Meet the B Corps #2 Mobisol - Best Life
Mobisol is a Certified B Corp and a leading Germany based international company engineering, developing and delivering rent-to-own solar home and business systems, appliances and services for emerging economies. Mobisol is Africa’s largest rent-to-own solar service provider (by capacity installed), paving the way for the solar revolution in the developing world by delivering a clean, affordable alternative to fossil fuels for low-income households living without access to reliable energy.
Mobisol has so far electrified over 35,000 households in East Africa and has installed more than 3.5MW solar capacity. Over 175,000 indirect beneficiaries are profiting from this electrification infrastructure. The company has so far employed 350 full-time employees and empowered over 300 small entrepreneurs working as contractors, with over 90% of the team working in Tanzania and Rwanda. The Mobisol Akademie trains and certifies all customer-facing staff and has so far trained over 700 people.
"We are very happy with the strong and stable growth of the last 3 years and of recently receiving, among other acclaimed recognitions, the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change Award 2015."
Let's find how all of the above was achieved !
For the second edition of Meet the B Corps, B Lab Europe interviewed Lisa Schwarz, Communication Manager at Mobisol GmbH. Lisa told us a little bit more about the impact the B Corp Certification has had on the company and on the kind of Change that Mobisol seeks to achieve.
What difference has becoming a Certified B Corp made for Mobisol?
At Mobisol, we see becoming a Certified B Corp not just as a turning point – but rather a logical step in a successive process towards joining hands with other like-minded companies and partners in creating the business environment we want to operate in.
Mobisol has long striven to be a socially responsible business with the clear aim to empower communities in developing nations with affordable and clean solar energy. We aspire to work and live in an environment where business not only means profit, but also responsibility. We feel and aim to act responsibly towards our team colleagues, our customers, other stakeholders and the environment. Becoming a B Corp is one step towards displaying this commitment publicly.
Can you mention some benefits for Mobisol arising from the use of the BIA (B Impact Assessment)?
The B Impact Assessment’s policy recommendations are an excellent guideline for optimizations of what may be feasible in terms of internal corporate structure and policies as well as external output. The B Corp Certification – stating a strong "Yes to sustainability and positive social and environmental impact” – also helps to create a stronger corporate identity and feeling of togetherness among colleagues. This is specially important for a rapidly expanding team, which in Mobisol’s case has grown from a handful of people five years ago to a team of about 700 employees from over twenty countries based in three continents.
Additionally, the B Impact Assessment can be an interesting tool in partner and investor relations. Mobisol aims to find financial, strategic and franchise partners that share our mission and vision. In turn, the B Corp Certification allows potential partners to obtain a first glance at Mobisol’s social and environmental practices and impact.
In the long run, the certification can also be of interest to our customers. Knowledge is spreading rapidly – even in far-off regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Our customers in remote areas of rural East Africa are already proud to learn about solar energy’s positive implications for global environmental protection. And they do applaud Mobisol’s initiatives to e.g. electrify community institutions in Tanzania or participating in monthly community work in Rwanda. Being a Certified B Corp could truly prove to be a unique selling proposition here in the near future.
What is the biggest energy provision challenge for Mobisol in a context in which oil is getting as cheap as water?
There is a vast demand for Mobisol solar systems in our project countries. Thus for us, the notion that the oil price alone is the sole determiner for energy access costs falls short.
Off-grid solar is currently outcompeting fossil fuels on several levels. Kerosene for lamps and fuel for generators are still very expensive in most Sub-Saharan countries. Indoor air pollution caused by kerosene lamps in developing countries is one of the most critical global health hazards and open flames inside the house can be a devastating fire risk. Generators are expensive to operate, noisy, damaging to the environment and contribute to climate change. The “traditional” solution to the energy crisis in Sub-Saharan nations - to build on-grid infrastructures - is very expensive, slow to implement, logistically difficult and is not adapted to households’ low energy consumption. And after all that, the power still needs to be generated.
In comparison, off-grid solar is significantly cheaper, fast, flexible and adapted to low consumption patterns. The power systems produce no air or noise pollution and are environmentally friendly - Mobisol systems currently offset about 20,000t CO2 per year. Microfinanced instalment schemes allow for customer-friendly payment methods: Mobisol’s high-quality solar systems are affordable as the cost can be paid off conveniently via mobile phone in a 36-month instalment plan. Mobisol’s monthly rates are based on what households previously spent on fossil fuels, so their monthly expenditure is not going up – on the contrary, after three years customers own their personal (free!) electricity source.
How is Mobisol “Being the Change”?
Mobisol aspires to profoundly change the way we think about worldwide energy provision. Mobisol has so far electrified almost 40,000 households in East Africa and has thus reached out to approximately 200,000 people that previously lived without a reliable electricity source. 120,000 children can study at night using efficient LED lights provided by Mobisol instead of breathing in dangerous kerosene fumes that will permanently damage their health. Approximately 13,000 small businesses run by Mobisol solar systems generate an additional household income of over 5 million Euros per year. Mobisol also creates new opportunities in the chronically precarious labour markets of East Africa. The "Mobisol Akademie" offers a comprehensive education to aspiring employees and Mobisol has created over 700 permanent jobs mostly in Tanzania and Rwanda.
Mobisol also seeks to change the misconception of Africa in Europe: The contribution of off-grid electrification solutions shows that 'development' must not be a repeat of the environmentally damaging growth processes of industrialised countries. Here African nations can become lighthouses showing industrialized countries the way to a more eco-friendly and sustainable future.
As Mobisol is expanding into new markets, we are also expanding our product-service portfolio: Mobisol is already providing a variety of DC appliances and business solutions additional to our solar home systems. And we believe it does not stop there - millions of people living in rural areas have many more unmet demands. In the years to come, Mobisol aspires to utilize our already existent know-how of Base of the Pyramid markets to become a “Gateway“ for other providers to reach our customers – thus enabling our customers to live truly the “Best Life“.
If you want to help "Plug in the World" check this inspiring video and don't forget to follow Mobisol: