SVTC created a list of 227 solar PV companies from industry association directories, tradeshow literature and web searches, and sent out the survey in October 2009. The survey was developed by Humane Research Council (HRC) and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Henderson Global Investors and Boston Common Asset Management were involved in reviewing and commenting on drafts. The survey asked companies to self-report on toxic chemical use and reduction and on how they address worker justice, environmental health, and disclosure. A full copy of the survey is available here.
The original survey deadline was December 15, 2009; however, the deadline was extended until January 22, 2010 to ensure that companies had sufficient time to respond. Companies could complete the hard copy of the survey and mail it to the SVTC or complete the survey online.
SVTC, Boston Common Asset Management, and/or Henderson Global investors attempted to contact non-respondents (including those listed in the scorecard) via e-mail or telephone as part of the survey follow-up. Top companies were contacted via telephone to follow up on whether or not they had received the survey
Selection of Issues
The focus areas in the survey were selected primarily based on SVTC’s analysis of the major social and environmental impacts associated with the manufacture of PV modules (available here). We also drew on SVTC’s previous work in the electronics industry to help shape the questions and address wider issues associated with worker rights and developing countries.
All survey respondents that manufacture either PV modules or cells received a score. Respondents got credit for simply responding to questions, with higher scores given for active engagement by companies in the issues.
Questions regarding takeback programs and recycling (33 points) were weighted most heavily in the survey because SVTC considers it critically important that takeback programs be implemented early in the industry’s development. Supply-chain and “green jobs” (29 points) and chemical use and lifecycle analysis (28 points) account in comparable proportions for the majority of the remaining points. The list of specific chemicals that we considered in the Chemical Use and Lifecycle Analysis section was drawn from the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. Levels of disclosure (10 points) made up the remainder of score, taking the total to a possible 100 points.
Module and cell manufacturers
Some companies included in the survey only manufacture solar cells, while others also manufacture full solar modules (typically composed of multiple solar cells). Module manufacturers are active in all areas covered by the survey—they could earn points for extended producer responsibility (EPR) and takeback; supply chain monitoring and green jobs; chemical use and lifecycle analysis; and disclosure.
Download scoring guidelines for module manufacturers
However, because cell manufacturers typically sell to module manufacturers, they are not involved in product takeback. They could therefore only earn points in the following areas: supply chain monitoring and green jobs; chemical use and lifecycle analysis; and disclosure (for a maximum of just 47 points). For cell manufacturers, their ranking on the scorecard is the percentage they earn of those 47 possible points.
Download scoring guidelines for cell manufacturers
The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive is a European Directive that took effect in 2006 and restricts the use of six hazardous materials in electronic and electrical equipment.