When can a retailer’s sustainability strategy be negatively impacted by a surveillance vendor

Today, the meaning of the term sustainability expands beyond a retail organization’s focus on environmental credentials alone. Sustainability involves all aspects of enterprise, including the treatment of people as well as natural surroundings. Crucially, a sustainable approach to retail must fulfil the needs of the current generation without compromising those of future generations.

For retailers, sustainability has never had a higher priority and consumer demand is driving the issue. In the UK, a recent study says that more than half the respondents, covering all age groups, are more likely to buy from a retail organisation that has strong sustainability credentials. Across Europe, reports suggest that consumers will also pay more for sustainable products.

While brands and retailers increasingly claim sustainability, consumers aren’t as easily convinced, especially if only a single policy is being implemented. As consumers aren’t letting retailers choose which aspects of sustainability to apply, an approach is needed that covers all areas of the value chain, extending to operations and its suppliers. As a retailer’s credibility can be undermined by the practices of its suppliers, a robust audit that periodically examines their sustainability is needed.

Surveillance technology is just one strand of retail operations, but its implications relating to consumer privacy elevates its importance. Especially now, the way surveillance technology providers operate is under increasing scrutiny. Selection of a trusted surveillance technology partner that a retailer can rely on, with shared values and a robust approach to sustainability, is crucial.

Sustainability requirements within a retail organization’s security partnership

  • Ensuring camera cybersecurity

Regardless of the quality of imaging data that a retailer’s surveillance system provides, it’s imperative that the technology is secure. Connecting surveillance cameras to a communications network carries an inherent risk as they can be used by cyber criminals as an entry point. Not only could this give rise to breaches of data collected by cameras, it could also enable penetration into a retailer’s wider network, as well as leaving the way open for other forms of cyber attack.

It’s crucial for a retailer to partner with a surveillance technology provider that can demonstrate its credentials in cybersecurity. A commitment to secure technology has to be provided through the security features of the devices themselves, as well as a program of regular and robust cybersecurity updates. The surveillance vendor should also provide software tools that help users manage risk, and a reliable partner will advise users on best practices to maximize protection.

  • Ethical surveillance technology development & practices

Legal frameworks and practices protect individual rights around the world, from collecting and holding people’s data, through to freedom of civil liberties. Retailers need an effective screening process to ensure their suppliers aren’t developing technology for, or operating with, third parties who might contravene these laws and ethical codes.

Surveillance technology has a vital security role, but it’s sometimes in the spotlight regarding human rights. It’s essential that retailers ensure their surveillance partner only engages in partnerships with ethical and legal justification. Surveillance providers – and the customers they develop solutions for – must commit to frameworks from robust and established legislative regions, such as the EU. This includes adherence to GDPR, as well as ensuring the technology is used in compliance with the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Whoever the surveillance equipment is used by, surveillance partners should also have a commitment to only develop technology that they can ethically support. As part of their audit, retailers should check that surveillance vendors have processes to ensure transparency in development based on accepted international standards. Particularly with regard to technology such as AI and analytics, its design must follow ethical principles such as removing biases in detections and actions.

Like any trusted partner in the supply chain, a retailer should also ensure that a surveillance technology provider makes a commitment to ethical business practices. An ethical partner will follow the principles within the UN Global Compact, as well as being a signatory to it. This underpins a commitment to ethical practices, from prohibiting any kind of corruption, through to ensuring child labor isn’t involved in the supply chain.

  • Is the surveillance partner environmentally sustainable?

A surveillance partner’s commitment to environmental sustainability should focus on green design. New products should be manufactured from sustainable and recycled materials, as well as removing any that are hazardous, like chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs).

Cameras and complimentary surveillance devices should also be part of the circular economy, and a commitment to this means that the hardware should be designed for long-life, plus the potential for re-use. Even after that stage, cameras can be updated with help from the manufacturer and re-installed elsewhere. If that’s not required, hardware should be returned to the vendor where it can be refurbished for re-use. When a camera does reach end of practical life, a sustainable vendor will harvest any re-usable parts, and other material will be recycled for recovery. As well as improving environmental sustainability, this approach can also reduce the total cost of ownership for the retailer.

As a retailer’s environmental sustainability commitment spans its entire operation, this responsibility should expand to, and be shared by, its suppliers. Sustainable surveillance technology manufacturers will be able to declare their CO₂ emissions and targets, as well as commitments to reduce consumption of natural resources.

  • A commitment to ethical relationships

Perhaps most importantly, a retailer should ensure that its suppliers have a commitment to ethical and trust-based relationships with people, including its employees, partners, and its own supply chain. Its importance is vital as it informs the foundation of all aspects of sustainability.

This should span from equality, ensuring inclusivity across all relationships, through to a commitment to safe and secure working environments. A supplier should be able to demonstrate adherence to health & safety legislation from frameworks such as the EU, and share the pledge all of its staff make to one another in a recognized code of conduct.

For additional objective review of a business’ sustainability, Ecovadis provides a universal rating system covering the supply chain. Nearly a million companies are reviewed, including security technology vendors worldwide, helping to provide an assessment of how they fit in with your operational sustainability as a retailer.

The wider benefits of sustainability

Particularly when selecting a surveillance partner, a trustworthy company is vital to a retailer’s sustainability. A reliable surveillance partner will help uphold a retailer’s own ethical standards, as well as assuring consumers and investors.

As retailers can educate and influence consumers across all aspects of ethical behavior, sustainable practices have a positive impact on society. Ultimately, an ethical approach is essential to any long-term relationship the retailer has. Considering the stakes, responsibility over partnership with a surveillance partner should have high priority.

You can find out more about the sustainability commitments made and results achieved by Axis in our Sustainability Report.

Read our sustainability report