Jewish solar entrepreneur wins coveted $100K Bronfman Prize

Sam Goldman feted for bringing light to developing nations, work introducing affordable solar light to remote communities in Africa and Asia.

June 5, 2014 01:36
2 minute read.



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Canadian-Jewish entrepreneur Sam Goldman, who is bringing clean and affordable solar light to remote communities in Africa and Asia, received the Charles Bronfman Prize and an accompanying $100,000 award during a ceremony in New York on Tuesday.

Goldman, the founder and chief customer officer of d.light design, received the prize for his long history of humanitarian work and for bringing transformative change to 33 million people – by replacing kerosene lanterns with solar lights – the prize committee said.

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Goldman, 34, co-founded d.light design in 2006 as a for-profit social enterprise after spending time in the West African country of Benin during Peace Corps service and then pursuing an MBA at Stanford University.

The Charles Bronfman Prize, which is celebrating its 10th year of distribution, recognizes humanitarians under 50, whose work have global impact and are informed by Jewish values, according to its founders.

The prize was created and endowed by the children of philanthropist Charles Bronfman, Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Andrew Hauptman, together with Stephen Bronfman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman.

While in Benin, Goldman lived in a remote village without electricity and witnessed a neighbor’s son nearly killed in a kerosene accident, the prize committee said.

As he pursued his business school degree after, Goldman became determined to start a company that would provide a suitable alternative to the kerosene lamps.

Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, one of the judges, said: “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 dangerous environment for some of the most impoverished people in the world,” Eizenstat, who had been a senior counsel at Covington and Burling LLP and ambassador to the European Union under the Clinton administration, said.

In addition to Eizenstat, other judges on this year’s international panel for the prize included Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, former Israeli deputy prime minister Dan Meridor, investment banker James D. Wolfensohn and Prof. Amitai Ziv, founder and director of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation and 2007 prize winner.

Goldman’s d.light design has a dozen field offices and four distribution hubs in Africa, China, South Asia and the United States. It has sold more than 6 million solar light and power products around the globe, according to the prize committee.

Approximately 8 million children can now study productively due to d.light’s products, and customers have saved more than $1 billion in energy-related costs, the committee said.

Continuing to open doors for people living in extreme poverty, the company is growing at a rate of 1 million users per month, the committee said.

Goldman, who is the youngest recipient of the award yet, said: “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,” he said.

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