Today the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is releasing a new tool to increase supply chain transparency and help ensure that all solar components are made ethically throughout the solar value chain. The Solar Supply Chain Traceability Protocol is a set of guidelines designed to help solar companies meet compliance obligations and, importantly, provide customers with assurances that their solar products are free of unethical labor practices.
The Protocol is a set of recommended best practices designed to: (i) prevent forced labor in the solar supply chain; (ii) help companies meet their U.S. import compliance obligations; and (iii) provide customers value chain transparency. It has been structured as an industry specification or de facto standard, with the expectation that it will be further developed into a formal industry standard.
Importantly, it also includes an audit mechanism to measure a company’s implementation and compliance with the Protocol. In assessing conformance with the Protocol, no single factor will be dispositive. Rather, auditors will assess conformance based on a holistic approach.
As manufacturers begin using the traceability protocol, it will be regularly reviewed and updated to improve its usability and effectiveness. It is important to point out that the protocol by itself will not stamp out forced labor, companies need to go through the steps laid out by the protocol.
In addition to the new traceability protocol, SEIA has finalized a comprehensive update to its Solar Commitment, which defines common labor, health and safety, environmental, and ethical standards and expectations for solar companies. The update modernizes the standard and now covers an expansive list of topics, including guidance on workplace safety and ethical labor practices. The Commitment is an important document that recognizes the need for companies to increasingly take responsibility for every aspect of the solar supply chain from upstream materials to recycling and disposition.
The standard now features recycling and refurbishment best practices, information on energy consumption tracking, procedures companies can follow to avoid the use of conflict minerals in solar products, and additional guidance that companies can follow to hold their suppliers to all of these standards.
SEIA is also releasing a Solar Buyers’ Guide on Traceability, which summarizes the protocol and offers key questions that customers, developers, financiers, and other stakeholders should ask suppliers about products in the solar + storage value chain.
On April 30 at 1:00 p.m., SEIA will host a webinar to discuss the new resources and explain how solar companies can put them into practice. The webinar is free and open to the public.
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