The conversation on sustainability and ecologically responsible practices has extended across a number of industries – energy, production, automobile manufacturing – but the security industry has arguably been slow to adopt some of the principles behind the subject of "going green." So what does it mean?
"Going green" implies the pursuit of knowledge and practices that can lead to a more environmentally friendly and responsible lifestyle or decision-making process, which can help protect the environment for years to come. Recycling is a good place to start, but there are a number of other ways that individuals and companies can accomplish this goal.
For large companies, there are many elements that go into making an industry or organization "green," including the production process, packaging, transportation and shipping, and the disposal of used products at the end of their lifecycle.
A major element of being "green" is environmental and social responsibility in the production and manufacturing of products. There are many certifications and guidelines – like the ISO 14000 for example – that can be followed for eliminating the use of hazardous materials during the production process, which helps decrease a company’s carbon footprint and helps reduce hazardous waste. Another critical element is looking at ways to prevent unnecessary waste when actually assembling a product to be sold.
Production facilities and corporate buildings can also seek to become LEED certified, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This certification program focuses primarily on new, commercial building projects and is based on a points system that asks questions about the efficient use of resources, how much water or energy is used, the source of the resources, etc.
As a manufacturer that strives to be more environmentally friendly, it’s important to look at the production process and audit suppliers on a regular basis. If a company is using facilities in another country, it’s important to visit the facility to ensure the supplier is being environmentally, as well as socially responsible in regards to working conditions. In the security industry, a lot of the products are made in lower-wage countries with very little oversight on the labor and environmental conditions of production.
The industry also doesn’t get very high marks for green packaging. While there are some companies that are starting to give some thought to this, it is often found that packaging material is used excessively. Many companies may bundle accessories (e.g. power supplies and tools) that the customer may not even need when replacing a product. For example, a customer might have a camera or an access control panel that stops working, so a new one is requested. Instead of simply packaging a single unit, all of the accessories, mounts, power supplies and other items are thrown in, as well. In most cases, when the customer receives the replacement, they throw out what isn’t needed, resulting in waste that can be avoided. In essence, much of the problem is in managing an organization’s supply chain to give customers only what they need and nothing more that will be wasted.
Recycling is another big issue for security manufacturers and integrators working on a customer installation. The industry is notorious for over-providing packaging materials – boxes within boxes, plastic sleeves, unnecessary items, etc. Taking every opportunity to ensure packaging is recycled as it can be is a big step, but also at the packaging stage, minimizing the use of "extra" materials. There is already a big push within the end-user market to use manufacturers that take this into consideration, so this could be an emerging and continuing trend.
Shipping and Transportation
The shipping of products is another area of concern – products may go from a contract manufacturer to a company to a distributor to an integrator and finally to the end customer. This process has significantly negative environmental impacts, leading to a relatively large carbon footprint for a single installation.
Going a step further, the security industry isn’t very good at "kitting," which means sending different pieces of the security solution together in a single shipment. Instead, many distributors send out multiple shipments. To remedy this, integrators and manufacturers need to engage in extensive project management practices and coordination with suppliers to reduce the amount of products that are shipped from different locations.
The final piece of the puzzle is the disposal of products that are at the end of their lifecycle. For some customers, an overhaul of a security system can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in outdated equipment that needs to be disposed of; but there might be opportunity in this for manufacturers in regards to potential reuse and recycling of particular components. For example, when a camera needs to be replaced, there are quite a few components that can be reused again, like the lens.
Some products can contain harmful materials that if disposed of in a landfill can cause irreparable damage. As manufacturers, the industry needs to do a better job in being responsible for our products – even at the end of their lifecycle – by reusing, recycling and disposing of materials properly.
Companies in our industry can score 'green' high marks by being socially responsible and having a mission to improve communities around them. While this movement is already gaining traction in other industries, such as the IT world, the security realm lags significantly behind. It’s up to leaders within the industry to step up and change – even in baby steps – how their products affect the world around them. Let’s make sure that the security industry secures our environment for future generations.
About the Author: Jumbi Edulbehram has been on the frontline of change in the video surveillance industry and is currently the Regional President of the Americas for Oncam.