An assessment of the human rights performance of the world’s leading solar and wind power companies has painted a grim state of affairs, with the only dedicated solar manufacturer analyzed scoring 7%.
The battery and renewable energy industries are facing increased scrutiny for their human rights impacts. In December, U.S.-based technology and electric vehicle companies were named in the first lawsuit seeking to hold downstream companies responsible for allegedly aiding and abetting child labour in cobalt extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (https://bit.ly/2UgQPgZ). Energy storage technology, such as batteries, is increasingly developed alongside solar and wind-powered electricity generation. This means the battery industry’s material risks are now of direct concern to a broader group of companies involved in the global transition to a low carbon economy.
An accelerated transition to renewables could go either way, regarding the United States’ unique geopolitical strength. According to Indra Overland – head of the Center for Energy Research at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs – the U.S. could surrender a major advantage if it abandons fossil fuel. The nation could, however, remain dominant in the global energy sector if it continues to lead on innovation and clean energy tech-related intellectual property.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has published a report looking at the human rights due diligence performance of the renewables industry and examined individual generation methods. The report finds that, while the solar sector is not top of the sad list, its vest also isn’t completely unstained.
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