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Security’s carbon footprint

Despite pockets of good work, there are gaps in thinking and practice in the security industry’s response to the ‘sustainability agenda’ and its carbon footprint. So the latest, the 34th, OSPAs thought leadership webinar heard this afternoon, chaired as ever by Prof Martin Gill, of Perpetuity Research.

The four speakers were, in the UK, Michael Brooke, Head of Operational Services at Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (PCPI) and Mark Hobden, Business Continuity Manager at the guarding firm and related services contractor Bidvest Noonan; in Connecticut, Amy Musanti, Business Development Director, Sustainability at the physical security product manufacturer ASSA ABLOY Group; and Dr Helen Skudder, now Sustainability Manager at the Ministry of Justice, but formerly as a researcher at the University of Surrey, she looked into the carbon footprint of policing and crime.

As with the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, that was as much about health and safety as security, though security officers were often the front-line face of a building or site’s response to lockdown, climate change response might well be a part of wider risk management, as posed by one of the webinar’s audience, Gerry Shields. Should security, then, morph into a multi-functional discipline?

Mark Hobden, giving a manned guarding point of view, was agreeable; mentioning one client whose security, and health and safety, department are one. He agreed health and safety should be involved with security on more contracts, because that can give added value, commercially. He doubted that people realise how many are ‘behind the scenes’ in a building such as an office block’s services – cleaning, security, waste management and facilities.

What are the barriers to such working? Martin Gill asked him. He replied that in some buildings, collaboration is brilliant. It needs the client’s backing. On perhaps half of contracts, each function does what it has to; and in some cases, functions just will not work with each other, he reported.

Michael Brooke, speaking for PCPI which includes the Secured by Design scheme, spoke of how money might be made available for more energy-efficient doors and windows; while a security-enhanced door also can keep the rain out, and can be warm in winter and cool in summer; ‘this is where research becomes so important’, he said, for demonstrating good practice. But as the webinar heard from Prof Martin Gill, apart from Dr Skudder, who took up a paper by doyen of UK criminology Prof Ken Pease, that is about it for research in that area.

Amy Musanti gave the manufacturer’s perspective, for more efficient door opening and ‘trusted identities’; case studies were the way to spread lessons, she said.

Echoing Mark Hoden, Helen Skudder said that while some businesses are being really responsible and taking into account their environmental impact, many ignore climate change. The more companies that show that sustainability pays off, and are backed by government, the better. She mentioned the UK Government aim, set last year, to be ‘net zero‘ in terms of carbon emissions by 2050, meaning that buildings and operations now that will still be around in 2050 have to consider ‘net zero’.

What of the prospects of change? Mark Hobden suggested it depended in part on how it’s branded; he likened it to CCTV audits done under the umbrella of data protection – and the GDPR regulation that came into force in 2018.

Helen Skudder summed up: “Everyone needs to respond to this climate crisis; the security industry is no exception; we all need to do our bit.”

For more on the webinars, visit

The next webinar – they run on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons – is on July 23, on the role of the state. The four speakers are:

– Prof Mark Button, Director of Centre for Counter Fraud Studies at University of Portsmouth;
– Richard Franken, Director at Franken Security Solutions;
– Pieter Leloup, Postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University, Faculty of Law and Criminology; and
– Adrian Moore, Operations Director UK & Europe at Allied Universal.

And two are due to run on July 28: on Kenya; and high rise buildings.


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