“In Hebrew, the phrase ‘tikkun olam’ means ‘healing the world.’ For me, that healing has two paths. I feel very connected to, and in awe of, natural ecosystems, so I work to protect and preserve them. At the same time, I have a strong belief in social justice and equality, and in my family we’ve consistently worked to provide more people with better opportunities and quality of life.”
d.light, is a social enterprise global leader that delivers affordable solar-powered solutions to the 2 billion people in the developing world who don’t have access to reliable energy.
Through more than a dozen field offices and four distribution hubs in Africa, China, South Asia, and the United States, d.light has supplied more than 12 million solar light and power products to 62 countries around the world. Kerosene is expensive, dirty, and dangerous and provides poor-quality light. An estimated 26 million school-age children can now study more productively with solar lighting, and d.light’s customers have cumulatively saved more than $4 billion in energy-related expenditures. Replacing kerosene lanterns with solar lighting has offset more than 23 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Reliable, affordable, and accessible solar lighting has opened up new opportunities for people living in extreme poverty, enabling them to enjoy a brighter future. In 2020, d.light achieved its goal of reaching 100 million people.
Sam Goldman is the Founder and Chief Customer Officer of d.light, a social enterprise and certified B Corporation headquartered in San Francisco, California with regional offices in China, India, and Kenya. d.light manufactures and distributes the most affordable and durable solar light and power products to the developing world.
Goldman has always been a passionate advocate for the environment. While in high school in New Delhi, India, he started the school’s first recycling program which benefited a neighboring slum. In college, he received a grant from Conservation International to protect the golden monkey by training populations that bordered Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest National Park in resource-management skills. After university, he participated in the Climate Change Caravan, bicycling across Canada and providing communities along the way with practical solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. Goldman’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions continues today as d.light’s solar lanterns have prevented more than 23 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, reducing humanity’s carbon footprint.
From 2001 to 2005, Goldman served as an Environmental Action Peace Corps Volunteer in the West African country of Benin, continuing a family tradition of working abroad for greater equality. Both his parents worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which instilled in Sam a passion for economic development while he was growing up in Cameroon, Mauritania, Pakistan, Peru, India, Rwanda, Canada, and Hong Kong.
While in Benin, he lived by the light of kerosene in a remote village that had no electricity, no running water, and no phones. Here, Sam worked to merge environmental solutions with economic development. He founded a local non-governmental organization (NGO) working with women’s groups to grow and sell the miracle tree Moringa Oleifera as a nutritional supplement to local health centers and hospitals. He also worked with local villages to improve public health and sanitation by introducing improved latrines, rainwater catchment cisterns, solar cookers, and other low-cost high-impact technologies.
The idea for d.light was born during Goldman’s time in Benin. When a neighbor’s son nearly died in a kerosene accident, he began to research the benefits of bringing safe, clean power to the world’s 2 billion people who still rely on kerosene for light. Kerosene, which produces a low-quality light, is expensive and dangerous, and releases both noxious fumes and carbon emissions into the air.
In 2006, he returned home and enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to understand how to leverage business for social and environmental good. While earning his MBA, he participated in a course at the Stanford design school called Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability, where he met the team who became the co-founders of d.light. During the class, the team built prototypes and conducted extensive research with partners in Myanmar and Cambodia validating their earlier research into lighting needs in West Africa.
d.light was incorporated in 2007 and Goldman served as the company’s founding CEO. During his tenure as CEO, he fundraised more than $11 million, started the India sales and marketing division, and oversaw multiple product launches, including the award-winning S250 and S10.
In addition to being selected as the 2014 recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize, Goldman is an Ashoka Fellow and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. He was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the “World’s Top 30 Social Entrepreneurs in 2011.” He was honored as a “Next Generation Leader for Africa” by the African Leadership Network and received the Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Assistance from the National Peace Corps Association in 2011. In 2014, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship named Goldman and the d.light team “Social Entrepreneurs of the Year,” and d.light earned a place on the World Economic Forum’s “Social Entrepreneurs of the Year” list and was top ranked among B Corporations for high social and environmental impact. In 2015, Goldman gave a presentation on d.light to President Obama at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya. In 2016, Business Insider included Goldman among its “Top 100 Business Visionaries Creating Value for the World.” In 2016, d.light won first place in the Global LEAP Award, supported by the Clean Energy Ministerial. LEAP is an international competition that identifies and promotes the world’s best, most energy efficient off-grid appliances.
In addition to his MBA from Stanford University, Goldman holds and MSc in Biology & Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria, Canada. He and d.light have been written about in The New York Times, The Economist, Forbes, The Guardian, and other international publications. He lives in Vancouver, Canada with his family.
10TH ANNIVERSARY of the CHARLES BRONFMAN PRIZE: Sam Goldman
Sam is the first Canadian chosen to receive the Prize. He has created a truly distinctive social entrepreneurial model to design, manufacture, distribute and finance an affordable product to those who need it most. His strong commitment to social change has a direct, tangible and positive impact on the lives of millions of people.WATCH HERE