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SEIA launches solar supplier database of minority-owned companies

Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 02nd June

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is releasing the Diverse Suppliers Database, a free platform that will highlight and elevate minority, women, disabled, veteran and LGBTQ+-owned businesses operating in the solar and storage industries. More than 120 diverse companies are listed in the database, and the platform will remain open for submissions.

The database will let solar companies more thoughtfully consider their supplier networks and partnerships. The businesses listed in the database represent a variety of companies, including solar and storage installers, roofers, construction companies, electrical contractors and other vendors or service providers in the solar and energy storage sectors.

“The $30 billion solar and storage industry is filled with tremendous opportunities, but our future success depends on our ability to expand our reach and welcome more diverse businesses to the industry,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “SEIA’s supplier diversity database will create business connections for company leaders across America and throughout the solar industry supply chain. Solar companies are eager to implement business practices that create a more inclusive and diverse solar industry and this tool can support that goal.”

SEIA has been working to advance supplier diversity for a number of years. According to a 2020 solar installer survey from EnergySage, 81% of solar respondents did not track supplier diversity. This number remains largely unchanged from 2019.

SEIA has created supplier diversity guides and resources for the industry, but companies overwhelmingly stated that the biggest barrier to implementation was finding diverse businesses working in the solar industry. In addition to the information asymmetry, there were financial barriers as well. There are supplier diversity databases available, however, they are not specific to the solar and storage industry and the fees they charge can be prohibitive to the many small businesses operating in the industry.

To ensure equitable outcomes for the businesses listed in the database and to boost participation, SEIA partnered with Black Owners of Solar Services (BOSS) on methodology and recruitment. BOSS is one of the largest groups of Black professionals working in the solar industry.

“America’s 21st-century economic recovery will be centered on racial justice and climate resilience, and businesses owned by people of color must help lead the way,” said Ajulo Othow, founder and CEO of EnerWealth Solutions and chair of the BOSS Advisory Committee. “Many times, DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion and justice) measures miss the mark because they fail to include diverse professionals in both program design and access to bona fide transactions. We at BOSS applaud SEIA for recognizing the value of diverse teams, especially for this impactful initiative. SEIA’s supplier diversity database is a necessary and welcomed step in our work together.”

SEIA’s Diverse Suppliers Database is a free platform that lets users sort, filter and keyword search for diverse businesses that provide services throughout the solar and storage supply chain. The companies listed are diverse-owned businesses, meaning at least 51% of the company is owned or controlled by:

Minorities (Black/African American, Indigenous/Alaska Native, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Other); Disabled persons; Service-disabled veterans; Veterans; LGBTQ+ community members; and/or Women.

In addition to these classifications, the database also recognizes companies classified as a “small businesses,” “small disadvantaged businesses” or “historically underutilized businesses.” Companies meeting any of the criteria above are encouraged to submit their company information to the database.

“As a minority-owned solar developer, I’ve encountered key clients that were unaware that black-owned solar development firms like Volt Energy existed while procuring solar,” said Gilbert Campbell, CEO of Volt Energy. “The supplier diversity database will be a great resource for solar buyers and other key stakeholders that want to identify the growing number of minority-owned solar firms across the supply chain.”

The database is another outcome of SEIA’s DEIJ Leadership Council and includes input from a variety of solar companies that will use and/or be listed in the database. The DEIJ Leadership Council is also responsible for SEIA’s new environmental justice policy platform and is gearing up to launch an industry certification program in the fall for solar and storage companies.

Diverse-owned businesses also stand to gain from this new resource.

“There are so many women, veteran and other diverse-owned renewable energy businesses across the country, and this is an incredibly important tool to connect those companies to prospective buyers,” said Donnel Baird, founder of BlocPower. “The database will help BlocPower and firms like ours generate more potential clients, and we look forward to putting it into practice.”

News item from SEIA