Off-Grid Solutions: WakaWaka

Share the sun.

Sunday 1 June 2014, by dynppa

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

The underlying company, Off-Grid Solutions, is a social venture which main purpose is to fight to abolish energy poverty in the world. WakaWaka is the first brand of this company that focuses on developing, manufacturing and marketing high-tech low-cost solar powered lamps and chargers. These products are sold both in developed and also developing societies.

With every unit sold, they provide one product for free for the people in need in order to fight against energy poverty. It is estimated that at least 1.2 billion people in the world are affected by it. The company is trying to help families in developing countries to become safe-sufficient, sustainable and safe with no need to use dangerous kerosene lamps anymore.

Main Goal
“To make the distribution of renewable energy-based lighting easy and cost-effective, to light up the world for people living in darkness."

Mission
“To provide sustainable solutions for the 1.3 billion people living at the base of the pyramid, primarily off-grid; easing their lives and providing them with a better future.”

Business model
Business model of WakaWaka brings together both business and aid. The company believes that by this strategy they can really make a difference and have the biggest impact. The product portfolio of Waka Waka can be divided into 2 main categories:

  • WakaWaka Light - sustainable solar powered LED lamp which provides light for 80 hours after being exposed to sun for a day upfront.
  • WakaWaka Power - combination of a lamp and a charger. It is capable of charging phones as well as small electronic devices plus providing the light up to 150 hours.

Production was financed by crowdfunding that helped to raise sufficient amount of resources and this project has received a lot of attention and also support. WakaWaka has reached 24 countries such as Haiti, Syria, Kenya, Uganda and many others so far. Not only the company use the strategy: buy one = give one but they also support countries affected by catastrophes (example of earthquake in Haiti).

Off-Grid Solutions applies competitive prices at the local markets (Light for €29 and charger for €69) which makes it possible for a company to make it available for communities in need. The charger for can also be used as a lamp with even more hours of light when recharged by the sun. All electronic devices with a USB charger can be recharged such as Phones or Tablets.

WakaWaka is sharing. Sharing the power. Sharing the sun.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The company is primarily involved in fighting to abolish energy poverty in the world, which is estimated to affect at least 1.2 billion of people. In addition, by providing products which are eco-friendly, safe and sustainable; it helps the families to substantially save on energy expenses, reduce CO₂, increase the number of working and study hours by providing more hours of light and also decrease the number of burn victims and health consequences due to the use of toxic kerosene lamps. Therefore the company is not only contributing in increasing the level of education in developing countries, providing a substitutional source of energy which reduces pollution helping to improve the environment and also increasing the overall living conditions in areas in need.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

In our opinion Off-Grid Solutions combines a great idea for a successful start-up company with ethical motivation. Their concept of WakaWaka includes providing help for people in need and also has a great impact on the environment as it is based on renewable energy and pollution reductions. For example, their assembly plant is completely solar powered.

The company provides wide information about the materials used. Even the package box is from paper plantations where there are more trees planted than chopped down. At the end of the product cycle the company, as it is working with materials that can be recycled, is recycling old units and giving discounts on new units for people who are giving back their old products.

Moreover the company not only donates their products to some communities, but also donates one product per every sold unit into countries in need, which we believe is assumed to be very ethical. Therefore the company did not invent the product to reach a new market, such as developing countries, but creating a product that is also useful for people who are not in urgent need of electricity (for example to use it while hiking).
Developing countries therefore benefit from the invention.

The company also ensures that there is no child labor in their product chain by having local partners visiting the factory location unannounced in China. Also they are trying to improve their documentation of the product chain to the very beginning where there is the gallium finding in mines for the LED needed. Also the company is doing a carbon footprint analysis in order to report the level of carbon needed by shipping their products.

This convinced us that the company is working in order to contribute in an ethical way, but also knows that there is improvement to be made in their production cycle. Other than many other companies Off-Grid Solutions admits that there are things that they could change and communicate it in a credible way. Although the fact that Off-Grid Solutions is producing in China, the company ensures that the salaries, working hours and the sanitation in the working environment is decent.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

As the company uses gallium for their LED’s, which is a rare metal, this may lead to increasing expenditures in producing in the future as the global demand for gallium is supposed to increase highly over the next years. To prevent getting their devices more expensive which may decrease the customers demand they should enforce their research on substitutional resources.

Other than that the company is based in the US and has their main headquarter based in the Netherlands while the producing takes place in China there is a lot of shipping included in the product chain and also in the distribution. Thus the life cycle of the production includes high costs also for the environment. To reduce those costs and also the delivery times for the devices the company may want to open more distribution centers.

Furthermore another challenge might arise due to the fact that WakaWaka is not that well known over the world, that without bigger promotion, which obviously is costly the demand for the products may stagnate or decrease. Moreover the company may want to invent new products to supply their existing customers with new innovations that also may acquire new ones, as their assortment consists of only a few products.

Bibliography

http://offgridsolutions.eu/about/
http://waka-waka.com/mission/
http://waka-waka.com/impact/
http://waka-waka.com/products/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6c2oNYWVPY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz5OyAI7fjw

Location: Haarlem (The Netherlands )

Sector: Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

Official website: http://waka-waka.com/

Key figures:

Countries reached: 24, Number of employees: 12, People affected: 1.2 billion

Nbr. visits: 119