Regulation on Forced Labor – Interview with Nicolas Chandellier

Regulation on Forced Labor – Interview with Nicolas Chandellier

In early January 2024, ESMC (European Solar Manufacturing Council) released an open letter advocating for robust European regulation combatting forced labour. CARBON is among the 39 European PV manufacturer who co-signed this letter. Here is an interview with Nicolas Chandellier, General Manager of CARBON.

Why the urgency for strict regulations on forced labor in Europe?

Approximately 28 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor, with the PV industry ranking as the fourth most affected sector, following electronics, textiles, and palm oil.

Since at least 2017, the international community has been aware of the use of forced labor among the Uighurs in the Xinjiang autonomous region of China. Several institutional reports and high-level academic studies corroborate this reality.

In response, there is an urgent need to exercise control over imports into Europe to prohibit any products containing elements of forced labor from entering the market at any stage of the supply chain.

In this context, the European Union’s proposed regulation on forced labor, which received bipartisan support in the European Parliament, must enable Europe to assert itself as an economic and commercial power that fully respects human and social rights.

You are among the 39 European PV manufacturers who signed the ESMC’s open letter. Is this advocacy widely shared across the industry?

As detailed in the ESMC’s letter, which we co-signed, the version of the regulation proposed by the European Parliament is a step in the right direction. We support, for instance, the shift in the burden of proof onto companies suspected of utilizing forced labor, particularly for products originating from high-risk geographical regions.

Moreover, we advocate for empowering the European Commission to conduct investigations and inquiries following complaints. It should be able to rely on information provided by NGOs, associations, institutions, elected officials, or whistleblowers.

Finally, we urge for the swift implementation of the regulation. We must promptly dismantle this model that has long exploited workers worldwide and poses a threat to European businesses.

A regulation as ambitious as this will inevitably bring about real changes within the industry. I have no doubt that the sector as a whole (raw material producers, manufacturers, developers, operators, etc.) will adapt to revive a responsible and sustainable solar industry in Europe, ensuring compliance with the highest social and environmental standards and traceability throughout the value chain. At CARBON, this is our unwavering commitment.

Could this regulation signal the end of unfair competition against european companies?

Priority must be given to eradicating forced labor globally.While the UN aims to achieve this goal by 2030, evidence from the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests otherwise, indicating a rise in modern slavery in recent years. There is an urgent need to act swiftly. The European Union must take the necessary steps. It is up to all of us collectively to rise to the occasion.

While the solar industry spearheads the fight against climate change and energy transition, it cannot absolve itself of its social responsibilities regarding human rights. It is also about protecting European manufacturers who adhere to the highest social and environmental standards in the world, in a context of exacerbated unfair competition due to forced labor in other parts of the globe. There must be zero tolerance for the import of products derived from forced labor within the European Union.