners and investors
  • Tailored instruments to help partners build a track-record to leverage second-stage finance

How do we select our portfolio enterprises?

  • Shell Foundation spends extensive time in market to identify entrenched challenges related to energy access.

We then use our networks to find market-based solutions that can deliver significant impact on a global scale. 

We carefully select enterprise partners with:

  • A track-record in emerging markets
  • Entrepreneurial flair
  • A shared vision for scale and sustainability
  • The necessary management skills and expertise to build a global business

A holistic portfolio

Our portfolio of enterprises include social enterprises (focused on delivery of products and services to end consumers) and market enablers that accelerate the growth of proven sectors. These enablers include:

B2B intermediaries who tackle barriers to scale across the value chain (such as consumer affordability, talent or last mile distribution)

Financial vehicles who provide appropriate finance to early-stage enterprises and distributors at different stages of growth

Non-profit institutions who build the infrastructure needed for markets to thrive: codifying best practice, developing standards, leveraging investment or advocating for policy, legal or regulatory change

the sf portfolio
Two men talking in a muddy field

What is 'high touch business support'?

We use a combination of business and development thinking to provide our portfolio with strategic guidance and support. Our early-stage funding and management support helps pioneers:

  • Refine business models
  • Develop their customer offering and expand their customer base
  • Recruit world-class talent
  • Develop global systems and processes
  • Strengthen supply chains
  • Agree performance metrics to track impact, growth and financial sustainability

Strategic Partnerships

Several ongoing partnerships with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) under the TIME (Transforming Inclusive Energy Markets) and CASEE (Catalysing Agriculture by Scaling Energy Ecosystems); Nuveen; FMO; DFC; and the Mirova Gigaton Fund are driving access to energy in Africa and Asia.

See SF's strategic partners