CSR Stats Should Be a Wake-Up Call

As part of our recent survey across clients, retailers, public authorities and commercial facilities managers 85% of respondents cited Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an important issue. They also said they would be more likely to choose a CSR and environment focused supplier of security services than a company which did not take such matters seriously. How times have changed!

Magenta was the first manned guarding company to be ISO 14001 certified around ten years ago and since then has gone on to create a business founded on sustainability, with initiatives ranging from a fleet of hybrid vehicles to secure recycling and charitable work. Magenta also won the SIA Green Award last year and has been shortlisted again this year. So when it comes to being green I think we know what we are talking about!

It was not so long ago that ‘going green’ was seen as a rather quaint idea; that being environmentally friendly would somehow save the planet. In other words it was something being bandied about by the usual ‘lunatic fringe’ but not something that serious businesses should be particularly concerned about. Big business viewed the green movement as part of the rather radical ‘Greenpeace’ fraternity and nothing to do with serious matters like economic growth and the maximisation of profitability – regardless of the environmental consequences. But CSR has now, in only a few short years, moved firmly up the corporate ladder and crept into the boardroom.

Today, and increasingly, it is those businesses that are not taking environmental issues seriously that are becoming the social outcasts. Today being ‘green’ is suddenly very fashionable. It is about actively demonstrating corporate social responsibility and being part of the ‘solution’ rather than the ‘problem’.

At first, somewhat predictably, it was the big polluters who were targeted as the main offenders. Oil companies and Chemical companies in particular were accused of environmental pollution and unsustainable practices. It was one of the reasons that BP changed their name from ‘British Petroleum’ to ‘Beyond Petroleum’ with a new greener logo to match! Today though, it is not just the ‘big polluters’ that are undertaking massive and unprecedented changes to become greener entities but it is also organisations across all business sectors – large and small.

The security industry might seem an odd choice when thinking about CSR issues but, like many other service businesses, it too is having to face up to the green agenda and is in the process of critically examining the implications. Not all security firms have woken up to the green agenda though. Some security firms are predictably raising the question of whether ‘going green’ might somehow compromise their fundamental operations or increase security risk. In other words there is a fear that by changing processes or tools it could risk the integrity of secure systems. This raises the question of whether it is actually possible to be both ‘green’ and ‘secure’ or if the two ideals are mutually exclusive.

Here at Magenta Security Services though, we have made the decision to embrace the green agenda for what we believe are the right reasons. In short we have made the choice to move with the times whilst still focusing on trying to maintain the trust of our clients. In many cases it is actually the clients that want to utilise the services of green security suppliers, able to demonstrate a firm CSR strategy.

But what does ‘going green’ really mean? And why is it important to make sure that corporate social responsibility is central to business strategy? It is useful to look at some of the key elements of the green movement as a whole and how, by way of example, companies like Magenta are embracing the concepts.

Well firstly, Magenta is proud to be a carbon neutral company. We have a fully operational fleet of LPG vehicles and we try to live by the mantra – ‘recycle, reuse and reduce’. This approach sits firmly within the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy. In 2007 and again in 2009, for example, Magenta won the contract to provide security services to the Royal Parks – a contract awarded by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, which praised our environmental campaigning and internal green initiatives.

The organisation also plants trees as part of our commitment to carbon offsetting and makes donations to biodiversity and alternative energy projects.

We also encourage staff car sharing schemes and, where possible, the use of public transport. We believe in playing an active part within the local community by sponsoring local cricket and football teams and have worked with the Metropolitan Police on an educational project educating a group of 250 local school children on safety issues – from knife crime and drugs to road and fire safety.

With regard to our ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ policy Magenta utilise practical methods to not only reduce the amount of waste we generate but to also reuse the waste. Equipment used across various sites has been converted to low voltage and low energy systems including lighting and computers and even old staff uniforms have been distributed to third world clothing schemes. Old mobile phones and computers are donated to charities and where possible waste is sent away for recycling – from paper to plastic and printer toner to packaging. Even technical equipment is broken down to its component parts and recycled where feasible. Old computers are passed on to schools and to the developing world. Even CCTV equipment and old alarms can be put to new uses. Simple ideas like using both sides of every piece of paper, shifting towards a paperless office, invoicing clients online and asking the bank for online statements are also encouraged.

In short Magenta Security Services is committed to a comprehensive CSR strategy. We feel that CSR is a wake-up call to an industry that is slowly coming around to the idea of sustainability and environmental issues. Our clients and potential clients want us to be more proactive and focused on these key issues. Magenta has been campaigning and working for more than ten years towards sustainability but much of the industry is woefully lagging behind. We can no longer use ‘security risks’ as an excuse for poor standards in these crucial areas but need to respond to the needs of the end user.

My advice to any organisations which are serious about becoming greener is to try, wherever possible, to use alternative and renewable energy suppliers and change lights to low voltage. CCTV systems, barrier controls and alarms systems can all use the latest low energy technologies – so why not make the switch? Also, staff should be encouraged to switch off monitors and computers when they are not in use (the standby mode on most appliances still uses 90% power) .

Within environmental circles, carbon offsetting can sometimes be perceived as giving organisations a license to pollute. Magenta likes to work alongside the local community to promote social inclusion and green initiatives within the area, engaging with families and children and providing practical training to overcome adversity and encourage positive attitudes to learning and development.

Instigating and implementing a company’s green policies/procedures and environmental activities is not something that can be achieved over night however. To initiate company-wide understanding, commitment and support a top down approach to the objectives is of critical importance. Staff need be involved at all levels of the organisation and given the opportunity to ask questions and provide thoughts and feedback to the managing director or board of directors.

Some critics of green policies often make the claim that going green can be bad for business in the commercial sense because green solutions often cost more money but this view is very short sighted. More efficient use of paper, electricity and fuel all lead to lower expenditure but of course need to be weighed up against the elements that will be more expensive. Careful balancing, however, should still see an overall saving particularly if there is a top down strategic approach to CSR rather than a haphazard approach. The simple fact is that significant savings and results can be achieved through smarter working practices and adopting such policies therefore secures a number of market advantages.

In summary going ‘green’ should no longer be considered a necessary evil imposed upon business by obsessed environmentalists. Instead it is something that needs to move to centre stage of the business strategy because the legacy of our actions today will undoubtedly determine the sort of world our children will inherit tomorrow.

The statistics make it very clear. CSR is a vitally important issue for businesses and the security industry and they must learn to react accordingly. As time moves on this will grow as an issue and I genuinely see a time when it will become impossible to win contracts without an extensive sustainability policy. We are already seeing this in some sectors and I have no doubt it will soon become universal.

Abbey Petkar

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