SolarPower Europe Statement

27 November 2023

In light of a recent media report regarding SolarPower Europe and the Solar Stewardship Initiative, SolarPower Europe has issued the following statement:


Consistent with our February 2021 statement, SolarPower Europe continues to unequivocally condemn forced labour. 


Our goal is delivering the solar-led energy transition as fast as possible with full respect to human rights and the just transition. This goes hand-in-hand with our long-standing efforts to strengthen Europe’s supply chain resilience by re-building a competitive solar manufacturing sector in Europe.


Our commitment is evidenced by the tangible work that SolarPower Europe, and Solar  Energy UK, began before EU regulation proposals came forward. We began work on the Solar Stewardship Initiative (SSI) in 2021, which has received endorsement from international financial institutions such as the EIB and IFC. The SSI has been developed in consultation with international civil society and academia. 


Since its proposal in September 2022, we have been vocal on our alignment with the goals of the European Commission’s Forced Labour Ban regulation. Our advocacy efforts are set by the terms of our public position papers and statements. We set out our position on the European Commission’s proposed text of the Forced Labour Ban here, in November 2022. 


Discussions on the design of Forced Labour Ban are ongoing within the European institutions, with policymakers still working out the right approach to key points, such as the allocation of the burden of proof. That’s whether the legal authorities have the responsibility to prove companies have breached such a ban, or whether companies should have to proactively prove they haven’t. Our position is that the burden of proof is a topic that must be handled responsibly. 


Regardless of where legislators land on the topic of burden of proof, it is crucial that implementation rules are clear so as to ensure that the Forced Labour Ban and related legislation can serve their purpose effectively. Multi-stakeholder sustainability initiatives, like the SSI are key to that purpose. Their recognition in law can only serve to support the objectives of the Forced Labour Ban.


Like other successful multi-stakeholder initiatives which the SSI was modelled on, the SSI simply cannot award certifications to sites which cannot be assessed - whether in Xinjiang or anywhere else in the world.  Assessments take place under internationally recognised standards of independent, third-party, auditing.


Further to our position on the proposed Forced Labour Ban, SolarPower Europe has been clear about the important difference between market access standards and trade defence measures. 


SolarPower Europe has repeatedly called for robust market access standards that uphold European values, through instruments like the Forced Labour Ban, Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, and Ecodesign rules. You can read our latest comments on this here and here. 


In parallel to our efforts in setting effective market access standards, SolarPower Europe, representing the entire solar sector, has warned that traditional trade defence measures – like import tariffs – would be a mistake. The lesson of 2013-2018 has proved that such measures do not help re-shore domestic manufacturing and have only served to slow solar deployment. Trade defence measures and market standards function differently, have different results, and should be treated as such.




To correct the misrepresentation of the role that Chinese companies play in the governance of SolarPower Europe, please note the following publicly available information:


  • Out of more than 300 members, less than 7% of SolarPower Europe’s members are Chinese. This includes Chinese subsidiaries in Europe. 
  • Under our membership structure, this translates to a 13% vote share for Chinese companies. In all our votes, the majority rules. 
  • All of SolarPower Europe’s political positions are ultimately approved by our Board, where 14 out of 15 of our Board members represent European-headquartered companies. Only 1 of our Board members represents a Chinese-headquartered company. More information about our Board members here.


SolarPower Europe also confirms that 85% of the Solar Stewardship Initiative budget is drawn from companies which are headquartered in Europe.


Questions? Get in touch.

Bethany Meban
Head of Press and Policy Communications

+32 492 97 82 48
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