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In January 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed received a questionnaire response from AES Solar with supporting documents.

The questionnaire outlined what the company was doing to reduce its environmental and climate impact: installation of solar PV and thermal on its own facility, decreased paper usage and increased recycling, composting and growing their own vegetables.

The company stated "All these small changes build towards our ultimate aim of decarbonising our energy supply to reverse climate change and create sustainable clean energy."

"We manufacture and assemble the majority of our products from our headquarters in Forres. With the majority of our materials from the local, domestic, and European market, the environmental impact of the transportation is minimal. AES Solar is actively resisting the less sustainable trend of sourcing materials from Asia in order to reduce our carbon footprint and support producers closer to home.

The AES Solar business itself operates in a sustainable manner. As one would expect, both PV and solar thermal panels power operations within the AES Solar office and factory. Despite office growth, the introduction of onsite solar panels has resulted in a drop in annual electricity costs from 2018 to 2019, and a decrease in gas costs from the same period.

Since 2017, the company has reduced its paper usage by 80% and increased its recycling of paper, plastic, and glass by 62%. We have also introduced a composting system (reducing waste by a further 15%) and follow a circular business model in terms of manufacturing waste.

As well as specialising in the design, production and installation of sustainable energy systems, the AES Solar business itself operates sustainably. Our team works towards a zero-waste circular production cycle; everything is designed and made onsite, reducing transport emissions; creating high-value job opportunities in a region with a lower-than-average skills base; investing in the young work force, through modern apprenticeships and graduate schemes; and working to engage the local community in our work, inspiring the next generation of green energy designers, engineers, and advocates."

As it was a small company with an annual turnover of less than £10.2 million, and appeared to only be producing solar thermal collectors, a renewable heating technology, it was considered to be providing only environmental alternatives. It therefore received an exemption from providing full environmental reporting. It received Ethical Consumer's best rating for Environmental Reporting and was not marked down in this category.

Reference:

Questionnaire response Jan 2021 (25 January 2021)

In January 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed received a questionnaire response from AES Solar with supporting documents.
Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:
* For the company to discuss its areas of climate impact, and to discuss plausible ways it has cut them in the past, and ways that it will cut them in the future.
* For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding it’s climate actions, and to have a policy to avoid investing in fossil fuels.
* For the company to report annually on its scope 1&2 greenhouse gas emissions (direct emissions by the company), and to go some way towards reporting on its scope 3 emissions (emissions from the supply chain, investments and sold products).
* For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.

The company stated that it had installed solar PV and solar thermal on its own facilities, its office and factory: "Despite office growth, the introduction of onsite solar panels has resulted in a drop in annual electricity costs from 2018 to 2019, and a decrease in gas costs from the same period."
"We manufacture and assemble the majority of our products from our headquarters in Forres. With the majority of our materials from the local, domestic, and European market, the environmental impact of the transportation is minimal. AES Solar is actively resisting the less sustainable trend of sourcing materials from Asia in order to reduce our carbon footprint and support producers closer to home."
"In 2014 AES Solar redesigned its ‘AES Luminary’ thermal panel range in order to be more sustainable. Thinner and lighter than most thermal panels, the AES Luminary is easier and more cost-effective to transport, and requires less material in production, reducing carbon footprint."

We therefore judged that it showed a reasonable understanding of its own climate impacts. And, as the company was a small company with an annual turnover of less than £10.2 million and its business was solely concerned with renewable heating products, it received an exemption from providing full carbon management and reporting information.
It therefore received Ethical Consumer’s best rating for carbon management and reporting and was not marked down under Climate Change.

Reference:

Questionnaire response Jan 2021 (25 January 2021)

In January 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed AES Solar's website for the company's policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals such as, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and PVC and/or phthalates. No policy was found. AES manufactured solar thermal systems, including digital controllers.
However the company returned a questionnaire in January that stated that they did not use PVC, phthalates or BFRs in their products. "AES Solar endeavours to use sustainable, recycled, and recyclable materials wherever possible in our business operations."

A toxics policy was deemed necessary for all electronics companies, as these substances were widely used by electronics companies and had a significant negative environmental impact when released after disposal.
A strong policy on toxics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as BFRs and PVC and/or phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use.

As the company did not use these toxic chemicals in electronics it did not lost a mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

Questionnaire response Jan 2021 (25 January 2021)

In January 2021 Ethical Consumer viewed AES Solar's website for the company's conflict minerals policy. No policy was found. AES manufactured solar thermal systems, including digital controllers.

Conflict minerals are minerals mined in conditions of armed conflict and human rights abuses, notably in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The minerals in question are Tantalum, Tin, Tungsten and Gold (3TG for short) and are key components of electronic devices, from mobile phones to televisions.

Ethical Consumer expected all companies manufacturing electronics to have a policy on the sourcing of conflict minerals. Such a policy would articulate the company's commitment to conflict-free sourcing of 3TG minerals and a commitment to continue ensuring due diligence on the issue. The policy should also state that it intended to continue sourcing from the DRC region in order to avoid an embargo and that the company had membership of, or gave financial support to, organisations developing the conflict-free industry in the region.

Their questionnaire response to a question about conflict minerals policy stated:
"AES Solar aim to source all materials from ethical and socially responsible sources. We obtain evidence to ensure as far as possible (within reason based on our size and resources) that the supply chain of our components, from raw material through to assembly, meets these requirements.
AES Solar undertake reasonable measures such as enquiries and obtaining written commitments or certifications to be confident our suppliers operate responsibly with respect to conflict materials. The majority of our materials and components are sourced within the UK and the remainder within the EU from reputable companies with no direct connection to conflict materials that we can be aware of.
Our main supplier of extruded metal products (Hydro) provides a written commitment to ensure the same, with respect to the sourcing of their raw materials and components. These extruded metal products make up the highest proportion of our component materials.
AES Solar commit to only using materials from smelters/remelters that are conflict free. Our supplier of components derived from such sources confirm they have measures in place to ensure the same."

Hydro stated:
"Hydro take very seriously concerns that profits from conflict minerals (i.e., certain minerals, including tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold) may be fueling human rights violations, labour abuses and environmental degradation and are committed to ethical sourcing of any minerals used in our products. Following a good faith diligent inquiry, we do not have any reason to believe that our manufacturing facilities use any “conflict minerals”."

Due to the fact the company did not have a robust policy for ensuring that its suppliers only used verfiried conflict free smelters or support of any conflict free iniatives it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its policy on conflict free minerals and lost a whole mark under the Habitats and Resources and Human Rights categories.

Reference:

Questionnaire response Jan 2021 (25 January 2021)