Green Jobs Platform for Solar

SVTVheader_logo SVTC creates Green Jobs Principles for a safe and sustainable solar industry. Call to action to sign the Green Jobs Platform for Solar.

Last week, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC, http://www.etoxics.org) announced the Green Jobs Platform for Solar to facilitate a dialog and encourage Photovoltaic (PV) industry adoption of their ten (10) Green Jobs Platform for Solar Principles. On the heals of the “Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry” report released in January 2009, the SVTC is proceeding with the Clean and Just Solar Campaign to encourage solar module recycling and best practices for solar module production with the goal of reducing and, in the future, eliminating toxic materials. The SVTC believes the nascent Solar industry can integrate:

social and environmental justice into its global supply, production, and recycling operations by proactively creating and implementing systems to monitor worker health and safety, chemical use and exposure, and enforce labor and environmental laws throughout the global supply chain.

I don’t like excessive quoting, but, in this case, I think it is important to disseminate the Green Jobs Platform for Solar via my Blogs online platform. Per the SVTC:

The green job principles should be adopted throughout the global life cycle of the product, from production to end of life, and any efforts to uphold these principles should be self-disclosed by the company. In order to influence legislation surrounding regulation of the Solar industry, supporters of the Green Jobs Platform for Solar plan to present it to the EPA this week.

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Green Jobs Platform for Solar Principles

1. The workers’ activity and the products they produce must contribute to improving the quality of the environment.

2. Workers are paid a living wage. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate to support the health and well-being of himself/herself and of his/her family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care, child care, adequate transportation and utility costs.1

3. Adequate health benefits are provided to workers and their families at an affordable cost.

4. Workers have an opportunity for job advancement, and, wherever possible, share in the wealth of their company.

5. Worker rights are protected, including whistleblower rights and the right to organize. Workers have the right to form and join unions for the protection of their interests without interference, intimidation, threats or harassment from the employer.2 Workers are not discriminated against based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

6. Reduce toxic exposure to workers by 1) phasing out chemicals currently used in products and production that are or are suspected of being hazardous to human health and the environment. 2) protecting workers by reducing exposure levels in accordance with the principles of the hierarchy of controls – (a) constantly striving for safer alternatives, while using (b) engineering controls to keep exposure levels as low as possible and (c) using personal protective equipment only as a ‘last resort” temporary stop-gap measure. 3) using the Green Chemistry Principles and the Precautionary Approach to develop new products and manufacturing processes. 4) providing workers with useful, meaningful, and material information in appropriate languages related to worker injuries and illnesses and other job hazards, and recognizing that workers have the right to know and to act when they are handling or being exposed to toxic materials. The company’s goal should be to produce products that do not contain chemicals that are hazardous to human health and/or the environment.

7. The company is a good corporate citizen and invests in the community in which it is located. The company hires locally, pays fair share of taxes, and contributes its earnings to support sustainable social and physical infrastructure development such as roads, schools, transportation, housing, waste and recycling systems.

8. The company abides by the strictest environmental, labor, and health and safety laws of the country in which they are located striving at all times to protect its workforce from toxics to the same extent that the company strives to protect the environment from any adverse consequences from its operations. Green jobs protect the environment and local communities with an ethical code that reflects the laws of the country with the strictest environmental rules and not the most lenient. The company will not only uphold the laws, but will also openly support sustainability and environmental health standards for the solar industry. This includes not lobbying against the Green Job Principles and self-disclosing any lobbying efforts.

9. Environmental health and safety standards are shared throughout the global product supply chain. Information on health hazards and chemicals used in the workplace, tests to measure chemical noise and radiation levels on employees, precautions employees should take and procedures to be followed if employees are involved in an incident or are exposed to hazardous chemicals or other toxic substances should be made available and implemented by the company at all stages of the product’s lifecycle.3

10. The environmental burden created by the product, the disposal and recycling of the product, or the company that makes the product should not disproportionately impact people of color, women, poor communities, or developing nations. All communities should be ensured equal protection under the law. The product’s design should minimize waste, thus minimizing environmental burdens on communities that dismantle the product.

Although I have never been a union member, I recognize the importance of the right to organize, while I hope this is not a necessity in all circumstances. In the “Green Jobs Platform” on The Voice of Nature blog, the SVTC said:

If you are part of an environmental organization, social justice or environmental health organization that supports sustainability or a labor group that supports workers rights, we invite you to sign the Green Jobs Platform for Solar. [Ed. note: this is an email link]

From the “Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry” report, I take exception to the following paragraph:

The European Economic Community (EEC) has prohibited the sale of most products containing cadmium for health and safety reasons. While the toxicity of cadmium is well known, there is limited information on cadmium telluride (CdTe) toxicology.49 It is not clear whether or not the EEC will grant CdTe manufacturers the exemptions necessary to allow sales of these modules in the European Union (E.U.). It is believed to be less toxic than cadmium compounds found in nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries.50

Thus far, First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) has been selling CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) modules in Europe for a few years and leading global PV module take back and recycling initiatives. I find it hard to believe the European Union will decide to ban CdTe photovoltaic modules outright overnight. However, First Solar CdTe PV module want to be competitors will have to prove their product life cycle commitments are as holistic as those of First Solar.

Encouraging news this week related to the Green Jobs Platform for Solar Principles included:

Both Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE:STP) and Yingli Green Energy Hold. Co. Ltd. (NYSE:YGE) have demonstrated enlightened views about their global product lifecycle responsibilities by joining PV CYCLE. Suntech further understands their social responsibility to commit and manufacture in major PV end markets like the US. PVCYCLE225d10c34e

As PV CYCLE (http://www.pvcycle.org), the voluntary PV module take back and recycling initiative of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) continues to move forward, I wonder where is the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) on this important PV industry sustainability issue? OK, there is at least a session at the upcoming PV America conference on:

Keeping PV Clean
MD01
Wednesday, 06/10/2009 2:00PM – 3:30PM
Description:
Come hear how the PV industry achieves the lowest environmental impacts possible for manufacturing, transportation, and recycling.
Speaker(s): Boris Klebensberger, Ken Zweibel, Lisa Kreuger, Sheila Davis, Vasillis Fthenakis

While Sheila Davis is Executive Director of the SVTC, the panel includes industry representatives from two CdTe PV manufacturers and one crystalline silicon PV company. I trust the SEIA will demonstrate the importance of this panel by moderating the discussion?

As I recall, I first heard about e-waste in the late 1990’s as a result of SVTC efforts back then in Silicon Valley. Following advice from a friend, I still don’t drink the tap water here in the Valley although I know this is frowned upon in green circles. Contaminated ground water from 29 toxic EPA Superfund sites in Silicon Valley are reason enough for me.

On Saturday, May 16, 2009, GUNTHER Portfolio turned a developed three years old. I hope the Blog remains full of wonder, and spends a lot of time observing though perhaps not imitating so much.

In an update to my 2008 March Hiatus, I was cleared to attempt running again on my almost healed tibia about a week ago. So far so good. I jogged at a pathetic pace for ten (10) minutes on the treadmill just today. Small steps and dwindling excuses. Thanks for all the kind comments, emails, cards, flowers (from Greentech Media), and visitors last year. These were critical spirit boosters at the time.

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