1.Why is this workstream important?
In addition to major advantages such as its scalability, modularity, and near-zero variable and operating costs, much of the promise of clean solar energy stems from its affordability. The future of solar photovoltaic power is bright and has a critical role in the energy transition to tackle climate change.
SolarPower Europe’s Supply Chain Sustainability workstream has an important mission: ensuring the solar driven energy transition is just, inclusive, and, respects human rights. The workstream is driving industry efforts to reinforce a responsible, transparent, and sustainable solar supply chain. Together, solar and supply chain experts with the workstream engage with legislative and sectoral developments to strengthen confidence in how, where, and by whom, solar products and components are manufactured. This supports the acceleration of solar growth as an affordable and sustainable solution to the climate and energy crises.
Our workstream has created the Solar Stewardship Initiative (SSI) which is working to deliver mechanisms that support supply-chain transparency, uphold integrity in the global solar industry, and enable continuous improvement of ESG performance.
2.Why should companies join this workstream?
Traditionally, supply chains have not been designed to be transparent due to reasons such as negative impact on suppliers’ competitive advantage or simply a lack of visibility on upstream. Some industries like the automotive, pharma or aviation industries have established transparency through traceability due to safety reasons. With increasing awareness of supply chain sustainability vulnerabilities, other industries, like textiles, also began to focus on social impact of their suppliers.
The solar industry can learn from other industries’ sustainability journeys and build systems faster by drawing comparisons and benchmarking. By analysing successful supply chain transformation, we repeatedly see that collaboration is the most important element for achieving and maintaining the supply chain sustainability across all ESG goals.
Transparency is the enabler for trust, and trust is the foundation of collaboration. Our workstream presents a unique opportunity for solar industry stakeholders to collaborate for joint problem solving, exchanging information, benchmarking best practices and having their voices heard in developing the SSI.
The SSI is the first solar-specific supply chain assurance scheme being designed to further develop confidence in behavioral visibility and intentions of stakeholders – building trust within the solar sector, and reinforcing the public’s trust in solar.
3. What will the future of the Supply Chain Sustainability Workstream look like?
Transparency will be the license to operate in the solar value chain going forward. Cost and quality competitiveness, innovation and capacity will continue to be important, but will be a secondary consideration after ESG impact assessments.
The workstream – comprised of buyers and sellers along the solar value chain – will inspire positive change for the sector, while developing the concrete tools to empower high ESG performance for solar products.
Unfortunately, almost all supply chain transparency journeys start with a more negative language of compliance: overlapping rules and repetitive audit protocols, checklists, and inspections from different directions. This risks audit fatigue and incentivising non-compliance.
The SSI is the solar industry’s concrete plan to reinforce a responsible, transparent, and sustainable solar value chain and help stakeholder interaction pattern from compliance to commitment. The workstream forms a platform for problem solving for those complicated and cross-cultural challenges by uncovering and correcting root-causes, joint problem solving, and building trust and reciprocity.