Still, Ms. Murphy said that there was a key difference between forced labor issues in Southeast Asia and in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government prevents companies from doing the type of audit First Solar had conducted.
“What First Solar has done is the critical due diligence that all companies need to do around the world to ensure they are identifying and remediating forced labor in their supply chains,” Ms. Murphy said. “It does happen, and companies have to be on the lookout for it.”
In addition to Malaysia, First Solar has factories in Ohio and Vietnam. The company is rapidly expanding its manufacturing operations, including the construction of a research and development center in Ohio and by building factories in India, Alabama and Louisiana.
The company said it would continue to use a third party firm to ensure that its partners do not engage in forced labor practices. In addition to conducting its own audits, First Solar has joined the Responsible Business Alliance, a group that supports the rights and well-being of workers.
The Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Coalition, which represents solar manufacturers based in the United States, has said that forced labor in foreign countries highlights the need for more domestic production. First Solar and other manufacturers have ramped up manufacturing in the United States with the help of incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.