There has been an outpouring of support from across the renewable energy industry in response to the unnecessary death of George Floyd and the many others who have preceded him and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a moment for introspection for us all.

We are proud of those within our industry who have voiced support for moving toward a more inclusive and diverse community. Now we must follow these words with clear action and concrete steps to build this community. It will not be easy, nor will it be quick, but we must all do better.

As a first step, leaders from Capital Dynamics, Cypress Creek Renewables, EDF Renewables, Generate Capital, Mosaic, Nautilus Solar Energy, New Columbia Solar, Nextracker, Volt Energy, Sol Systems, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Foundation have come together to share experiences, evaluate best practices and make changes. Our goal is to identify concrete ways to work together to create the change we all recognize is needed, commit to this change and drive a larger industrywide partnership between CEOs and organizations: the Renewables Forward Initiative.

The initial framework is simple and includes commitments to act on four core principles:

  1. Assess diversity and inclusion in our industry to raise awareness around inequality and benchmark progress toward a more diverse and inclusive industry.  
  2. Develop and share corporate practices and policies for a consistent drive toward increasing diversity and inclusion within our companies and the industry.
  3. Create a more diverse and inclusive pipeline of candidates in the renewable energy industry.
  4. Invest in the under-resourced and minority communities in which we work.

While we acknowledge that the steps we are taking now are some of the first among many, we must start somewhere. It is clear that we are stronger and more influential collectively and can drive change more effectively together. 

Together as renewable industry leaders, we are actively working to broaden this effort and make it long-lasting by partnering with other companies and organizations starting with SEIA’s recently formed board-level diversity, equity, inclusion and justice task force that is working to establish objective criteria for measuring progress on diversity in all facets of the solar industry.

Assess diversity and inclusion

Specifically, we are working with third-party consultants and solar industry associations, such as SEIA and the Solar Foundation, to build on the ongoing solar industry diversity and inclusion survey work because we believe that transparency leads to accountability and can drive change. The assessment will include separate analyses of the field workforce, corporate staff, management, C-suite and board members in the solar industry. This is an industry-funded effort with third-party validators.  

Develop and share corporate policies and resources

Our human resource and operational teams are working collectively to create a toolkit for our industry. We will be working with partners throughout the industry to educate one another and publish this toolkit for human resource and management professionals. Our intent is to create actionable guidance for all companies in the solar industry, an effort with the specific goal of scalability and continuous change.

Create a more diverse pipeline

We will outline 1) the ecosystems of nonprofits working to create more access and opportunities for under-represented candidates; 2) minority-owned businesses within the renewable energy industry; and 3) ways to build an industrywide bridge between minority and under-resourced communities in universities and historically Black colleges and universities. To begin with, we are working with The Urban Alliance, based in the DC Metro area, a group that is focused on developing access and opportunities for local high-school students and actively looking for new organizations nationwide. 

Invest in under-resourced communities

We are working collectively to invest in under-resourced communities and as a first step have focused on African American communities with the goal of expanding to focus on a broader set of impacts to communities and groups like the Latinx community, Native American community and women. Initially, the group has coordinated an educational, advocacy, community impact and fundraising effort to support the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Urban League that now totals in excess of $100,000. We are also prioritizing providing affordable solar services to these communities.

Why this matters

Our diversity issue is not simply a hiring problem but also an issue of education, access, political voice, environmental impact, community protection and sustainability. We cannot commit to building a more sustainable, better future without committing to addressing the inequities of the past and proactively building a solution that elevates opportunity for all Americans.

Sincerely, CEO Collective:

Benoit Allehaut, Managing Director, Clean Energy Infrastructure at Capital Dynamics; Sarah Slusser, CEO of Cypress Creek Renewables; Tristan Grimbert, President and CEO of EDF Renewables; Scott Jacobs, CEO of Generate Capital; Laura Stern, co-CEO of Nautilus Solar Energy; Michael Healy, CEO of New Columbia Solar; Dan Shugar, CEO of Nextracker; Gilbert Campbell, CEO of Volt Energy; Yuri Horwitz, CEO of Sol Systems; Abby Hopper, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association; and Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation.