Making Our Security Environmentally Friendly

Government, industry and private enterprise are slowly waking up to the fact that the biggest polluter of carbon dioxide is business. Despite endless campaigning to persuade people to reduce, reuse and recycle, it’s the businesses that need to curb their excess; as many churn out more paper and use more electricity and water in a day than the average household will use in a generation. As the government’s vision becomes more focused on this task, so will their insistence that policies and laws force us to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) a reality and become greener.

Whilst some of the opposition leaders and green activists argue that the government’s desire for a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 doesn’t go far enough, it is a start and a bench mark to aim for. It might have helped to have interim targets but that doesn’t mean we can’t set our own. 2050 sounds a long way off and the target seems easy until we examine our businesses closely and realise that it is going to take more than just a few energy efficient light bulbs from the facilities department. For most businesses sweeping changes will need to be made across all areas, departments and even in staff attitudes. But above all, in every case it will be necessary to have a top down approach with a board level CSR strategy and champion.

But the question being quietly whispered in darkened corners of the facilities industry is whether or not security should be affected. By changing processes and tools we will surely risk the integrity of secure systems, is it actually possible to be both green and secure and if so, surely there will be a changeover period when errors and chinks in the armour could appear?

Quite frankly the answers are simple – yes security should be affected and in my opinion we risk our integrity by standing aloof and suggesting we could be beyond green issues. As an industry we must move with the times and maintain the trust of our clients. It is a fact that they want greener suppliers with a firm CSR strategy, if that forces us to make changes we should not only provide it but embrace it.

We must not view CSR and green issues as a plague set upon us by a vengeful government; let’s face it their own green policies have been woefully lacking. Instead we should look at the wider implications. For the socially conscious there are clear statistics, stories and examples for a greater environmental awareness.

Then there are of course commercial reasons for green and CSR policies. From the sales point of view, many larger corporates and especially public bodies require CSR credentials from suppliers at the very start of the tender process – those without, need not apply! And finally there are the savings to be considered. More efficient use of paper, electricity and fuel will all lead to lower expenditure.

Once we have accepted the fact that we need to be green, getting there becomes a lot simpler, in fact it is simply a matter of planning, strategy and process, something I am well aware of, having achieved ISO 14001 as far back as 2001, well before many other security suppliers were even starting to consider the issue.

In an effort to offer some thoughts on ways to be greener, it is easier to steer away from individual element under the facilities manager’s security brief. Instead I will focus on the core elements of the green mix and how best to achieve them. In fact, in the spirit of the green movement we will try to adhere to the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mantra.

First, we must consider the different elements of facilities management, which for the sake of simplicity will be split into admin and operations. The admin category is largely the same for all and includes everything office based from accounts to marketing, sales and management. On the other hand there is operations, where skills and specialities range from manned guarding to CCTV, IT and barrier control. When thinking about “going green” the instinct is to think of operational specialities, whilst this is a laudable attitude to take, it is far more sensible to start with the administrative elements, they are easy to change as so many other companies in other industries have been there before us.

As a nation we have consistently ranked amongst the bottom three nations for recycling in the European Union and have a reputation as the “dirty man of Europe”. Without even touching the operational elements of our business we can start to make a huge difference by ensuring we recycle everything: paper, card, plastic, cans, ink toner and particularly packaging. Some, such as the recycling of toner cartridges even have charitable benefits. Almost everything can be recycled through some scheme or another, and if a supplier constantly sends you items packaged in un-recyclable materials, threaten to boycott them. They will soon get the message.

Unfortunately even the simple task of recycling has inherent security risks – no one can have missed the stories of the high street banks throwing out client statements and information. The simple solution is to use one of those firms offering a secure recycling service, they are reasonably inexpensive but offer a fantastic service, coming onto your site and destroying all secure and confidential files under the watchful eye of a company officer. This is a simple service that we use time and again, maintaining both security and regard for the environment.

There are also many elements of operational equipment that can be broken down to their component parts and recycled once they have served their purpose. But why put something beyond use that others may benefit from: computers for example can be passed to schools and the developing world – again secure and confidential information can be saved by the simple removal of the hard drive, which can be kept for future use or cleaned by specialist firms. Other areas of operational equipment can be broken down and recycled include CCTV equipment and alarms, all of which will find uses. Worn out uniforms can even find a home amongst the charity donation schemes sending clothes to the developing world.

So here, all of a sudden we find ourselves shifting up a gear on the environmental scale and talking about reuse rather than recycling. The next step however is where a real difference occurs – reduction. By using less we are impacting less on natural resources and doing the least harm to the environment. A few thoughts:

Stationary: If you do nothing else I implore you to use both sides of every piece of paper! However, there are other steps that can be taken, including the shift to a paperless office.

Transport and Travel: One of our biggest green policies has been the change from petrol/diesel vehicles to LPG, which has taken time and expense. Has it made a difference? Yes, without that change it is unlikely we would have won the Royal Parks contract. This fact has nothing to do with our ability to perform as a security firm but everything to do with their green agenda. Therefore it made clear sense. Car sharing schemes and the use of public transport should also be considered.

Energy: In the office use alternative and renewable energy suppliers and change your lights to low voltage. On the operational side make sure CCTV systems, barrier controls and alarms systems all use the latest, low energy technology. Tell you staff to switch off monitors and computers when they aren’t in use; the standby mode on most appliances uses 90% power. Don’t forget that all these measures save as much in money as they do carbon emissions.

I could go on to talk about other areas such as water, natural materials and more but these few suggestions should set even the worst polluters off in the right direction.

So once you have done your best, reduced, reused and recycled to the absolute maximum, where do you go to get that last few percent – or indeed smash the government targets and go for 100% reduction. The answer is carbon offsetting, a solution provided by a number of organisations throughout the country, allowing you to reach the top of the environmentally friendly tree. Yes it is better not to produce carbon in the first place but that is not practical in a commercial environment. Specialists in carbon offsetting will audit your emissions and help you find ways to negate them, the simplest of which is the age old practice of tree planting.

But is it secure I hear you ask. In reality the changes suggested above have very little impact on the actual integrity of security systems, they are almost universally focused on the admin elements. Yes there are a few suggestions that will affect the operational elements of our sector but a top down board strategy involving planning and thought will ensure nothing is left to chance and the change from polluter to tree hugger happens safely and securely.

Abbey Petkar

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