175 companies from the global solar industry have signed a pledge from the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to combat forced labor in the supply chain.
By signing the pledge, the companies declare their commitment to help prevent forced labor and ensure that the products they use have no connection with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, or anywhere in the world. The list of names includes a number of Chinese manufacturers. But a company like Tesla has also signed the promise.
SEIA already called on American companies last fall to stop importing silicon from the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Reportedly human rights violations in the region, the pledge now signed is part of an industry-wide effort led by SEIA to support the development of a traceability protocol for solar energy products.
“We are proud to stand behind these companies and strongly oppose the use of forced labor in the solar supply chain,” said John Smirnow, SEAI Vice President of Market Strategy. “Forced labor is not tolerated in our industry. Given the reports of labor abuse in Xinjiang and the inability to conduct independent audits there, solar companies must immediately move their supply chains out of the region. We expect most major suppliers to be out of this region by June 2021 at the latest. We will continue to work with legislators, customs officials, President Biden’s government and our international partners to ensure that imports of solar energy products are proven free from forced labor. ”
“Within the solar industry, political pressure is mounting to rethink the supply chain,” Johannes Bernreuter, head of the silicon-specialized market research firm Bernreuter Research, told Bloomberg news agency. “It’s difficult to have a supply chain without production in Xinjiang right now.”
According to Bernreuter, about 45 percent of the global supply of polycrystalline silicon – the main raw material for solar panels – comes from the Xinjiang region. Bloomberg states that several of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers who have signed the SEIA pledge have supply contracts with Xinjiang-based silicon manufacturers.