Sustainability: Going green

‘Going green’ can no longer be viewed simply as an optional consideration for business owners—it is fast becoming an operational imperative, as Abbey Petkar, managing director of Magenta Security Services, explains.






It was only a few years ago that ‘going green’ was seen as a rather twee idea that being environmentally friendly would somehow save the planet. Big business viewed the green movement as the preserve of the ‘beardies and weirdies’, 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.

How things have changed!

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

At first 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 slogan to Beyond Petroleum, with a new greener logo to match! Now though it is not just the big polluters that are undertaking massive and unprecedented changes to become greener entities but organisations across the whole spectrum of business, both large and small.

The security industry is one of the business sectors that is now having to face up to the green agenda and in the process of critically examining the implications. It’s fair to say that some security firms woke up to the green movement a long time ago, whilst others still lag far behind. A lot of the decisions about whether to ‘go green’ are formulated in the boardroom or by an influential CEO: commitment from the top is still one of the most critical factors that will determine an organisation’s stance on green issues.

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. It raises the question of whether it is actually possible to be both green and secure, and if so, might there be increased risk during the changeover period when errors and chinks in the armour could appear?

At Magenta Security Services, we have faced this dilemma ourselves but have made the decision to embrace the green agenda for what we hope are all the right reasons. In my opinion it would be wrong to stand aloof and believe that green issues are less important than our business model. As an industry we must move with the times whilst still maintaining the trust of our clients. In many cases it is our clients that want greener security suppliers with a firm CSR strategy; and if that forces us to make changes we should not only provide those changes but embrace them. It would not be right to walk away from the issue and bury our heads in the sand. Instead we need to meet the challenges head on—and where possible, stay ahead of the game.

So what exactly does ‘going green’ actually mean? Why is it important to make sure that corporate social responsibility in the widest sense is central to business strategy? What can businesses do to improve their own green credentials? It is useful to look at some of the key elements of the green movement as a whole; but by way of example, we have looked in more detail below at the concepts we have embraced at Magenta.

Firstly, we are 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’. These elements combine and sit firmly within the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy. In 2007 and again in 2009, the company won the contract to provide security services to the Royal Parks—a contract awarded by the UK’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, which praised our environmental campaigning and initiatives undertaken.

Secondly we continue to plant trees as part of our commitment to carbon offsetting and make donations to biodiversity and alternative energy projects. We also encourage staff car sharing schemes and wherever possible the use of public transport. We also believe in playing an active part within the local community, sponsoring the local cricket and football teams. We 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. In the future, we have plans to take full advantage of solar technology to reduce our energy costs. 

In terms of our ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ policies we try to utilise practical methods to not only reduce the amount of waste we generate but to also reuse the waste. In addition to converting our entire fleet of vehicles to LPG, we converted equipment used across sites to low voltage and low energy systems. In a bid to reuse waste, old uniforms have been distributed to third world clothing schemes. Old office equipment such as mobile phones and computers have been given a new lease of life by being donated to charities. All waste is sent away to take on a new form: from paper to plastic and printer toner to packaging. The recycling efforts of the company are then measured, enabling us to state with confidence that we have saved hundreds of trees. Some measures, such as the recycling of toner cartridges, can also have charitable benefits.

Be warned though: as security specialists we are well aware that even the simple task of recycling has inherent security risks. There have been many news stories about banks throwing out client statements and sensitive information. The simple solution is to use a specialist firm offering a secure recycling service, where you can actually see sensitive materials destroyed on-site. 

Finally, we have sought employee feedback and suggestions, resulting in simple process changes to achieve a paperless office: using both sides of every piece of paper, invoicing clients online and asking the bank for online statements.

My advice to any organisation serious about becoming greener is to try, wherever possible, to use alternative and renewable energy suppliers and change lights to low voltage. On the operational side make sure CCTV systems, barrier controls and alarm systems all use the latest low energy technologies. Make sure that staff switch off monitors and computers when they are not in use (as the standby mode on most appliances still uses 90 per cent power) and undertake as many carbon offsetting activities as possible. 

Within environmental circles, carbon offsetting is sometimes perceived as giving organisations a licence to pollute. Instead, we use carbon offsetting to complement our growing list of green and sustainable initiatives. We also like 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.

Let’s be completely honest about this. Instigating and driving any company’s green policies/procedures and environmental activities is not something that can be achieved overnight. To initiate company-wide understanding, commitment and support, a top down approach to the objectives is of paramount importance. Staff must be involved at all levels of the organisation and given the opportunity to ask questions and provide thoughts and feedback to the managingdirector or board of directors.

Critics of green policies often make the claim that going green is bad for business in the commercial sense, because green solutions cost more money. To an extent this is true but is an argument that, in global and temporal terms, is very short sighted. More efficient use of paper, electricity and fuel should all lead to lower expenditure but needs to be weighed up against the elements that will be more expensive for reasons that include resource availability, increased research and development costs. 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.

Sustainability though, is not just a ‘green message’; better business practice comes first and foremost. Measuring a company’s performance and managing its impact undoubtedly drives benefits to the business because doing what you do in the knowledge that your actions generate a positive response is a winning strategy—economically, socially and environmentally. Significant savings and results can be achieved through smarter working practices; and adopting such policies therefore secures market advantages.

In the final analysis, ‘going green’ should no longer be considered a necessary evil foisted upon business by the environmentalists. Instead, it should move to centre stage of the business strategy. The legacy of our actions today will determine the sort of world our children will inherit tomorrow.