The Responsible Energy Initiative is a multi-year programme working to ensure renewable energy in Asia achieves its full potential and creates value in a way that is ecologically safe, rights-respecting and socially just.

The Challenge

The rise of renewables brings great promise for our ability to tackle climate emergency. Scaling renewable energy (RE) is critical to the rapid transition to a low carbon economy. RE has the potential to expand access to affordable, clean energy; create jobs and help economies to thrive; and reduce air pollution, a primary concern for urban citizens in Asia.

This is a critical moment in the development of the sector, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. RE is scaling rapidly; financing models are shifting from public to private; and policy and regulatory mechanisms are changing. Economic stimulus packages are being developed to support recovery from COVID-19 with many recovery packages focused on building the industries we need to ride the shocks of the future, including renewable energy.

At the same time, we are seeing significant risks emerge in the RE industry. As the industry grows, these risks may also grow, and in a way that does not account for environmental, social and human rights impacts. The potential negative impacts of the sector are becoming increasingly clear. From land and labour rights and livelihood challenges to toxic waste and unsustainable use of raw materials.

Building a responsible energy sector

Unless the potential negative social and environmental impacts of RE are addressed, the growth of the sector may be put in jeopardy. An unacceptable outcome from a climate perspective. Equally, poor practices could become in-built into the industry. Consequently, it will be harder for the sector to drive fair and just social transitions to a low carbon future.

How can the sector fully live up to its potential to drive positive social and environmental outcomes? What is the role of investors, developers, manufacturers, large procurers and others in the sector in collectively shaping a just and regenerative future for the sector?

Our contribution

The Responsible Energy Initiative seeks to enable the RE sector in Asia to adopt business models and value chains keeping justice, equity, universal rights and resilient ecological systems at their core. We plan to deliver these outcomes through three futures-led collaborative inquiries in Asia - in India, and in two further Southeast Asian countries to be determined - between 2022-26.

Many initiatives focus on scaling adoption and accelerating investment. However, they do not look at the whole RE industry, or enable stakeholders to design solutions together. The Responsible Energy Initiative engages stakeholders across the RE system to work collaboratively. As a result, we will better equip actors to identify a shared view of what, how and where they can intervene to shape a different future.

Responsible Energy Initiative: key objectives and outcomes

We will bring together renewable energy companies, investors and procurers to:

  • Establish a systemic understanding of the implications of inaction, the barriers to integrating ESG into business models and governance. Also to see the opportunities for shifting mindsets and behaviours such that the sector can accelerate and be a net positive force in achieving a sustainable future.
  • Identify ways to transform business models, practices (including governance around investment) and the system so that it is set to deliver long-term value for both society and shareholders.
  • Enable pilot interventions that demonstrate a shift in business models, practices and the wider system through:
    a) how the renewable energy industry responds to its environmental and social impacts; and
    b) the wider system, including investors, policy makers, financiers and those procuring renewable energy and incentivising net-positive approaches to ESG.
  • Support the scaling of approaches that enable the acceleration of renewables across the Asia Pacific region in a fair and just way by curating multi-country learning and insights to share and engage a wider group of renewable energy stakeholders across the region.

By paying attention to all ESG impacts, the renewables sector in Asia will be better able to secure its license to operate. It will also ensure access to finance, enhancing the ability to accelerate the transition and secure its own resilience.

The India inquiry

The first inquiry is taking place in India in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI) India and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). It is supported by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), Landesa and WWF India.

Who’s involved

Launched on 25 March 2021

Renewable Energy to Responsible Energy: A Call to Action

The Initiative’s first report, titled Renewable Energy to Responsible Energy: A Call to Action, was launched in March 2021. The report ​​provides a broad understanding of the environmental and social impacts being generated by the Indian RE sector and the extent to which these impacts are currently being governed, managed and mitigated. It recognises that many of the challenges faced by the RE sector are systemic, affecting multiple sectors and requiring international alliances.

The report provides a strong foundation for the next stage of the inquiry, where ambitious RE developers, investors, financiers, procurers, policy-makers and civil society are collaboratively setting new norms for a responsible RE system in India.

Download the executive summary 

Download the full report

Watch the recording of the launch event

The Southeast Asia inquiry

The second inquiry has been kick-off in Southeast Asia. With a focus on Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore, we aim to develop a deep understanding of the current RE system in the region and launch our second country inquiry by mid-2022.

Get in touch

The Responsible Energy Initiative is seeking funding partners to deliver the outcomes across the Southeast Asia region. If you wish to support the Southeast Asia inquiry initiative or know more about it, get in touch with Cynthia Morel at [email protected] 

If you wish to learn more the India inquiry, reach out to Saksham Nijhawan at [email protected]  

Follow our Medium page to find out more about our learning and insights from the active collaborative inquiry.