Protection is a core mission of the security department, whether protecting facilities, people or assets. Now it's time for security to embrace an additional protection mission and to incorporate it into every aspect of security operations. Let's look at how the security department can help to protect the environment.

The first step for security professionals in becoming better global citizens is to improve awareness of environmental concerns. Even as the green movement has raised its profile to consumers and businesses, the security industry has been slow to address green issues. With greater attention to the possibilities, the security department can have a positive impact on the environment:

1. Consider the environmental record of supplier companies. Suppliersshould have a goal of reducing CO2 emissions and should use manufacturing practices that produce less material waste and use material recycling. Products should also be made using renewable energy. Look for suppliers that avoid using toxins that can harm human health or the environment. A measure of a supplier company's green impact is conformance to ISO 14000 environmental management standards aimed at minimizing how manufacturing processes negatively impact the environment, at ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and at continuous improvement related to green practices. Also, the European Union has issued an order on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, commonly referred to as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

2. Specify energy-efficient technologies. Consider energy usage when choosing among equipment options, even related to low-voltage systems. For example, choosing a video camera that lowers power usage by 30 percent may equate to only several dollars worth of energy savings in a year, but that amount will add up in a video system with dozens or hundreds of cameras. End-users can also save energy by turning off the lights or by using natural lighting and security technology can accommodate the changes. Smarter cameras and additional image processing can now provide clear images, even in extreme or complex lighting, without missing any details, whether they are in the shadows or the brightest sunlight. Night vision cameras can perform well even in the complete absence of light – which also saves energy and costs.

3. Consider environmental impact when selecting products. Smart product design can reduce environmental impact during its manufacture. Smaller products require less material processing, conserve natural resources, and ultimately produce less material to recycle or discard, while maintaining established performance and reliability standards. In the field of video surveillance, cameras are getting smaller while expanding functionality. Smaller form factors enable use in a wider variety of applications, and their manufacture also has a lesser impact on the environment. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an easy-to-use, on-line tool to help institutional purchasers select and compare computer desktops, laptops and monitors based on their environmental attributes. Many of these components are used by security departments, and the EPEAT Product Registry Web page lists 2,711 of them.

4. In system design, creating systems with fewer components helps to minimize environmental impact. Every component in a security system affected the environment when it was manufactured and will also affect the environment at the end of its useful life. Sometimes it is possible to minimize the number of servers a system needs, for example, or to deploy a network video recorder (NVR) that doesn't require a separate PC. When upgrading a system, a hybrid approach makes it possible to reuse legacy analog cameras with video encoders. Reusing hardware helps to reduce waste. Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology enables camera signals and power to the camera to be carried along a single cable.

5. Incorporate green issues when justifying purchases and calculating return on investment (ROI). There are quantifiable costs related to the environmental variables of security systems. There are also often cost-saving benefits to choosing a greener option. Security professionals have become accustomed to quantifying the value of their technology purchases in order to demonstrate a return on investment (ROI). It makes sense to include environmental costs and benefits into those calculations. For example, how might a remote video system save on patrol costs and automotive pollution? How might a centralized security/facility management system be leveraged to save energy costs in general?

We all rely on natural resources to sustain life on our planet. Protecting those resources is an element of good corporate citizenship, and security departments should help conserve our planet’s resources and minimize the negative impact on the environment. It's time for security to develop a greener consciousness and to translate that consciousness into actions.