A group of leading solar and renewable energy companies and trade organizations have launched an initiative, Renewables Forward, to take action and develop concrete steps to increase workforce diversity and inclusion throughout the industry. Leaders from across the industry have come together to share experiences, evaluate best practices and make meaningful change. Their goal is to identify tangible ways to work together to identify the change that is needed, commit to tackling it, and drive a larger industrywide partnership between CEOs and solar industry organizations.
The founding members of the initiative include Capital Dynamics, Cypress Creek Renewables, EDF Renewables, Generate Capital, Mosaic, Nautilus Solar Energy, New Columbia Solar, Nextracker, Sol Systems, and Volt Energy, as well as the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation.
“While we acknowledge that the steps we are taking now are some of the first among many, we must start somewhere,” said Yuri Horwitz, CEO and co-founder of Sol Systems. “It is clear that we are stronger and more influential collectively and can drive change more effectively together.”
“We will actively collaborate to broaden this effort and make it long-lasting by partnering with other companies and organizations,” said Laura Stern, co-CEO and cofounder of Nautilus Solar Energy. “Starting with SEIA’s recently formed board-level diversity, equity, inclusion and justice task force, we will work to establish objective criteria for measuring progress on diversity in all facets of the solar industry.”
“From a mission perspective, the lack of diversity in solar means that whole segments of the American population are simply not participating in climate solutions and are being left out of the economic opportunities that these jobs create,” said Dan Shugar, CEO and cofounder of Nextracker. “Words are good, but we are overdue in our industry to do better in terms of minority and gender representation.”
The initial framework of the Renewables Forward initiative is based on four core principles:
- Assess diversity and inclusion in our industry to raise awareness around inequality and benchmark progress toward a more diverse and inclusive industry.
- Develop and share corporate practices and policies for a consistent drive toward increasing diversity and inclusion within our companies and the industry.
- Create a more diverse and inclusive pipeline of candidates in the renewable energy industry.
- Invest in the under-resourced and minority communities in which we work.
“Our diversity issue is not simply a hiring problem, but an issue of education, access, political voice, environmental impact, community protection and sustainability,” said Gilbert Campbell, CEO and cofounder of Volt Energy. “We cannot commit to building a better, more sustainable future without committing both to address the inequities of the past and to build a solution that elevates opportunity for all Americans.”
“We need to build a renewable energy sector that represents the stakeholders we aim to serve and disrupts the status quo of inequality and systemic racism,” said Scott Jacobs, CEO of Generate. “We are committed to making a material, durable impact on racial justice, equity, diversity and inclusion at Generate, in our industry and in the communities where we operate.”
“Without leadership and accountability, the solar industry will not move forward on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This summer SEIA formed a board-level task force that is singularly focused on creating programs and services that can help companies advance their practices and make tangible progress on diversity. I’m proud to work alongside these forward-thinking leaders and look forward to collaborating on these issues—our success in the Solar+ Decade depends on it.”
Renewables Forward’s initial efforts include coordinating an educational, advocacy, community impact and fundraising program to support the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Urban League that has raised more than $100,000 so far. The initiative is also working with the Urban Alliance, based in the D.C. Metro area, which is focused on developing access and opportunities for local high-school students.
— Solar Builder magazine