Why is the Green Jobs Platform for Solar important?
SVTC has high hopes for the solar energy industry. We hope the solar industry will expand, and help solve the climate change problem. We hope that solar will help lead the way for a new green economy. At SVTC we have seen the impact of high-tech manufacturing on workers and communities globally.
We hope that by getting solar companies to adopt and incorporate the Green Jobs Platform for Solar into their business model early, the solar industry can become a beacon of sustainability by protecting its workers and the planet, rather than a throw-back to the dark manufacturing practices that have dominated the high-tech sector. We’ve already seen unfortunate spills in China.
What’s a green job?
With 18 superfund sites in Santa Clara County caused by chemical spills from electronics and high-tech manufacturing, we’ve learned that just because something looks clean when you use it, or even if you can’t see or smell the chemicals, it doesn’t mean it’s clean or good for the environment.
The same can be said for solar panels that provide a clean source of energy in their “use phase” but share many of the hazardous chemicals used in the microchip manufacturing process—its sister technology. It’s a disservice to ourselves, workers, and communities globally to call U.S. solar installation jobs “green” if we aren’t applying the same green jobs standards to workers who make the panels and to those who will recycle or dispose of them. Solar panel technology is rapidly evolving. Silicon based panels use hundreds of chemicals in their production, and thin film uses new materials, such as nanomaterials, which have not been fully tested and have been shone, in certain cases, to be toxic to humans and the environment.
We want companies to strive to phase out toxic chemicals and operate with full transparency-in the light of day-so that workers, communities and consumers know that the panels are safe and the companies are responsible.
If solar is as successful as we all hope and panels proliferate on the roofs of government buildings, schools, corporations and homes, then companies should take measures to guarantee that recycling the panels creates green jobs – not a toxic waste problem. As we have seen with computers, entire villages in China, India and Africa are contaminating their soil and water and workers are poisoning themselves for pennies a day recycling high-tech computer trash from the wealthiest and most privileged nations.
There is no reason for solar companies to repeat mistakes from other high-tech sectors. The stakes are too high. We need solar to succeed. The Green Jobs Platform for Solar is a set of principles that we hope the solar companies will adopt quickly and apply throughout their global supply chain and throughout the panel’s lifecycle.
Why should you care if the jobs are Green in other countries?
Supporting the Green Jobs for Solar Principles has a two-fold benefit: (1) It will protect the workers’ health and safety in other countries; and (2) it will also level the playing field for workers in the global worker force. If the solar industry adopts the Green Jobs platform as a standard that all companies apply throughout the supply chain, they won’t be able to flee to regions where the governments don’t enforce labor or environmental laws and human rights are violated.
Who should sign-on to the Green Jobs Platform for Solar?
In order for solar industry to be safe and sustainable, we need to get it to act now. If you or your local government, school, or business is purchasing solar panels ask the manufacturer of the panels if they have agreed to adopt the Green Jobs Principles for Solar and incorporate them into their business practices.
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.
We recognize that the Platform cannot be implemented overnight, but we need to act quickly to get the solar companies to lead the green industry. Improvement is not only defined by driving down the cost of the panels or creating more efficient panels, but also by improving the quality of life of workers and the communities in which they operate.
Join us in protecting workers, communities and the environment.