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Report lauds PV industry environmental and social responsibility practices

A March 28 report highlighted the steps PV firms are taking to ensure production processes are environmentally friendly and safe for employees.

The report, titled “Clean & Green: Best Practices in Photovoltaics,” was released by As You Sow, a non-profit that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility. The study was based on a survey of over 100 PV manufacturers worldwide.

As You Sow looked at the manufacturing process for PV panels, the risks involved, and the practices firms have in place to “mitigate risks from hazardous compounds, reduce environmental impact, and responsibly manage their supply chains.”

The report found that PV manufacturers “are often not only meeting but outperforming standards set for emissions, are reducing water use and reusing water on their own initiatives, and are participating in voluntary international programs related to worker safety.”


Credit: "Clean & Green: Best Practices in Photovoltaics" As You Sow


The study went on to state that “the generation of electricity from solar energy is significantly safer to the environment and workers than production of electricity from coal and natural gas.”

“This report confirms that solar PV manufacturers take their responsibility as members of our communities seriously,” said John Smirnow, Vice President of Trade and Competitiveness for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“SEIA will continue to work with companies throughout the solar supply-chain to establish standards that allow companies to compete in an environmentally and socially responsible way.”

Setting Industry Standards

“Clean and Green” comes a week after the SEIA released a document that promotes environmental and social responsibility standards for the solar industry. The Solar Industry Commitment to Environmental and Social Responsibility (Solar Commitment) focuses on company and supplier requirements in the areas of labor, ethics, health and safety, environmental responsibility, human rights, and management systems.

“Solar is the cleanest, safest source of energy and the solar industry is committed to ensuring social and environmental responsibility for our supply chain,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

“The release of SEIA’s Solar Commitment marks an important, proactive step toward a sustainable future for solar.”

The Solar Commitment started back in 2010, when the SEIA created an Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) Committee. The founding participants of this framework of voluntary standards include Dow Solar, SunPower, Suntech, Trina Solar, and Yingli Solar.

“The Solar Commitment received unanimous support from SEIA’s Board of Directors to promote the industry’s continued environmental and social responsibility,” said Julie Blunden, Chair of SEIA’s EHS Committee, Vice Chair of SEIA’s board and SVP at SunPower.

“We applaud the founding participant companies, including my own, that have already endorsed the Solar Commitment and are actively working to develop a governance model and accountability mechanisms.”

Going forward, the SEIA is establishing an Advisory Group to work on accountability mechanisms and governance structures to support the implementation of the Solar Commitment.

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