Solar Light Challenge – Championing Renewable Energy to Change One Life At a Time

Every night, more than 789 million people are engulfed in darkness.

Energy poverty is one of the biggest environmental concerns to date. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor air pollution from the burning of kerosene, firewood and other fossil fuels kills an estimated 4.3 million people every year – more than HIV and Malaria combined.

Moreover, studies have also shown that fuel-based lighting produces more than 190 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually, the same as the emissions produced from 38 million cars.

To tackle climate change and put an end to energy poverty – clean, affordable energy must be produced at a pace that will meet rising demand without environmental detriment, with LED solar lights as a suitable alternative.

Enter WWF’s Solar Light Challenge, a partnership we launched with SolarBuddy to provide solar light kits to schools, children and families living in remote areas of Southeast Asia. Lifestyle and luggage brand, Samsonite, took part in this meaningful challenge.

The Solar Light Challenge engaged Samsonite employees to assemble solar light kits that would replace the carbon-intensive and toxic kerosene lamps for benefitting communities. In this specific project, Samsonite has contributed 75 solar lights for the children in Cambodia to study at night.

Mr Satish Peerubandi, Vice President of Samsonite Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam. has great plans for Samsonite to be the most sustainable lifestyle bag and travel luggage brand internationally. For a start, he believes in engaging his employees to participate in activities that benefit the natural environment.

Mr Satish Peerubandi, Vice President of Samsonite Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Viet Nam.

The distribution of the solar lights could result in a 78% increase in time spent on homework. The switch to renewable energy also meant that families saved on having to buy kerosene fuel which is known to be toxic to both the environment and the children.

“True to Samsonite’s spirit, giving back to the community has been the essence of the organisation. We are very inspired to do every little bit to make these positive changes,” said Mr. Peerubandi.

Before having the solar lights, students were unable to study once the sun went down. Education is a pivotal factor in breaking the poverty cycle and the lack of an energy supply robs these children from reaching their full potential.

Grade three student Hok Chunlong said, “I want to become an engineer. Before I got my solar light, I used kerosene lamps and candlelight.”

One solar light could offset 1.28 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 10 years which is the equivalent to growing 21.3 tree seedlings over the same period.

Mr. Peerubandi along with other Samsonite employees attended the virtual session conducted by WWF to assemble the solar lights. His favourite part of the session: the video that showed the living condition and hope for the young children in Cambodia.

To Mr. Peerubandi, being a sustainable business also means being future proof and resilient, which entails leveraging on brand awareness, scale, and reach to support meaningful and impactful causes. “We are not only using our expertise in innovation to give the best of products but also to use innovation to play a role in sustainability, helping to leave behind a better world for the next generation.”

Samsonite also plans to be carbon neutral by 2025. “Transitioning to a lower-carbon business model will require commitment and investment, but we are more than ready to rise to this challenge.”

To succeed, he shared a four-pronged sustainability strategy that reflects Samsonite’s priorities to provide a people-focused culture with the best opportunities in a supportive environment; create the best products employing the most sustainable supply chains; encourage good practices and positive impacts beyond direct business; targeted climate actions to significantly reduce carbon footprint.

“We envision introducing more lines that include sustainable materials and forge strong collaborations with our suppliers and the waste industry to stimulate the market for recycled plastics. Our scale allows us to work with suppliers to create more sustainable materials while ensuring our products remain affordable.”

Mr. Peerubandi also encourages businesses to start by mapping out a net-zero future and leveraging on their strengths to drive climate leadership. “Singapore has always been at the forefront of positive climate action. Personally, I am very proud that my country is making conscious efforts towards a sustainable future.”

“We will get there by looking at our entire business; from the raw materials we use, how we design and make our products and the people we work with, how we get our products to our customers and give back to our local communities,” said Mr. Peerubandi confidently.

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