Solar industry leaders are making slow but steady progress toward achieving the sustainability goals outlined in our 2009 report, Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Industry.
Despite economic disruptions and dramatic price drops in solar panels, many solar companies remain committed to the environmental principles outlined by SVTC. SolarWorld, First Solar, Solon, Sovello, and Yingli have responded to the Solar Scorecard since 2010 and we would like to thank them for their leadership.
Although the overall number of companies responding to the Solar Scorecard survey has remained steady at about 14, the total market share of the participating companies has doubled from 26% in 2010 to 51% in 2012.
We think that the increase in participation from larger companies is a good sign for the solar industry. SunPower (4.4% market share), REC (3.3% market share), and Trina (8.1% market share) have responded to the Solar Scorecard survey since 2011. In 2012 we welcomed the participation of Suntech (10.4 % market share). Companies that are actively implementing environmental programs want to differentiate themselves from the laggards who are actively cutting cost by sacrificing environmental protections.
Solar companies are considered “green” businesses and therefore should enthusiastically report their environmental practices.
We have learned that start-ups and smaller companies, typically strapped for time and resources to commit to sustainability programs, do not score as high as the larger companies. We are very encouraged and impressed by Motech, Solon, SoloPower, and Sovello’s willingness to continue to respond to the survey and demonstrate their commitment to environmental issues.
As the industry continues to consolidate, less than 15 companies sell 90% of the PV modules on the market. It would be a travesty for the solar companies with the cheapest modules, yet most egregious environmental practices, to be deemed industry winners.
Any company that refers to itself as a “green” business should make its environmental record available to the public. Thus, SVTC turned to the information publicly available on the websites of companies who did not respond to the Solar Scorecard to score their environmental practices. LDK and Jinko Solar earned zero points. Hanwha SolarOne, Schott, and Canadian Solar earned two points each. In SVTC’s third year of releasing the Scorecard, we’ve come to realize that companies who respond to the Scorecard survey are industry leaders who are driving environmental changes. Conversely, companies that do not respond to our survey and do not post information on their websites probably have very little positive news to report.
We hope customers will use the Solar Scorecard to make purchasing decisions that support companies with the best environmental records.
Here is a summary of the progress we’ve seen among the industry leaders over the last 3 years:
- 92% companies responding to the survey said they would publicly support extended producer responsibility, up from 57% in 2010.
- 100% of the companies reported they do not use prison labor and eight of the companies have written policies forbidden this practice. This is up from the 64 % of the companies that reported they would not use prison labor in 2010.
- 86% of companies that respond to survey have a code of conduct in with their suppliers that is in alignment with Social Accountability International 8000 standard, which ensures that working conditions are free from child or forced labor, provide a safe and healthy living environment, and comply with local laws for collective bargaining, working hours, discrimination, and compensation. In 2010 only 42 percent of the companies required their direct suppliers to follow a worker code of conduct or other set of publicly available standards