As global calls to properly address climate change and adopt renewable energy sources continue, a surge in the demand for solar panels ensues.

But where there’s increased demand, there’s a need for increased supply. Not all manufacturers can keep up – and not all manufacturers respond to the demand with high quality products – which means some wildly shonky panels make it to the market.

A closer examination of the solar panel supply chain reveals a troubling reality – the production of some solar panels is tainted by unethical practices and forced labour. As such, the recent announcement by the NSW Anti-slavery Commissioner and the Clean Energy Council in Australia serves as a stark reminder of the need to ensure the ethicality of renewable energy production and the profound impact it has on both the environment and human lives.

In this article, we’ll dig beyond the announcement to help you understand which solar panels are ethical: the brands you can trust, and what questions to ask your solar retailer when you’re purchasing.

Ready? Let’s get going.

So – what happened in NSW?

In a groundbreaking move, Dr. James Cockayne, the NSW Anti-Slavery Commissioner, has partnered with the Clean Energy Council to develop a comprehensive Code of Practice that aims to address the risks of modern slavery in renewable energy supply chains.

This collaborative effort comes on the heels of mounting evidence linking forced labour to the production of critical components used in renewable energy systems, such as polysilicon in solar panels and cobalt in lithium-ion batteries (i.e. solar battery storage products).

Dr. Cockayne’s statement that the transition to renewable energy must not be achieved at the expense of human rights strongly demonstrates the urgency of this initiative. So it is that the joint venture between the Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the Clean Energy Council strives to establish a renewable energy landscape that is untainted by forced labour and unethical practices.

It can serve as a reminder to us all: solar panel production is not immune from human rights abuses – and particularly so where there’s increasing demand across the world.

What Makes Solar Panels Unethical?

Perhaps the most shocking revelation of recent times pertains to the use of forced labour in the production of polysilicon – a core material in silicon-based solar panels.

What’s more, the recently publicised exploitation of Uyghur labourers in China’s Xinjiang region exposes a harrowing truth: these individuals, coerced and detained by the state, are subjected to gruelling labour conditions in high-heat environments, fueling the global production of solar panels. It’s often the case that products produced in these factories are sent all over the world.

However, it’s important to recognise that the key concerns don’t end with Xinjiang. Malaysia, a key player in polysilicon production, faces allegations of forced labour in industries like palm oil production. As the solar industry expands its reach, apprehensions grow about the potential presence of similar unethical practices in solar panel production across various regions.

How can I make sure my panels are ethical?

Amid the growing unease about forced labour in the solar industry, consumers are left wondering how they can ensure that the solar panels they install align with ethical principles and do not involve human rights violations.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) emerges as a beacon of hope. Through the Solar Supply Chain Traceability Protocol, solar companies pledge allegiance to ethical practices and transparency in their supply chains. Over 175 solar entities, including major manufacturers, have taken a stand against forced labour by signing the SEIA pledge, demonstrating their commitment to eradicating human rights abuses.

Champions of ethical production: SunPower and REC

Two solar panel manufacturers stocked, installed and maintained by G Store, SunPower solar panels and REC solar panels, are leading the charge in ethical sourcing and sustainability.

Renowned for its Maxeon technology, SunPower’s panels excel in efficiency and durability. The company offers an industry-leading 40-year warranty and is also dedicated to the UN Global Compact and Sustainable Development Goals, setting a high standard for ethical solar panel production.

What’s more, SunPower proudly upholds human rights as outlined in international declarations and conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO Conventions, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Ethical Treatment of Workers. In addition, SunPower ensures dignity and safety for its workforce, offering fair wages, observing working hour norms, and prohibiting forced or exploitative labour.
Importantly, SunPower extends its ethical standards to suppliers, mandating adherence to human rights through its Supplier Code of Conduct, regular audits, and training programs.

With its manufacturing base in Singapore, REC adheres to international environmental and ethical standards. The company proudly emphasises an ethical supply chain, meticulously vetting suppliers and abiding by the principles of the Modern Slavery Act 2018. REC’s distinction lies in being among the pioneers of lead-free panel production, contributing to more sustainable recycling practices.

At G Store, we’re proudly transparent about just how clean and ethical our products really are. Because what’s the point in heading towards net-zero if your panels are unethically produced? Give us a call today on 1300 137 567 for the full specs regarding just how ethical our solar panels really are.

What’s next in the fight for more ethical solar panels?

While renewable energy offers a promising pathway to a more sustainable and ethical future, it is vital to acknowledge the potential hidden costs associated with its production.

The partnership between the NSW Anti-slavery Commissioner and the Clean Energy Council marks a significant stride toward a just transition to renewable energy. Consumers just like you wield considerable influence by supporting companies that prioritise ethical sourcing and labour practices – so, what are you waiting for?

Wrapping up

To learn more about the incredible, ethically produced solar PV panel systems we sell plus the full range of rebates for which you may be eligible, visit our Learning Centre or give our friendly G Store team a call today on 1300 137 567.

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