Some 175 solar companies, including some of the top solar manufacturers in the world, signed a pledge opposing forced labor in the solar supply chain.
By signing the pledge, companies are stating their commitment to help prevent what they said were “abhorrent practices” and ensure that the products they are using do not have links to forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China, or anywhere else in the world.
The pledge is part of an industry-wide effort led by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that supports the development of a supply chain traceability protocol and an update to SEIA’s Solar Commitment, which defines common practices and expectations for the solar industry.
John Smirnow, vice president of market strategy for SEIA, said, “Forced labor will not be tolerated in our industry.”
He said that given reports of labor abuses in Xinjiang and the inability to conduct independent audits there, solar companies “should immediately move their supply chains out of the region.”
He said SEIA has called for this for several months and expects that “most of the major suppliers” should be out by June 2021, at the latest. He said the industry organization “will continue to work with lawmakers, customs officials, the Biden administration, and our international partners to make sure solar imports are proven to be free of forced labor.”
The pledge remains open for signatures, and all companies and organizations operating in the solar industry can join SEIA’s effort. SEIA said it will continue to expand its coalition and build on this important work over the next several months.
ENGIE North America signed the pledge, and its chief renewables officer, Laura Beane, said the company rejects “all forms of forced, compulsory, or child labor.” She said the company prequalifies all suppliers, including performing detailed due diligence on key suppliers to validate they satisfy the company’s code of conduct.
Zaid Ashai, CEO of Nexamp, said that solar’s growth “cannot come at the expense of global human rights.” He said that Nexamp is “fully committed to doing everything we can to identify and evaluate the origins of the materials we use.”
Ashai said the company pays particular attention to avoiding materials that can be tied to the Xinjiang region of China, where issues of forced labor have been identified.
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