New scorecard rates solar companies on sustainability, green product lifecycle

New scorecard rates solar companies on sustainability, green product lifecycle

Summary: The mission in life of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (well, at least ONE of its missions) is to hold technology companies accountable for the entire lifecycle of the products they create.Given the high profile of solar in the Valley, the organization has created its first Solar Company Scorecard, which ranks solar photovoltaic module manufacturers on everything from environmental health programs to sustainability to workers' rights.

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The mission in life of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (well, at least ONE of its missions) is to hold technology companies accountable for the entire lifecycle of the products they create.

Given the high profile of solar in the Valley, the organization has created its first Solar Company Scorecard, which ranks solar photovoltaic module manufacturers on everything from environmental health programs to sustainability to workers' rights.

Sheila Davis, executive director of the coalition, says about 200 surveys were sent out to solar companies: so the information included in the scorecard is self-reported. In all, 14 companies returned surveys, which Davis says represents about one-quarter of all the modules produced in 2008. Davis notes that not all of the companies contacted actually have products on the market yet, although the coalition included them in its scorecard survey with the hope that they would consider product lifecycle concerns from materials selection to disposal even BEFORE they have produced products. "Recycling is not an option, it has to be embedded in your business processes from the beginning," she says.

Ironically, solar panels have one of the longest potential useful lifespans of pretty much any technology. What other technology can you think of that has a warranty of 20 years?

The top-scoring companies were three German manufacturers: Calyxo, SolarWorld and Sovello. First Solar and Abound (both from the United States) fell in the middle of the pack. Incidentally, a score of "0" doesn't mean that a company has failed abysmally on the scorecard. It means that the company failed to respond.

Davis says she was surprised and pleased with how much attention some of the companies are paying to issues of sustainability this early in the industry's development. Calyxo, the top ranked company, even has a supply chain code of conduct in place to guide its business partners.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Emerging Tech

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  • 14 of 200 returned the survey...

    ...which is 7%. Hard to take this serious...

    For example, Evergreen Solar (not included in the scorecard) has some of the best credentials I have seen in the industry - things like environmentally sensitive packaging (panels ship in reusable packaging) to not using lead in the panels at all (and attempting to make them 100% recyclable). Maybe when we see half of the manufacturers take this serious, the results will mean something.
    JoshCT
  • Armchair Critics & Obstructionists, Adjust Your Approach & Gain Affiliation

    Armchair critics, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is suspect in their self-righteousness by sending a self-analysis survey of issues they deem as important but probably taken as sticking their noses into the players business. The companies have likely assessed the issues and would rather maintain business confidentiality rather than divulge any matter allowing the Coalition to shout Eureka look what we found! Obviously they underestimate the businesses involved and likely perceived as obstructive but really, try experiencing the challenges in production then you may possibly have any credibility.
    The approach could be altered to bring issues to surface, provide suggestions, and enhance the industry's methods. The production & waste challenge is great enough without perceived threats from a group that asks for companies to assess their problems and provide the information for an outside group to take credit as a watchdog supposedly doing something about it. Sure enough, to escape from such scrutiny and hinderance, this already fragile domestic manufacturing base would hastily vacate rather than be under threat and surveillance. So take another approach that requires advanced research to understand the sustainablity challenges, develop methods and processes that could indeed provide benefits, then propose a mutual or even subservient affiliation. Then any suggestions for improving product lifecycle, resource use, and waste reduction are warranted. That's my philosophy irt generating a cooperative, productive, and sustainable relationship.
    donnydo77