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Case Code: LDEN159
Case Length: 13 Pages
Period: 2008-2019
Pub Date: 2020
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.400
Organization : Wonderbag
Industry :
Countries : Global
Themes: Sustainable Entrepreneurship/ Sustainable Innovation
Case Studies  
Business Strategy
Human Resource Management
IT and Systems
Leadership & Entrepreneurship

Wonderbag: Sarah Collins`s Sustainable Innovative Cooking Model for the Poor

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In 2008, South Africa was experiencing numerous power outages, which posed a challenge to the people. It was on one such electricity blackout days, that Collins had her eureka moment. She jumped out of her bed with the idea that with the invention she had in mind – the Wonderbag – she was certainly going to change the world. ..

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The Wonderbag was a social development project. It benefited every person in the value chain. People from impoverished backgrounds were trained to stitch the Wonderbags. The bags were sold by agents who were entrepreneurs, to customers who saved on time and energy costs. By using the Wonderbag, people also contributed to saving the planet. Used 3-4 times a week, the Wonderbag reduced the carbon footprint by half a carbon ton per annum. ..


Collins had a breakthrough when the Wonderbag caught the eye of Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman (Polman) at a 2010 South Africa World Cup event. Polman thought it was a great product. Unilever went on to partner with Collins and the Wonderbag increased its rate of sales to 247%, the highest rise ever of a Unilever operative sale. The Wonderbag drove the bottom line market segment of Unilever. Later in 2011, Collins and Mathe attended a top-level climate negotiations conference. Geoffrey Lean, an award-winning investigative journalist who was at the conference, said about Collins and Mathe, ..


After the resounding success of and wide acceptance for the Wonderbag in South Africa, Collins began to plan to launch Wonderbag in countries and communities with high poverty rates, a high incidence of health problems associated with air pollution, a shortage of fuel supplies, and injuries resulting from fuel fires. ..


As a social entrepreneur, Collins’s aim was to instigate and enable culturally pertinent philanthropic change in the world and this was assisted by an evolving and adaptable business model. She adopted a fluid approach to growing her venture and vigorously identified opportunities that also included different communities and cultures. ..


Collins’s business model for the Wonderbag was economically inclusive. Many last mile entrepreneurs of Africa used the Wonderbag to focus on other entrepreneurial activities instead of spending much of their time cooking food over a fire for the family. The Wonderbag also offered people the opportunity to become ‘Wonderpreneurs’ and to earn a living by selling the Wonderbags, which were sold to them at the lowest cost. .


The BAG initiative was implemented globally whereby for every bag sold in any country or region, a portion of the earnings was donated to the Wonderbag Foundation where a bag was purchased and donated to a family in need in Africa. In the US, for every bag purchased, the proceeds to cover the cost of a Wonderbag were donated to the Foundation to buy a bag, which was then donated. ..


Using the Wonderbag also reduced people’s dependence on fuel sources, from power and propane to firewood. When Collins was asked about the environmental attributes of the Wonderbag, she stated, “The bag can reduce the number of fossil fuels that people use for cooking by 90 percent. It has a massive impact on carbon released into the environment through cooking. ..


The Wonderbag had a multiplier effect. According to Collins, using the Wonderbag could decrease indoor air pollution by up to 60%, free up time for people, especially women, who had to otherwise spend hours every day gathering fuel and then cooking over an open flame. “It gives women time to earn an income and allows girls to go to school instead of having to gather wood daily,” said Collins..


When Collins started Wonderbag, the biggest challenge she faced was people were not taking her or the Wonderbag seriously. Talking about the challenges in the initial stages, Collins stated, “Getting people to take me and this bag seriously! It has and still is about honing in on people who have the same mission and integrity as yourself, and in my case, people who believed the world will change via global corporations.”.


Collins was inviting the global business community to participate in an alliance. The ‘Alliance for Globally Conscious Capitalism’ was a call to action for businesses and aid agencies to come together under a common belief: the best global business models of the future will sell responsible, solution-oriented products and services and will scale ethically through human-centered market entry and participation.’..


Exhibit I: About South Africa
Exhibit II: Sarah Collins
Exhibit III: Partners of Wonderbag
Exhibit IV: About Wonderbag Foundation