- SPE and Solar Energy UK have launched SSI to help bring transparency into the solar value chain
- The SSI will conduct a pilot assessment of 6 or more sites to understand their current average performance against the code
- Findings will help refine the consultation version of the SSI Code and Assurance System
With the European Union (EU) seeking to bring in transparency in the space of solar modules entering the region, two European solar lobby associations – SolarPower Europe (SPE) and Solar Energy UK – have joined hands to launch the Solar Stewardship Initiative (SSI) to offer a concrete plan towards ensuring a sustainable and responsible value chain.
The duo defines SSI as a solar-specific supply chain assurance scheme to create a trail of who is manufacturing solar products, how and where. It will go on to bring in confidence amongst businesses and consumers that solar products they order comply with international environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
With the launch of the pilot, also a code of conduct was created, which “was founded on internationally recognised standards and guidelines, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, United Nations Global Compact, OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, to form a robust document relevant to the solar supply chain.” TheCode of Conduct is divided into three sections — Environment; Human and Labour Rights; Governance and Business Ethics. According to SSI, by adopting this Code of Conduct, entities are demonstrating a commitment to ethical and transparent practices in each area.
There will be an initial pilot stage in October 2022 to test the consultative SSI Code which is aimed to be a comprehensive corporate sustainability standard. The multi-stakeholder consultation is planned to lead to full roll-out of the SSI assurance scheme in December 2024.
SSI will now conduct pilot assessment at 6 or more participating sites, across various phases of the solar value chain and in different locations, between Q4/2022 and Q1/2023 in a bid to understand their current average performance against the code.
Findings will be used to further refine the consultation version of the SSI Code and Assurance System prior to stakeholder public consultation.
“Cutting through a complex issue, we are presenting a clear timeline towards a solution that consumers can trust – an assurance scheme that their solar products are made under the highest human rights’ and sustainability standards,” said SPE CEO Walburga Hemetsberger.
The SSI is endorsed by more than 50 companies from across the value chain. More about the initiative can be viewed on a dedicated website created for the purpose.
The initiative has been launched in the wake of increased scrutiny into allegations of forced labor in the world’s largest solar PV products supplier, China. While the US has brought in Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) to ensure no products with any Xinjiang connection enter its borders, the EU has not named any specific country or product in discussing a ban on products made with forced labor which is expected to come into force in 2025.