You are here


What is the W+ Standard ?

WOCAN has created the W+™ Standard to accelerate women’s empowerment. The W+ is the world’s first standard to measure positive impacts to women’s social and economic empowerment from projects such as climate change mitigation, adaptation or community development programs.  W+ provides measurable, verifiable additional social benefits, resulting in marketable W+ Units or W+ labeled credits or units (of carbon, for example).  

There are many ways a project might improve social and economic circumstances for women. How does the W+ Standard take that into account?

Project implementers must show that their projects ‘do no harm’. And, they must identify one or more of the six W+ Domains to apply to their project.  The domains are: Time, Health, Education & Knowledge, Food Security, Income & Assets, and Leadership. Each one of these six domains may positively influence the other five. 

How were these six Domains chosen?

WOCAN has worked with numerous women’s groups in Africa and Asia. Through a consultative process, these groups identified these six areas as most important for their empowerment, which could make transformative improvements in the lives of themselves, their families and communities. 

Why create a “Women’s Empowerments Standard” and not a more general “Community” standard?

The following graphic describing the findings of a 2007 UNICEF study illustrates why WOCAN has focused the W+ Standard on women’s empowerment.

What is a W+ “Unit”?

W+ Units represent the value of social and economic impacts on women. These impacts create social ‘goods’ that are quantified, verified and monetized through the W+ Standard. The explicit recognition and monetization of social goods is a powerful way to drive women’s empowerment, that allows project implementers and investors to make a quantifiable impact in the lives of women, while guaranteeing measurable and verifiable results.

What is a ‘W+ Labeled Unit’ or ‘Credit’?

Organizations implementing climate adaptation and mitigation projects can generate W+ labeled carbon units. By applying the W+ Standard to existing or new Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)or Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) registered projects, project implementers have the option to create either (not both) W+ labeled carbon units or W+ units. Because many projects bring multiple benefits to communities, the W+ Standard enables project developers to integrate women’s empowerment into their projects and quantify the previously unmeasured benefits of their projects. 

Are there an unlimited number of W+ Units?

No, there are a finite number of W+ Units for each project, generated each time the project measures and audits their impacts, over the course of multiple years.  Each project generates a limited and quantified number of Units, for each W+ Domain that is measured.  Each project applying the W+ Standard is listed on the W+ website ( and listed on the Markit registry (  with a unique project and serial number. Units are sold through the Markit registry, ensuring that Units are never “double sold”.  

Regarding Project Implementation

What kinds of projects can the W+ Standard be applied to?

In theory, the types of projects are limited only by a project implementer’s imagination and vision, within projects that have direct engagement with communities. However, the W+ was created with women in developing economies in mind. Therefore, some common types of community and economic development projects, where the W+ Standard may be most suited are: 
  • Renewable energy technologies
  • Climate change adaptation projects
  • Time and labor-saving devices
  • Forest and agriculture activities
  • Water production or treatment
  • Financial literacy and banking access programs
  • Employment opportunities
  • Educational programs
  • Community development programs

How does the W+ Standard relate to climate change mitigation projects?

The W+ Standard was inspired – in part – by the opportunities to do more for women and communities where climate change mitigation projects are implemented.  We think climate change mitigation and women’s empowerment are often a natural fit.  There are two ways the W+ Standard may be applied in a project that is measuring carbon: 
  1. The W+ may be applied to a project where W+ activities result in W+ Units being generated along side carbon credits. An example might be; an agro-forestry project that results in carbon sequestration ‘carbon credits’ and separate W+ units for Income & Assets because of new economic opportunities for women in the project community.
  2. The W+ may be applied to a climate change mitigation project that recognizes how their carbon mitigation measures are also activities that result in measurable beneficial outcomes to women.  An example might be; a domestic biogas program that results in significant time savings for women. The project developer can choose to ‘label’ their resulting carbon credits as “Carbon Credit with a W+ (Time)” label. 
Project developers may elect to design ‘mix and match’ projects by creating some stand-alone W+ units and some W+ labeled carbon credits. But project developers must differentiate the benefits associated with labeled carbon credits and with those defined as stand-alone W+ units to prevent double-counting. 
The W+ Standard has partnered with the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program, the leading global standard for the voluntary carbon market, to offer W+ Labelled Verified Carbon Credits (VCUs), jointly labeled under both standards. 

Can I apply the W+ Standard to existing projects?

Yes. A project implementer can apply the W+ Standard retrospectively and may back-credit measurable benefits for up to two years. 

How Do You Determine the Number of Units Each Project Will Generate? 

The number of W+ units generated is determined by the number of women receiving benefits, and the level of impact for each domain used. The specific number of units (or credits) is determined as an outcome of the project’s verification. 

I want to create a project, but I don’t think I want to sell W+ Units. Can I simply display the positive impacts of my project on my own project’s website?

Yes, that is certainly permissible. However, to be able to claim quantifiable benefits and compliance with the W+ Standard, women of the project communities must receive monetary benefits to recognize the contributions they made to successful project outcomes. This amounts to 20% of the value of the units. We will work with you to determine this calculation.

How long are project results valid? Does the project need to be "re-certified" every year? 

W+ Units have a “vintage” associated with a monitoring period which is established by the project implementer – the Standard does not stipulate a yearly reporting requirement. That way the viewer or buyer understands the timeframe for each monitoring period, and the units generated by the project’s activities during that period. For example, a project might report: “From May ’16 to December ’16 the Bright Lights project generated 110,000 Health units and 134,000 Time units.”

How long does it take to implement a W+ project and to get certified? 

Project implementers decide what their schedule for measurement should be at the time of the Project Design Document. It should be a long enough period to provide significant and verifiable results. So far, W+ projects have taken less than one year to measure and verify their results. 

How does the W+ program get money back to the women in project communities?

The W+ Standard requires each implementer to ensure they have established a locally appropriate, secure and auditable mechanism to make payments to women or women’s groups in the project community.  The specific mechanism will vary from project-to-project, and is determined at the time of the Project Design Document preparation. Project implementers must ensure that the funds are distributed through a reliable channel, which is verified during the second measurement period.  We can work with Project Developers to suggest appropriate mechanisms. 

Are Project Implementers required to hire gender consultants?

No. Projects may go through the W+ process with their own personnel, using resources of the W+ Standard made available to registered users (project implementers who have submitted a Project Idea Note). Technical assistance is available for organizations and project implementers that have limited knowledge and skills to measure women’s empowerment.

As a Project Implementer, do I need to develop my own set of indicators?

Not necessarily. Methodologies for measuring results within the 6 Domains have been developed and field-tested by WOCAN and its team of W+ experts, for various types of projects. Applicants have access to the questionnaires developed for each domain, which they can use to refine as per their own contexts. Altered methods will require approval by the W+ prior to verification.

What are the program rates and fees for W+ Standard?


Regarding Purchasing W+ Units

Who should be interested in buying W+ Units or W+ labeled Carbon credits?

Many organizations and individuals are interested in finding meaningful, measurable ways to support action on women’s empowerment, climate change mitigation or adaptation, or to making a positive contribution to any of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Buying W+ units or W+ labeled credits can serve the interests of many types of organizations: companies, governments, charities/philanthropic organizations, governments and investors interested in ensuring that their financial support has made a measurable difference towards their goals.

If I buy W+ Units, what do I get and what good does it do?

The W+ Unit is a social good, that represents the social and economic value of project impacts on women. Purchasing these social goods drives positive social and economic change for women, their families and communities in two ways: providing more benefits through project activities, and through the benefit sharing requirement of the Standard. A requirement of the Standard is the sharing of at least 20% of the value of W+ Units to the women and women’s groups in project communities.  
W+ projects identify women’s empowerment opportunities in one or more of the six domains, which are implemented and monitored according to a well-defined plan; results are audited on-site by independent auditors.  Unlike donating to a cause or project up-front, your purchase of a W+ Unit means you are paying for the results – not only the activities that may or may not lead to those results. Your purchase ensures that women in the project community will have additional resources, that they will use to meet their self-determined needs – an important aspect of women’s leadership and empowerment supported by the W+ Standard.   
Buying W+ units:
  • supports and empowers women by returning value to women 
  • directly compensates project implementers that have already made their own investment to support women’s empowerment and apply the W+ Standard  
  • ensures that project implementers are rewarded for their initiative and encourages a virtuous cycle of additional activities for women’s empowerment.  

If women are benefitting from the projects, why are they also getting money from W+ Unit sales?

Women contribute significant unrecognized and uncompensated labor and time – whether as care-providers, farmers and resource managers, or laborers.  In addition to this unpaid care or work labor, women provide substantial inputs to development aid projects, environmental services, water or public health projects that benefit communities and countries. It has also been found that when women are provided with monetary resources, they are far more likely to spend that money to serve their families and their community’s needs than men often do (The Forum on Public Policy, 2009).  By returning a portion of the revenues from the sale of W+ Units (or otherwise from the project implementer), WOCAN is helping the world recognize the value of women’s work, and provide women in project communities resources which they will re-invest in their families and communities, based on their OWN determination of needs and opportunities, creating a virtuous cycle of improvement.

Regarding W+ Auditors and Auditing

How do I become a W+ approved auditor? 

We are very interested in professionals with a social science background who understand field methods for surveying, stakeholder engagement, multi-cultural and gender issues who wish to become approved W+ auditors.  WOCAN has contracted with the Social Auditor’s Network (SAN), to provide training and on-going professional development to prospective W+ Auditors.  Please contact us if you are interested or would like more information.

I want to create a project. Can I do my own audit?

No. Third-party (independent) verification is a requirement of the W+ Standard. Please refer to the W+ website for a list of W+ approved/accredited auditors (verifiers).  


Connect with W+