How to Make a GREEN Impression
In our annual green report, SDM profiles security companies reducing their carbon footprints and working toward creating a cleaner environment.
Security dealers and integrators use a lot of paper: invoices, work orders, requests for proposals (RFPs), schedules, plans and revisions. Not only can that result in hundreds of thousands of printed pages each year, but paper can get misplaced. Focusing on paper reduction can reduce a company’s municipal solid waste (MSW) and increase efficiency.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Advancing Sustainable Materials Management Fact Sheet, paper and paperboard account for more than 26 percent of MSW in the U.S. Based on data from the EPA, 90 percent of all office waste is paper and the average office worker generates approximately 2 pounds of paper and paperboard products every day.
For many security integrators, paperless initiatives can have a major effect on a company’s carbon footprint. For Minneapolis-based LVC Inc., paper reduction across all of its nine geographic locations is a priority, says Robbie Danko, marketing manager at the company. In addition to a number of other green initiatives — including solar panels on the office roof, LED lighting and timers, a recent move to digital credentials eliminating plastic ID cards, and an office recycling program initiated several years ago — LVC set its sights on reducing paper waste.
“We have worked significantly to move everything electronically, including RFIs [requests for information] and change orders,” says Brian Gould, operations manager at LVC. As recently as a year ago, he says, the company was still printing out plans and plan revisions. By the end of a single project, hundreds of pages would be printed, according to Gould.
Paperless initiatives go a long way toward reducing a company’s carbon footprint, but paper reduction is just one way security dealers and integrators all over the world are going green. Collectively, both small and big choices make a difference in the commitment toward a cleaner environment, and integrators are full of creative, forward-thinking ideas.
An additional way security companies are reducing their carbon footprint is by focusing on energy usage at offices and warehouse locations. La Scala, a full project management, engineering and design firm, has achieved reductions in energy usage by using the same technology it installs in its customers’ facilities. The building automation technology at its headquarters is triggered by an alarm system and puts the building into “sleep mode,” which turns off lights and drops the temperature, according to Mike Chorney, president of the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based integrator.
For La Scala’s offices, which include 13,000 square feet of warehouse space, the energy savings are tangible. “If someone forgets to trigger the system, we will see an [increase] in energy consumption of 25 to 30 percent,” Chorney says.
Kastle Systems, Falls Church, Va., which has offices all over the U.S. and Australia, also uses its own technology and data to make its offices more efficient. For the past two years, the company has used the KastlePresence platform and app at its corporate headquarters and many regional offices as a digital credential system, saving on the issuance and reissuance of plastic ID cards for hundreds of employees, according to Jennifer Graham, vice president of marketing at Kastle Systems.
In addition to mobile credentials, KastlePresence collects data, which allows the company to make informed decisions about occupancy, as well as heating, cooling and other energy savings. Knowing occupancy can even help with tasks such as determining how much office space is actually needed or how many kitchen supplies to order, ultimately cutting down on waste, according to Graham.
“If you know occupancy, then you can make informed, smarter decisions on things like janitorial staffing and frequency, as well as how much coffee or snacks to purchase. It all helps with energy efficiency and space utilization,” she says.
Integrator G4S, which has multiple offices in 90 countries, engages in a plethora of green initiatives at the local, regional and global levels. In 2009, the company began releasing carbon disclosure statements. In 2011, the company signed on to the U.N. Global Compact social responsibility initiative. The voluntary initiative is based on CEO commitments to implement universal sustainability principles and to undertake partnerships in support of U.N. goals covering 10 principles, including anti-corruption, labor, human rights and the environment.
G4S tracks its greenhouse gas emissions, electricity consumption, air travel, gas consumption and much more. “Our total carbon footprint since 2015 went down 1 percent against 6.3 percent growth during the same period,” shares John Burke, regional communications manager for G4S, based in Jupiter, Fla.
The company’s Florida office, which has earned an EPA ENERGY STAR rating for more than two years now, is a smart building equipped with light sensors and other energy-saving devices. To earn the certification, a building must meet strict energy performance standards set by EPA and have information verified by a third-party auditor annually.
Through its tracking, if there are any deviations in energy usage greater than 10 percent, G4S’s system flags it and staff take a deeper look to see where there may be failings, Burke shares.
Another sizeable initiative that has reduced G4S’s carbon footprint in the last few years is a mandate of less travel. “We use video and audio conferencing technology as much as possible for meetings,” Burke says. It’s not unheard of for G4S to have a regional and global conference call with 600-plus people, rather than flying staff in from all around the world. The company has also made a conscious effort to reduce travel for training, instead investing in its online courses and, most recently, live virtual training programs. G4S staff has engaged in tens of thousands of the company’s online training modules to date.
Beyond improved operational efficiencies, a reputation of sustainable business practices can attract customers, and even potential investors (for publicly traded companies), say security integrators.
In order to work in the Northern Alberta oil sands region where First Nations tribes in Canada inhabit, for example, G4S Canada enters agreements with the local communities there that workers will be as sustainable as possible and not disturb the natural land.
“We have to be very careful about installing things and about our footprint in those regions to respect their land use and preserve the environment,” explains Katie McLeod, national director, communications and sales for G4S Canada. “Green practices have good business outcomes,” she adds.
Sometimes those outcomes may be giving one integrator the edge in a bid over a competitor. Indeed, many integrators say that requests for the company’s sustainability practices or corporate responsibility policies are on the majority of request for proposals these days.
“We are definitely seeing customers ask for things such as our recycling policy and energy policy and environmental policy in requests for proposals, which is something we weren’t seeing even few years ago, quite frankly,” says Richard McMullen, partner – security solutions at FCi in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. “It makes us find ways to articulate our environmental policy and win additional points in the competitive process,” he says.
McMullen adds that that evaluation process from customers has pushed FCi to think about its overall carbon footprint, including recycling, reducing fuel costs, and improving heating and cooling efficiency at its offices.
“We are always looking for creative ideas and things we can do to make our business more efficient and reduce our overall carbon footprint,” McMullen says.
No matter where a company is in terms of sustainable or green business practices, it’s all about progression. Many security integrators advise peers to focus on one initiative at a time, and say that one initiative will often inspire the next.
“Get good at what you are doing and then add something else to your program. There is nothing wrong with taking a snapshot of what others are doing, learning from that, and evolving a step at a time,” says Danko of LVC.
For companies that don’t know where to start, integrators share a few low-cost initiatives toward a greener company (that may just save some money in the process).
- Stop idling. Remind employees to turn off vehicles and save fuel costs.
- Print on both sides of paper and centralize printers. By centralizing printers and requiring employees to log in to print documents, not only does that discourage them from printing extraneously, but it also allows companies to track who is printing the most.
- Get rid of paper cups. Give new hires coffee mugs with the company logo and reusable water bottles to discourage use of disposable cups.
- Recycle. Put recycling bins all over the office and encourage employees to think about what they are tossing in the bins.
Solutions for on the Job
While there are a number of steps companies can take within their office walls, focusing attention on waste at job sites is another area where companies can make meaningful strides in reducing their carbon footprint.
Many dealers and integrators say they recycle everything possible from job sites. For a high-volume integrator, this leads to hundreds of pounds of waste that would end up in the landfill otherwise.
“We have an active recycling program,” says Richard McMullen, partner – security solutions at FCi in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. “We go through a lot of batteries in this industry and that’s not just batteries in control panels, but also in all the test equipment and other products. So, we make sure we dispose of and recycle appropriately.” Like other companies, McMullen says FCi also recycles cabling with local recyclers and, in some cases, earns small amounts of money from copper recycled.
In addition to recycling electronics from job sites, Vancouver-based integrator La Scala has a task team focused on eliminating waste on the job site in the first place.
“We look for reusable speaker brackets to be pulled off the site and reused at other sites. Or if we are reserving a spot in a project to install something after drywall is put in, we will put a space saver in there so that the contractor doesn’t need to drywall the entire wall and then cut out the area we will use later,” Mike Chorney of La Scala explains. He says, such things as drywall and brackets sound small on an individual level, but cumulatively the impact can be significant.
Some integrators partner with third parties to repair electronics when possible. Renova Technology Inc., Norcross, Ga., is one company that works with the commercial security market, repairing the electronics it can and sending them back to the integrator for reuse. (See related article, “Companies You Should Know: Renova Technology”.)
“By repairing cameras, DVRs, access control devices and other equipment, it saves integrators tremendous amounts of money versus replacement, which can be four to five times as much. It also allows them to maintain customer loyalty for customers that want to keep their equipment beyond warranty,” says Jonathan Pine, president and CEO at Renova Technology.
After an integrator sends equipment to Renova’s warehouse, staff will test and fix equipment if possible, sending good equipment back to the integrator. Any equipment that is no longer fixable is stripped, used for parts, and disposed of in an environmentally correct fashion, Pine explains.
According to Pine, over the last four years, Renova Technology — working with four out of the top seven SDM 100 dealer companies — has tested, repaired or recycled 600 tons of security equipment. “Of that, we repaired a large portion of it,” he says.
Another company that has a similar model of testing, repair and recycling for security dealers and integrators in the residential market is QGistix of Atlanta. According to its website, the company’s repaired parts have failure rates of under 0.025 percent — better than failure rates of new parts.
“In addition to a desire to save money through repair, we have definitely seen a growing interest from integrators, especially larger ones, in environmental responsibility,” Pine of Renova says. “It’s getting better and better and that’s a good thing.”
For more information about green practices and policies in the security industry, visit SDM’s website where you’ll find the following articles.