Women's Empowerment Meets the Carbon Credits Space With A New Avenue of Financial Resources for Women

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Wonderbag, Verra and W+ Standard Launch First Ever Join Initiative to Measure Emission Reductions and Women’s Empowerment Results

Collectively we need to bring to the fore new ways of doing business that not only empowers people most affected by climate change, but equalizes the status quo." Sarah Collins

On Thursday 10 September 2020, Sarah Collins, Founder & CEO of the Wonderbag, in partnership with US based company Verra and W+ Standard, launched the first-ever joint VCS/W+ Standard certification process to measure emission reductions and women’s empowerment results in the carbon credit space. Announced during a virtual launch event that connected leaders in the carbon, environmental and women empowerment space from all over the world – the conversation focused on how this project is set to change the carbon credits landscape and make a real and significant impact on the environment while empowering women and rural communities across Africa.

Verra is a global leader helping to tackle the world’s most intractable environmental and social challenges by developing and managing standards that help the private sector, countries, and civil society achieve ambitious sustainable development and climate action goals. Based in Washington, DC this global leader is a non-profit organization that manages standards for reducing GHG emissions, improving livelihoods and protecting natural resources. Its primary portfolio of standards includes the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the preeminent standard used by the voluntary carbon market with 1,400 registered projects in 80 countries, and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity (CCB) Standards with more than a hundred registered projects worldwide.

The W+ Standard, created by WOCAN, is the first women-specific standard that measures women’s empowerment in a transparent and quantifiable manner, that gives a monetary value to results and creates a new channel to direct financial resources to women. The W+ Standard measures six domains that are critical for women’s empowerment: Time savings, Income & Assets, Health, Leadership, Education & Knowledge and Food Security. These were determined together with rural women from Nepal and Kenya. Methods were developed to measure and quantify progress for each of these domains.

Wonderbag has its roots in South Africa and was developed and launched by KwaZulu-Natal local, Sarah Collins, in 2008. According to Sarah, the inspiration behind this award-winning and revolutionary heat retention cooking bag was not just about changing the way people cook, but the very foundation of the business model is anchored in how it can create life changing, economically viable solutions to people who need them the most, at a price they can afford. Through the Wonderbag Sarah has always challenged the current 'give away’ aid-model (except in cases of emergency situations) where people are given tools or services, and in this case cooking solutions from Governments, academia etc, for free. She explains that not only is this model totally disempowering and patronizing to the beneficiaries, but it also ignores the dignity and freedom of their choice. "Africa is literally littered with failed cook stove initiatives so a solution that was simple, instinctive and culturally acceptable needed to be found. And that is the Wonderbag,” says Sarah.

About the recent partnerships and launch of this exciting project, Sarah enthused that this collaboration is not only a match made in heaven, but it’s also been a long time coming. “Women play an essential role in addressing climate change and ensuring common resiliency - hence the collaboration between the W+ Standard and the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program that addresses the gap. I believe, as do many others, that empowering women is a critical strategy for improving outcomes of climate projects. Despite much skepticism at the time, I believed as far back as 2008 that the obvious mechanism of reducing carbon emissions was carbon financing. The people most affected by climate change are those living in the majority world (typically referred to as the third world), hence the subsidization of the Wonderbag via Carbon Impact Funding was obvious. However, we needed a financial mechanism that would respect culturally relevant innovation. Our partnership with Verra and W+ Standard through this latest initiative has helped achieve just that and positioned us at the forefront globally in the carbon credits space,” explains Sarah.

Wonderbag sold its first VER’s to Microsoft in 2012 and continued to sell carbon across the world, even when carbon markets collapsed. The innovative company that considers itself very data driven has enjoyed its new wave of interest in recent months with the introduction of South Africa’s Carbon Tax, and global companies realizing that global warming is a reality, and carbon neutrality has to be the future. Sarah feels strongly that the impact for buyers locally and abroad is a game changer as this new certification not only supports efforts towards carbon neutrality, but it certifies what measurable impact the Wonderbag has on women and the significant role it plays in diminishing smoke inhalation in the fight against lung disease.

“With over 3 million Wonderbags already distributed across Africa, plus a deep partnership with Red Cross Societies, constant data collecting, including other partnerships across the world, we have more than enough evidence to illustrate that the Wonderbag drastically changes the economic status of women, helps drive down domestic violence, reduces rape, improves access to education and healthcare while also reducing carbon emissions. I believe that is why Time Magazine named Wonderbag one of the Top 50 Genius Companies in the world and also why as we move into the future, Wonderbag's time to help heal the world and its people has arrived. Collectively we need to bring to the fore new ways of doing business that not only empowers people most affected by climate change, but equalizes the status quo,” concludes Sarah.

Notes to Editor:

The Wonderbag is a revolutionary, non-electric, heat retention cooker that allows food that has been brought to the boil by conventional methods, to continue to cook for up to 12 hours, without using any additional energy source. Not only is the Wonderbag a revolution in the kitchen, but it is also a recipe for social change. The world has embraced the Wonderbag because of its environmental attributes and particularly its social contributions. Wonderbag was founded in South Africa in 2008 by local entrepreneur and social activist, Sarah Collins, and the product was born out of a practical desire to continue cooking during a bout of Eskom load shedding. Since opening its doors the company has grown exponentially and this local product has crossed over borders into various overseas markets and now is a hot commodity for corporates across the world looking to offset their carbon footprint. Wonderbags have grown from their SA home base and are now available in countries across the globe, including America and the United Kingdom.

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