More About the Incubator’s Newest Partners
Learn more about the SVTC’s Off-Grid Solar Recycling Incubator]]>
More Than 25 Percent of Solar Companies Hide Environmental Information from Public
San Francisco, CA – August 13, 2013 – The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s (SVTC) today released the 2013 Solar Scorecard at www.solarscorecard.com , which revealed that most of the solar industry’s environmental practices remain hidden from the public.
The SVTC Solar Scorecard ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability and social justice factors. In its fourth year of requesting environmental information from solar companies, SVTC is concerned: only ten companies representing 34.6 percent of the PV module market share responded to the 2013 SVTC survey and more than 25 percent of the top 40 solar companies fail to make almost any environmental information publically available on their websites.
Key findings from SVTC’s research are:
“Just because a solar company is in the general industry of renewable energy and sustainability doesn’t mean it’s actually practicing those same goals. We’re finding that most companies are riding the coat tails of a small group of environmental leaders,” said Sheila Davis, executive director, SVTC. “It’s alarming how many solar companies fail to post environmental data on their website and also ignore SVTC’s request for information. Hiding this information from the public puts the entire industry’s “green” reputation at risk.”
This year, SVTC augmented its research methodology for the Solar Scorecard to include prior survey responses and additional sources, such as interviews, news stories, and publicly available data and information. SVTC scored 40 companies representing approximately 82.8 percent of the PV industry market share. SVTC estimates that the 14 percent drop in its survey response is due to bankruptcy of former participants and the declining market shares of major PV producers. However, more investors are expecting that standard business practices now include sharing environmental information.
“Weak environmental and social reporting reflects poorly on a company’s risk management,” said Steven Heim, a managing director, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC, a SVTC Solar Scorecard sponsor. “Solar companies that score in the single digits for several years in a row should be a red flag for investors.”
SVTC plans to update the scores in December 2013 to show companies’ progress. SVTC has developed guidelines for online reporting on key issues related to recycling, emissions, worker health, and safety and waste issues.
2013 Solar Scorecard website: www.solarscorecard.com
SVTC website: www.svtc.org
Executive Director, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
(408) 287-6707 (office)
(415) 846-6331 (cell)
The Hoffman Agency for Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
About Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is a non-profit organization engaged in research, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high-tech industry. For more information, go to www.svtc.org.
About Boston Common Asset Management, LLC
Boston Common Asset Management is an investment manager and a leader in global sustainability initiatives. Boston Common specializes in long-only equity and balanced strategies and pursue long-term capital appreciation by seeking to invest in diversified portfolios of high quality, socially responsible stocks. Through rigorous analysis of financial, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors we identify what it believes are attractively valued companies for investment. As shareholders, Boston Common urges portfolio companies to improve transparency, accountability, and attention to ESG issues. Boston Common’s focus is global; it manages international and U.S. portfolios to meet the needs of institutional and individual investors. As of June 30, 2013, Boston Common managed approximately $1.9 billion, including subadvised assets. We are independent, employee-owned, and field a seasoned, close-knit team of professionals.]]>
For years, I have been sitting in meetings with DTSC, attending their workshops, reading their emails and have always felt like something was missing: logic and purpose. DTSC’s purpose is to protect California’s people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances, but they get so bogged down in bureaucracy and regulations that what they do seems to lack logic.
Stakeholder meetings in which I have participated have felt like they were being set up to prevent progress, rather than to make progress. Dealing with state agencies and conflicting stakeholders isn’t new to me. I have been a part of numerous stakeholder meetings. Typically the entity in charge of convening the stakeholder meeting will set up parameters for stakeholders to work from. These parameters serve as a point of reference to know what the goal is and what the organizing entity believes can be realistically accomplished.
I remember asking for such parameters from former DTSC director, Maureen Gorsen, after she stated that we (stakeholders) should ask for whatever we wanted with the Green Chemistry Regs (now called the Safer Consumer Products regulations). I said we could ask for the moon but it would not be realistic, her response was – go head and ask for the moon. How’s that for constructive guidance? A lot of people travelled from throughout California to participate in this stakeholder meeting and I could not help but feel like the lack of direction was wasting everyone’s time.
I was disgusted that the head of a state agency, tasked with protecting California’s communities and environment, would have such a flippant response. The seriousness of DTSC’s task is in its name – toxic substances.
SVTC has seen a lack of enforcement by DTSC for the last 15 years. For many years DTSC allowed lead laden televisions and other devices to illegally go in California landfills.
But nothing could prepare me for what I would read in Golden Wasteland:
DTSC has allowed a company that “makes specialty chemicals for industry from the hazardous waste it accepts from the computer, chemical and aerospace industries” to operate on an expired permit for 16 years. This is a facility that DTSC ordered to fix problems in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010.
They also may be responsible for the deaths of members of the community who lived near the chemical manufacturer. The community complained and asked DTSC to investigate.
Now, the facility wants to expand and according to the report, DTSC has already drafted a permit to approve it. Where is the logic behind that? How does that fulfill the mission of DTSC to protect communities or the environment?
If I had community members contacting me about families who have died and are dying from cancer in one given area, I would do everything in my power to get answers and if it was in my power, stop it from continuing.
And perhaps that is why the author of Golden Wasteland writes with such urgency, not a vendetta against DTSC, but with the understanding that lives are on the line.
Now clearly, not everything is the fault of DTSC. It seems that the whole system under Cal EPA is flawed and laws that are being passed are vague and possibly not giving them the teeth they need.
It is only fair to share that DTSC did issue a response to the report:
But unfortunately, I found it lacking in real answers to the issues that were addressed in the report.
We know that the current Director, Debbie Rafael, inherited a lot of these problems. But I do I wish she would have blown the whistle on what was happening at DTSC when she got there. Then she could have taken control over the situation and posted an explicit plan on how she intended to fix the problems when she took over (like making sure companies aren’t running off expired permits) and restore public confidence in the agency.
The impacted communities deserve better.
SVTC’s work has been hindered as DTSC allows companies to hide behind trade secrets at the expense of public health.
But all of this pales in comparison when you look at people in communities who are dying under DTSC authority. This must change.
We are hopeful that Senator de Leon is successful in his call for an investigation of DTSC: http://sd22.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-02-21-release-alarming-mismanagement-hazardous-waste-lax-enforcement-allegations-senators-.
And we are hopeful that legislation like AB 1329 which will reduce racial and economic disparities in siting hazardous waste facilities passes:
We hope that DTSC doesn’t get so caught up in wordsmithing responses to criticisms and just starts to take action to protect ALL Californians from toxic materials.
If you’ve been following SVTC’s work, you know that hazardous waste from solar is news, but discussions about the solar industry’s environmental impacts are not new.
Since the 2009 launch of our solar campaign and Solar Scorecard, SVTC has warned that solar manufacturing technologies are similar to those of the semiconductor industry and that the solar industry risks having the same damaging life-cycle impacts.
The difference of course is, that this industry is supposed to be “clean and green,” and its purpose is to create energy without hurting the environment.
The solar industry will continue to come under scrutiny and will be accused of hiding its “dirtier side” until it gets serious about collecting environmental information, sharing it with the public, and setting goals to get rid of toxics.
Fortunately, the solar industry is still just getting started and can shake the legacy of hazardous waste—but it shouldn’t wait too much longer. SVTC will be sending out our 2013 solar survey soon…a perfect opportunity for companies to take action and not waste any more time.]]>
The Winchester Mansion was built in 1884 by Sarah Winchester, the gun-manufacturer heiress. She believed she was being haunted by victims killed by Winchester rifles and she spent the latter part of her life building rooms and doors onto her mansion in order to appease these spirits. She added 160 rooms and 950 doors, most of which lead to dead-ends.
Similarly, DTSC continues to add to the State’s complex maze of hazardous waste regulation without a blueprint for environmental sustainability.
For example, The DTSC Proposed Standards for Management of Waste Solar Panel recommends solar modules to be regulated under the same universal waste rule as the State’s e-waste.
This is a bad idea. The State e-waste recycling program continues to allow California waste to be dumped overseas to poor countries that do not have infrastructure to recycle the waste. We have seen this type of dumping devastate entire villages and impact human health.
DTSC’s proposal for solar waste recycling does not include any incentive for the recyclers or solar companies to build recycling infrastructure in California, so we can expect our solar waste to suffer the same fate as e-waste.
That means California will lose recycling jobs and the State’s toxic solar waste will also be dumped in poor countries or shipped to out of-state landfills.
The proposed recycling program will also lead to consumer confusion. Solar customers will have no idea what to do with their panels at the end of the panel’s life.
DTSC’s proposed solar recycling program only includes solar panels that are classified as hazardous waste. And the proposal does not require a label to let customers know that the panel is hazardous waste and how the solar panel should be recycled.
SVTC wrote a letter expressing our concerns about these regulations when they were first introduced in 2010 . After two years of internal review, DTSC has not come up with any new ideas. In 2012 they released almost exactly the same proposal. Unfortunately,DTSC has wasted a lot of time and opportunity on this poorly thought-out proposal.
SVTC resubmitted our 2010 comments strongly stating our concern that any new solar recycling regulations should require manufacturers to take responsibility for recycling their own products. We also recommended that DTSC conduct a third party review of regulations three years after adoption
The solar technology is rapidly changing which means that the industry’s recycling needs will also change. Yet the DTSC proposal does not even include a provision to evaluate the regulations to see if the recycling program is working.
DTSC is continuing to construct a daunting solar panel recycling system that is full of regulatory twist and turns that lead to a dead-end.
DTSC is building its own version of the Winchester Mansion.]]>
Apple products are poisoning workers who make them. This is well known, thanks to a long campaign by activists. Recently, Apple accepted this too and promised to remedy this.
That’s good news. Ensuring worker safety is an important step towards cleaner electronics. But back here in India, it is workers at the other end of a product’s life cycle that we should worry about-at the end of disposal. Informal waste collectors and dismantlers handle over 90% of India’s e-waste. Yet, their work is not clean. They work in the heat, the monsoon and in the icy cold winter, under appalling conditions. Experience tells us that even when they become formal, by forming associations or companies, their safety and health may still be compromised, unless producers themselves shift to clean production.
Let me explain. When you form a company or an association, you can apply for permits to be an e-waste collector. When you get this permit, which can take up to a year and many indirect costs, you can go out and collect electronic waste. What then?
For most informal sector actors, collection and selling e-waste to other dismantlers is still the best option. Dismantling requires more investment in training, skilled workers already familiar with dismantling, additional equipment and tools etc. This is difficult to procure even if you are organized. What is even harder is that many bigger cities are unwilling to give permits to set up more dismantling units, because they see dismantling electronics as a highly toxic enterprise because of what’s inside the old computers, phones, T.Vs and other electronics we trash. Delhi and its neighbouring city, NOIDA, are two cases in point. This trend is likely to expand to other bigger cities. Unfortunately, they have a point-electronics do have toxics inside them. And while dismantling is not a toxic process, and does not burn or extract any metals, it can still lead to some toxic releases. If monitors break, for example. Or when they use blow torches, operating at high temperatures, to remove smaller components from mother boards.
This means that workers from the informal sector cannot value add and earn the most money from the e-waste they collect because the manufacturers have pumped them up with dangerous chemicals and this has the authorities very wary about dismantling except by very capital intensive plants. This is worrying for two reasons. First, that poor-and inconsiderate- design reduces the legal earning for such workers. Second, that this acts as a disincentive for workers who are currently dismantling to actually formalize, because they will have to change their line of business to collection, where their core skills will be unused. They may even experience a reduction in incomes. Such a disincentive is bad for them and bad for the environment. If they continue to dismantle, they bear the brunt of the toxics in electronics. If they expand their business, as many of them hope to do, collection will only be a means of vertical integration and to secure their dismantling businesses. It will be peripheral. For most, real expansion means adding value and increasing incomes from opportunities in extraction-even if it is illegal. Again, they will end up exposing themselves and other workers to dioxins, lead and acid fumes.
The new rules on e-waste in India, the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, mandate toxics reduction. Despite the occasional criticism of these, they are a first step to making electronic waste handling fair on the workers. More important is that producers of electronics clean up the insides of their products. Apple has taken a step, although it has a long way to go. The others must take their first step soon. It’s time to stop letting the workers at either end of the product chain to take in the poisons from our hyper-connected, comfortable life-styles.]]>
San Francisco, CA – May 10, 2012 – The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) today announced the release of its 2012 Solar Scorecard that ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability, and social justice factors.
“In this competitive solar market, top-tier panel makers are distinguishing themselves from environmental laggards by responding to SVTC’s survey and posting environmental data on their websites,” said Sheila Davis, Executive Director of SVTC.
The highest scores this year went to China’s Trina (94), the USA’s SunPower (93), and Germany’s SolarWorld (91).
The 2012 Solar Scorecard represents 51.1% of the PV market share.
Key findings from the Scorecard include:
• 13 of the 14 companies surveyed said they would publicly support Extended Producer Responsibility (taking back and recycling their products), up from 6 of 14 companies in 2010.
• 100% of the companies that responded reported they do not use prison labor and eight of the companies have written policies forbidding this practice.
Companies were scored in the following categories: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR); workers’ rights, health, and safety; disclosure of chemical use and emissions; supply chain monitoring; sustainability practices; and use of life cycle analysis.
The 2012 survey took a deeper look at corporate transparency and the type of information being provided to the public.
• 4 companies post hazardous waste reduction targets on their websites or annual/sustainability reports.
• 8 of 14 PV module manufacturers post greenhouse gas emission information on their websites or annual/sustainability reports.
“Photovoltaic manufacturers are increasingly reporting health, safety, and sustainability metrics on their websites and within annual reports. However, too many solar manufacturers are still unwilling to share their emissions information,” said SVTC Research Scientist Dustin Mulvaney, who contributed to the Scorecard survey. “Part of a solar manufacturer’s value proposition to its customers is its environmental credentials. Those who are transparent and make a genuine investment will be rewarded with consumer confidence.”
“Transparency is crucial to all green businesses,” said Ms. Davis, “This year companies that did not respond were scored based on the information on their websites. In SVTC’s third year of releasing the Scorecard, we’ve come to realize that companies that do not respond seem to have little positive news to report.”
The investment companies that support SVTC’s Solar Scorecard include Boston Common Asset Management, PaxWorld Management LLC, and Walden Asset Management.
“Boston Common Asset Management is very pleased to have supported the Solar Scorecard for a third year,” said Steven Heim, Managing Director. “The results show the importance of social and environmental issues and how they are increasingly becoming recognized by the industry. We are encouraged by new companies sharing their practices with the public and investors via SVTC’s Solar Scorecard.”
For more information, go to www.solarscorecard.com.
About Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is a non-profit organization engaged in research, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote human health and environmental justice in response to the rapid growth of the high-tech industry. For more information, go to www.svtc.org.]]>