Environmental Protection

Coalition Scores Solar Companies on EH&S, Sustainability, and More

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) released its 2010 Solar Company Scorecard that ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of factors including environmental health and safety, sustainability, workers’ rights, and social justice. Companies self-reported on these areas and the results serve as a resource for institutional purchasers, investors and consumers.

“Solar power is key to helping solve the world’s climate crisis,” explained Sheila Davis, executive director of SVTC. “But the industry still faces serious issues that need to be addressed before it can be considered truly ‘clean and green’ and socially just.” The 14 responding companies represented 24 percent of the 2008 module market share and 31 percent of the cumulative market share. The top three scores were earned by German manufacturers Calyxo, SolarWorld and Sovello, scoring 90, 88 and 73, respectively. The two U.S.-based respondents scored in the mid range: First Solar in Arizona received a score of 67 and Colorado-based Abound received a 63.

The report also found that:

  • 57 percent of respondents would support mandatory takeback and recycling programs in the markets where they sell solar panels.
  • 42.8 percent of companies are setting aside money to finance the collection and disposal of end-of-life panels and 50 percent said that they provide recycling services free of charge.
  • 50 percent have undertaken analysis of their supply chain to document the social and environmental impacts associated with different production phases.
  • 36 percent of companies said that they conduct lifecycle analyses or risk assessments on new chemicals, including nanomaterials.

“The solar industry needs high corporate responsibility standards if it is to fulfill its potential as a truly sustainable industry,” said Seb Beloe, head of sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) research at Henderson Global Investors, which sponsored the survey. “Supporting SVTC’s groundbreaking research was significant because it is the first time that the social and environmental performance of solar companies has been assessed and compared.”

“The solar industry can learn from other industries that have adopted responsible social, environmental and supply chain standards in order to prevent future problems,” added Steven Heim, director of social research and advocacy for Boston Common Asset Management, another sponsor. “SVTC’s research will help promote best practices by the solar industry.”

SVTC is calling for mandatory takeback and responsible recycling by solar companies as a step toward reducing the solar industry’s environmental footprint. As the solar industry works to replace fossil fuels, it is in the industry’s best interest to ensure that pollutants from the panels don’t enter the environment. Only the solar producers can ensure that this will happen by eliminating toxic chemicals from their products and by taking responsibility for their environmental and health impacts throughout the entire lifecycle.

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