Envolta is committed to a sustainable solar industry.
We require transparency from our supply chain to help reduce the adverse social and environmental impacts of our solar energy services and products. We use a data-driven approach in our selection of suppliers to ensure that the products we use are produced under safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions throughout the supply chain.
We select suppliers based on their participation in lifecycle take back programs ensuring that the electronic waste components of our products are properly disposed of and that the technical nutrients are effectively reused at the end of their functional life.
We demonstrate our commitment to a just and sustainable solar industry through our participation in leading industry programs like the SEIA Solar Industry Environment & Social Responsibility Commitment, and by using the SVTC Solar Scorecard to select PV module suppliers.
Solar Industry Environment & Social Responsibility Commitment
The use of solar energy is a sustainable solution to the energy challenges of today. Not only do solar energy systems generate energy with zero greenhouse gas emissions, but the solar industry has also taken on the responsibility to mitigate and manage the full range of social and environmental impacts during the entire lifecycle of the solar energy system. These social and environmental impacts include respecting the human rights of workers, ensuring the rights of communities and other stakeholders are respected, and making business operations safe and environmentally responsible.
Taking this responsibility seriously is essential for advancing several strategic aims for individual solar companies as well as the industry as a whole:
- To gather the broad support needed from customers, investors, communities, government agencies, and media to enable the sector’s growth;
- To position the growing sector for integrating the most efficient and effective approaches to sustainability management while it is still young and flexible; and
- To establish a generally accepted measurement framework that allows industry companies to differentiate themselves through investments which are transparent, credible and comparable.
To advance comprehensive sustainability performance of the solar industry in support of the above aims, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has developed the Commitment for Environmental and Social Responsibility (“the Commitment”). The Commitment defines common practices and expectations for all solar industry participants, including manufacturers, suppliers, subcontractors, and customers in the solar value chain.
By adopting the Commitment, a company will publically declare its support and implement the practices articulated, and thus will become a participant (“Participant”). A Participant shall also, at a minimum, require its next tier suppliers to acknowledge and strive to meet the Commitment.
In addition to implementing the Commitment in its entirety, Participants, in all of their activities, must operate in full compliance with the laws, rules and regulations of the countries in which they operate. However, the Commitment encourages Participants to go beyond legal compliance, drawing upon internationally recognized standards, to advance social and environmental responsibility. As part of the Commitment, it is expected that participants will develop transparent processes for communication with key stakeholders on relevant social and environmental impacts. In addition, Participants should commit to identifying best practices on emerging issues through industry dialogue, raising awareness about them, and advancing continuous improvement over time.
SEIA is committed to ongoing engagement with the industry and stakeholders in the continued development, improvement, and implementation of the Commitment.
Toward A Just And Sustainable Solar Industry
January 2009 marked the launch of SVTC’s Clean and Just Solar Energy Campaign. As part of the campaign, SVTC released the groundbreaking report, “Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Industry.” The 2009 report documents the environmental and health hazards associated with solar panels and provides a range of actions that policy makers, solar panel manufacturers, and consumers can take to show their support for clean and just solar energy.
Our campaign aims to help steer the solar industry towards becoming truly sustainable. Although solar panels provide clean energy while in use, a variety of factors during the manufacturing and disposal of these panels have the potential to greatly damage the environment.
The most commonly used solar panels are silicon-based panels that share many of the same materials and manufacturing processes as semiconductors. Solar panels have the potential to create an e-waste burden if the proper infrastructure is not developed before the first wave of panels begins to come down.
Even panels that are not as common and silicon based panels, such as cadmium telluride panels or emerging thin film technologies that utilize untested nanomaterials, can pose a threat to the environment and workers during the manufacturing and recycling stage.
By building public awareness SVTC will continue to work toward a greener solar sector.
While there are many steps that the PV solar industry must take to become sustainable, we have listed below the initial steps that the industry must take to become sustainable.
- Ensure that solar PV manufacturers are responsible for the lifecycle impacts of their products through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and takeback programs.
- Promote high-quality “green jobs” that protect worker health and safety and provide a living wage throughout the global PV industry, starting in the U.S.
- Reduction and eventual elimination of toxic chemicals.
SVTC needs the support of individuals, policy makers, and the solar industry so that solar power can one day become truly sustainable.