The Charles Bronfman Prize Names Sam Goldman as 2014 Recipient

Marking its 10th anniversary, The Charles Bronfman Prize today announced that Canadian Sam Goldman, Founder & Chief Customer Officer of d.light design, an international social enterprise, is the 2014 award recipient.

Watch a Video of Sam Goldman & Charles Bronfman


Each year, The Charles Bronfman Prize – and an accompanying $100,000 award – is presented to a visionary and dynamic humanitarian under the age of 50 whose work is informed by Jewish values, has global impact that changes lives and inspires future generations.

“Sam Goldman fully embodies the spirit and values of The Charles Bronfman Prize, as evidenced by his strong commitment to social change that has a direct, tangible and positive impact on the lives of millions of people around the globe,” said Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, speaking on behalf of the international panel of judges who selected Goldman for the Prize.

“Sam has created a truly distinctive social entrepreneurial model to design, manufacture, distribute and finance an affordable product that is already improving the lives of more than 33 million people in 62 countries—a substantial number of those in 2013 alone. Replacing expensive and dangerous kerosene, which produces low quality light and noxious fumes, with affordable solar products that provide greatly improved lighting, transforms an unhealthy and unsafe environment for some of the most impoverished people in the world. It simultaneously reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves education by providing the light students need in order to study,” Ambassador Eizenstat said.

Recognizing that philanthropy and humanitarian work are increasingly taking new shapes and forms, 2014 marks the first time The Charles Bronfman Prize has been awarded to an individual working through a for-profit social enterprise. While previous recipients have all been in the nonprofit space, The Charles Bronfman Prize judges saw in Sam Goldman a creative and compelling example of an individual who determined a socially responsible, for-profit model was best to take his unique vision to provide light to those in need and to scale it globally.

After spending years conducting humanitarian work across the globe, Sam founded d.light, a certified B Corporation, dedicated to providing the most reliable, affordable and accessible solar lighting and power systems for the developing world with a goal of reaching 100 million people by 2020.

While Sam was serving with the Peace Corps in the West African country of Benin, he lived in a remote village without electricity, lighting his nights with a kerosene lamp. After a neighbor’s son was nearly killed in a kerosene accident, Sam realized the grim fact that almost 2 billion people worldwide also led lives lit by kerosene. From his village, Sam could see satellites orbiting the Earth at night. He knew technology existed that could easily replace kerosene lanterns, and asked himself why that wasn’t happening. After his time in the Peace Corps, Sam went to Stanford Graduate School of Business, determined to start a company that would produce an alternative to kerosene lanterns.

Less than a decade later, d.light was named one of the 10 “Best for the World” companies by B Lab. The list ranks Certified B Corporations in a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of purpose driven companies’ impact on its workers, community, and the environment.

Through over a dozen field offices and four distribution hubs in Africa, China, South Asia and the United States, d.light has sold more than 6 million solar light and power products around the world. An estimated 8 million children are now able to study productively thanks to d.light, and d.light has already saved its customers over 1 billion dollars in energy-related expenses. In doing so, d.light is also reducing entire communities’ carbon footprints and opening up new opportunities for people living in extreme poverty. It is growing at the rate of 1 million users per month.


More About Sam Goldman
Goldman, 34, co-founded d.light design in 2006 as a for-profit social enterprise; d.light manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products designed to serve the more than 2 billion people globally without access to reliable electricity.

Sam has been selected as an Ashoka Fellow and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader; he was recognized by Forbes in 2011 as one of the world’s top 30 social entrepreneurs. The Schwab Foundation recently named Sam Goldman one of the world’s top social entrepreneurs for 2014.

Prior to founding d.light, Sam founded and managed multiple ventures in Africa, including sustainable agriculture and construction businesses and a for-profit NGO cultivating the miracle tree Moringa oleifera as a nutritional supplement. He has lived in Cameroon, Mauritania, Pakistan, Peru, India, Rwanda, Canada, Hong Kong and the United States. After graduating with degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria, Canada, he earned an MBA from Stanford.

“I am delighted and humbled to be The Charles Bronfman Prize 2014 recipient, becoming part of the Prize’s legacy of innovation and humanitarian service tied to Jewish values. The Prize provides a platform for d.light to create awareness of the huge potential for small-scale, distributed solar energy solutions and to further d.light’s work to change lives, education, health, and savings potential for literally billions of people living without reliable electricity,” Sam Goldman said upon news of the award.

“I am honored to be both the youngest recipient and the first Canadian to receive the Prize, and for d.light to be the first social enterprise recognized. The Charles Bronfman Prize benefits my work immensely and I am confident that d.light, and other social enterprises, provide a growing example of how a market-based approach can scale up solutions that fundamentally make the world a safer, healthier and more egalitarian place. d.light has already reached over 33 million people with clean, affordable, solar light and power, and is accelerating toward our mission of transforming the lives of 100 million people in the developing world by 2020,” Goldman said. “My parents both worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), providing development assistance in emerging economies. Growing up with them as role models reinforced the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, ‘healing the world.’ Tikkun Olam best encompasses my efforts to seek solutions to persistent problems of inequality, while striving to treat those less fortunate with the dignity they deserve, and in the case of d.light, provide world-class products and technology at prices they can afford.”


See photos of Sam Goldman


Sam Goldman’s nominating team for The Charles Bronfman Prize, included Nadine Freeman, Co-Director, Ashoka Globalizer.

“In providing entire populations with both physical access to new technologies and low-cost innovations to control their own ‘free’ solar energy, poor or rural families no longer pay a disproportionate amount for energy and can enjoy many of the same benefits of modernity that many of us consider ‘necessities of life,’ Freeman said.

“Sam’s model is compelling because he has created a technology and distribution platform that improves the entire rural population’s health, savings, earning potential, education rights and overall quality of life, while creating opportunities for new entrepreneurs and eliminating millions of tons of CO2 emissions, permanently reducing humanity’s carbon footprint.”

Charles Bronfman, the namesake of the Prize, said he was thrilled the 10th anniversary of The Charles Bronfman Prize marks some “firsts” for award.

I’m delighted, in this the 10th year of the Prize, that the judges have chosen our first Canadian laureate, our youngest recipient ever and one who is on the leading edge of a growing trend that uses a for-profit business model to greatly impact social change,” Bronfman said.

“I believe that philanthropy is most effective when the ‘soul meets the business plan’ and I believe that Sam Goldman has embraced both aspects. He has articulated a clear sense of purpose, and joined it with an intelligent, innovative business plan.”

Charles Bronfman’s son Stephen Bronfman, speaking on behalf of the Prize founders, summed up the selection of Sam Goldman saying, “Sam and Dad are so much alike. Like my father, he is unbelievably creative and he is making his mark on the world informed by his Jewish values. That is the essence of The Charles Bronfman Prize, and we are thrilled that Sam Goldman is joining the innovative family of laureates we’ve honored since 2004.”


About The Charles Bronfman Prize
2014 marks the tenth anniversary of The Charles Bronfman Prize. Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Stephen Bronfman, together with their spouses, Andrew Hauptman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman, established the Prize to honor their father and his commitment to applying Jewish values to better the world and to inspire the next generations.


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Previous recipients are Jay Feinberg, Founder and Executive Director of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation; Dr. Alon Tal, Founder of Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; Dr. Amitai Ziv, Founder and Director of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation; Rachel Andres, Founder and Director of Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project; Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, Co-Founders of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP); Sasha Chanoff, Founder and Executive Director, RefugePoint; Jared Genser, Founder and President of Freedom Now; Karen Tal, Former Principal of The Bialik-Rogozin School and Co-Founder of Education Insights; and Eric Rosenthal, Founder and Executive Director of Disability Rights International.