First Solar Leads the Way in Solar Industry Transparency with 2023 Sustainability Report

Representational image. Credit: Canva

In a groundbreaking move towards greater transparency, First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) has released its 2023 Sustainability Report. This report sets a new industry benchmark by publicly disclosing the details of onsite third-party social audits conducted at its global manufacturing facilities, marking an industry-first milestone. First Solar is also believed to be the first among the world’s largest solar manufacturers to conduct third-party social audits across its operational global manufacturing footprint, emphasizing its commitment to responsible business practices.


First Solar, the sole major solar manufacturer member of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), took a significant step by conducting three onsite third-party RBA Validated Assessment Program (VAP) audits at its manufacturing facilities in the United States, Malaysia, and Vietnam. While both the U.S. and Vietnam operations achieved the highest rating of platinum status, the audits revealed that four service providers at the Malaysia facility did not meet First Solar’s stringent standards. The report provides comprehensive details on the findings and outlines First Solar’s corrective actions. The Malaysia facility is expected to undergo its VAP closure audit in the fourth quarter of 2023. These third-party social audits, like the RBA VAP social audits, serve the purpose of identifying and rectifying existing and potential issues within the supply chain to improve the well-being of workers.

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Mark Widmar, Chief Executive Officer of First Solar, emphasized the company’s commitment to transparency and responsible solar practices. He stated, “We have chosen to highlight the audit findings openly, not only because of our commitment to transparency and Responsible Solar but to raise awareness of modern slavery risks that hide in plain sight and to illustrate the value of an independent third-party social audit conducted in a credible, comprehensive manner. The solar industry will anchor the global transition to a sustainable energy future, and we believe that it must do so responsibly. Quite simply, our industry’s work to power the energy transition and enable the fight against climate change does not serve as credits to offset its social and human rights obligations.”


Additionally, the report shines a spotlight on First Solar’s new factory in Tamil Nadu, India, which is slated to commence commercial production in the second half of 2023. This facility is expected to be the world’s first net-zero water withdrawal solar manufacturing plant. Located in an area with a high baseline of water stress, the facility has been designed to minimize its impact on local water resources. It will rely solely on tertiary-treated reverse osmosis water from the city’s sewage treatment plant and will have zero wastewater discharge.

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Widmar added, “As we continue our journey to growth we are doubling down on our commitment to Responsible Solar and meaningfully contributing to the fight against climate change. This includes designing our manufacturing facilities and products with sustainability in mind.”

In terms of environmental impact, First Solar has made significant progress. Compared to 2021, the company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 11%, manufacturing energy intensity by 8%, manufacturing waste intensity by 28%, and manufacturing water intensity by 20% in 2022. Moreover, the company received an ‘AA’ rating from MSCI ESG Research in 2022, the highest in the solar industry, and a CDP Climate Change ‘A-‘ rating.

First Solar’s advanced thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules, produced responsibly, set industry standards for quality, durability, reliability, design, and environmental performance. These modules have the lowest carbon and water footprint among commercially available PV modules today. First Solar also became the first PV manufacturer to have its product included in the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) global registry for sustainable electronics. Additionally, the company has introduced a high-value recycling program, which facilitates closed-loop semiconductor recovery for use in new modules and recovers other materials including aluminum, glass, and laminates.

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