How the choice of network technology impacts sustainability

Organizations across all industries are increasingly adopting sustainable practices. This is being largely driven by consumers, from retail customers through to users of public services such as transport, education, and healthcare. The sustainability credentials of an organization can make the difference between which brand a consumer buys from, or educational establishment a student chooses to attend. The push to a greater focus on sustainability is also being made by investors and wider stakeholders, including politicians, campaigners, employees – particularly new joiners to the workplace and even celebrities.

Environmental considerations are vital, but sustainability is far broader, including social, economic, and governance factors.  Globally recognized sustainable development goals (SDGs) are defined in the UN Global Compact, and there are also practical needs for organizations to take action. Just as greenwashing can negatively impact reputation, consumers are looking for sustainable practices that span all areas of organizational operations.

An evolving regulatory landscape is also forcing organizations to ensure they’re compliant in a number of areas that relate to sustainability in its broadest definition. While individual countries will have specific laws around labor, human rights, governance, and the environment, some of the broad regulations and frameworks include:

  • The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), a ‘soft law’ and voluntarily for companies to adopt into their business processes.
  • The European Commission’s AI Act from the European Union, which aims to regulate various aspects of artificial intelligence systems to ensure their trustworthy, safe, and ethical development, deployment, and use.
  • The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which aims to foster sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour, drawing from and aligned with the UNGPs.
  • The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), ensures that companies report on the societal and environmental risks they face, and the impact of their activities on people and the environment. The purpose is to ensure transparency around sustainability and create better conditions for the EU to meet its goals of net zero emissions by 2050.

Technology’s role in supporting sustainability

While network technologies – including surveillance cameras, network audio, intercoms, and access control are just a few parts of a business’s operational technology, it’s important for an organization to partner with a technology provider they can trust to uphold values in sustainability. An organization’s credentials can be undermined through a partnership that isn’t sustainable. Technology manufacturers need to demonstrate ethical behavior throughout all their relationships, as well as developing products that minimize environmental impact.

Working with the right technology provider can help any organization, whether a business, city authority, or public institution, improve the sustainability of the service it provides. The potential for computer vision to support several areas of the UN SDGs has been recognized, and surveillance cameras are some of the most advanced computer vision sensors available. The opportunity is clear.

To take advantage of this, however, it’s key to work with a supplier that can not only provide the best technology, but who also exhibits equally strong sustainability credentials.

Respecting people

Respect for people is key to achieving sustainability goals across organizational relationships. Like all suppliers, a technology provider should follow robust legal frameworks relating to its own workforce as well as those of its suppliers, from equal opportunities through to health & safety. Security technology specifically can also help organizations ensure the safety and enhance the productivity of their own employees.

Wearable cameras help protect workers, from emergency services through to healthcare providers, by creating a deterrent to aggressive behavior. Meanwhile, cameras can provide remote monitoring to efficiently cover multiple locations, with network audio enabling remote instruction and support when needed. These help create safe and sustainable environments for operatives working alone, particularly in higher risk areas, such as those involving high electrical power or machinery.

For the public too, use of network technology supports the sustainability goal of achieving universal access to safe spaces, especially for more vulnerable members of society. By improving situational awareness, cameras can help achieve safer cities through deterrence, as well as improving investigations when offences take place. ‘Safety poles’ in public spaces with integrated network technologies support public safety objectives and incident response. Camera generated data can also help predict crime trends, enabling preventative measures to increase safety.

On our roads, a UN sustainability development goal is to halve the number of deaths and injuries from accidents. Cameras play a crucial role in increasing safety by identifying accident areas to enhance prevention, as well as deterring offences. When accidents happen, cameras are a vital tool to rapidly coordinate swift attendance of the emergency services.

And in sectors such as healthcare, network solutions can also be used to oversee access to narcotics and monitor waste management compliance, another critical area of sustainable business practice. Our commitment to minimizing the environmental footprint of our products also helps to meet healthcare facilities’ overall sustainable procurement goals.

Protecting our planet

While cameras, audio devices, and other network technologies have a fundamental role in improving safety and security, it’s important to ensure that the materials and processes used to make these devices are sustainable.

The manufacturer should use “green“ and recycled materials as much as possible, as well as removing hazardous substances from their products. Manufacturing a durable camera will also ensure a long lifecycle, reducing the requirement to regularly replace.

A common requirement placed on suppliers is the ability to demonstrate CO2 emission and fossil fuel reduction targets. This is particularly the case where end user organizations have committed to science-based emissions reductions targets, such as through the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). And increasingly, if a technology manufacturer itself is part of the value chain of organizations that have, they will need to demonstrate their own emission reduction initiatives.

As cameras can be combined with environmental sensors to collect and analyze data relating to emissions, the right technology can also help an organization achieve its own environmental sustainability targets.

This approach is especially beneficial for cities and their planners, as the highest energy consumers as well as the areas with the highest emissions. For example, optimizing traffic control by monitoring use based on emissions is a common approach in cities across Europe. Managing vehicle access, cameras can reduce congestion to improve air quality and help cities reduce their CO2 emissions.

Cameras can also help critical infrastructure and other industrial operations optimize operational efficiency and support environmental safety. This can be achieved by monitoring areas within an industrial site where emissions from burning excess gases may be present, or where harmful leaks of oil or chemicals may occur.

With Scope 3 CO2 emissions being included in reduction targets, and many of these relating to the lifetime use of solutions, it’s also essential to ensure that security and safety technology operates with optimum efficiency. Data compression technology can reduce energy consumption across the network and in the data center, while maintaining forensic details, full resolution, and frame rate. While light-optimizing technologies can help save energy and protect the environment by reducing the need for additional lighting to illuminate a scene.

Innovate responsibly

Innovations in technology can bring benefits to business and society at large, but should never come at the cost of privacy, safety, security, or any other ethical principle.

While data (and, increasingly, metadata) collected from network technologies can help an organization improve sustainability, protecting that data is vital from a legal and ethical standpoint. Connecting surveillance cameras to a communications network carries an inherent risk that can be used as an entry point by cyber criminals. It’s vital to partner with a network camera provider that has a commitment to strong cybersecurity, which forms a crucial aspect of technology innovation.

Particularly within the security and surveillance technology market, it’s also key to work with a partner that can demonstrate innovation only for ethical purposes that do not infringe human rights or contravene privacy laws for individuals. Camera technology should be developed in adherence to frameworks such as GDPR and codes of conduct from legislative regions like the EU that have a commitment to upholding ethical practices.

Innovative technology development can also enable services that are more sustainable by improving their quality and ease of use, both for the provider as well as the service user. For example, by ensuring security, cameras and network audio enable unmanned retail stores with the convenience of 24/7 safe access.

It’s also clear that responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an important issue for every industry. Network cameras are now employing AI within the camera itself for more accurate analytics, and with the opportunities for generative AI being explored, the ethical use of AI is as critical an issue for the security sector as any other.

Organizations deciding to employ AI-enabled technologies must ensure that these align with their governance, ethics, and data protection policies. Again, this means working with technology vendors that have clearly set out their own ethical approach to using AI within their products and services.

A trustworthy partner

A commitment to mutual trust is vital for a sustainable business relationship. Organizations need to ensure that their suppliers are committed to ethical and trust-based relationships with people, including their own employees, partners, and across their entire value chains.

Across all supplier partnerships, trust is vital to prevent unethical practices such as bribery and corruption. When selecting a technology partner, the Ecovadis ranking is a useful guide, providing an independent organizational sustainability rating.

Trust in a technology partnership is also based on honesty and openness in communication and information sharing. This means network technologies should be built on an open platform, enabling easier and transparent data sharing. An open source platform also means greater potential for long term scalable development and innovation.

A sustainable network technology provider

While partnership with an ethical technology provider is just one of many relationships across the supply chain, the right selection is important to ensure sustainability. A trusted network technology provider can help an organization uphold its own sustainability program, but more than this, the right technology partner can enhance the sustainability of operations across environmental, social, and economic spheres.

When it comes to technological innovations and sustainability standards in the network camera industry, Axis is a driving force. Find out more about the Axis sustainability commitments.

Sustainability commitments