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HID Connects Podcast Episode 2: Is Sustainability in Security Lip Service or a Game Changer?

Sustainability is an increasingly important topic in both our personal and professional lives. But how much impact can we have within the security industry?

Joining us for our second podcast episode are two experts from HID — Travis Hensley, Global Sustainability Manager, and Nils Wahlander, Director of Product Management — where they will discuss the important question: Is Sustainability in Security Lip Service or a Game Changer?

Take a minute to listen below. And while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to receive future episodes.

Here is a transcript if you’d like to read along:

Matt (Host)
Hello everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening — whatever time it is, and wherever in the world you may be. My name is Matt Winn, your podcast host and resident secure identities nerd. Thank you for joining us for this episode of HID Connects — a podcast designed to bring you the latest news and trends impacting the security space.

If it's your first time joining us, welcome and thanks for listening. The goal of our humble podcast is to not only equip you with information and best practices, but also open up new conversations on hot topics shaping our industry. In terms of format, in each episode, our correspondents from across the globe will share insights into a burning question of choice in the form of a roundtable discussion.

So with that in mind, today's question is, “Is sustainability in security lip service or a game changer?” Joining me today are two experts on the topic from two different perspectives. First, joining me live in our Austin studio — and by studio, I mean conference room — is Travis Hensley, HID's Sustainability Manager. Say hi, Travis, and give us a quick intro.

Hi, y'all. I'm Travis Hensley. Thanks for the introduction, Matt. I'm the Global Sustainability Manager for HID, and I've been with the company since 2014. I’m happy to be here and happy to provide some insight.

Awesome. Thanks for joining. And dialing in from our HID office outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota is Nils Wahlander, our Director of Product Management within our Secure Issuance division. Nils, mind introducing yourself and explaining what you do at HID?

Yeah, sure. And Travis, I got you beat. I'm like 18 years here, so I got you by about a decade. I work on the product management team for HID. I largely focus on card personalization solutions, specifically the software side of things — making sure that the card that's printed looks nice and pretty.

Very nice. And I've only been at HID for six and a half years. So here, I thought I was a veteran, and apparently that is not the case. You guys can clearly teach me some things.

Yeah, if you think you're a security nerd — if I've been here for 18 years, I'm like the uber nerd.

I like that. Challenge accepted. I've got some work to do.

Well, thank you both for joining. Let's just go ahead and jump in, shall we? The first question is for both of you, but Travis, we'll start with you. The word “sustainability” has kind of become a buzzword in a lot of industries. When people think of sustainability, they usually think of cars, trains, planes, and not card readers, printers and security equipment. So in your mind, what's the connection between sustainability and the security industry?

Honestly, I think sustainability is dynamic in its terms, so I don't think it's industry specific. It really doesn't have a niche. It has different aspects, such as the ecology portion, the social aspect and the environmental aspect. The reality is, just as in any other industry, the security industry is growing and we're becoming more and more prevalent in everyday lives. Whether you're in the digital space or the physical space, you're still going to have a footprint in one way, shape or form.

The reality is because there's so much emphasis on sustainability these days, a lot of organizations are going to have to be pushed to that envelope. Corporate social responsibility and initiatives have become almost table stakes in a lot of senses for a lot of organizations, regardless of the industry.

In security, for example, if you're in the digital space, you may have data centers that consume an awful amount of energy. Of course, you have the carbon emission aspect to it, from the amount of energy drawn, but you also have the efficiency, the operational side of it.

From a business perspective, it absolutely makes sense to build in sustainable models because they obviously reduce cost to the organization. And that's on the economic side. So in a physical space or working environment where you may be manufacturing readers or printers or whatever — you’re always going to have those other impacts as well, including energy, water and waste.

People are a big part of that. Sustainability isn't just about the environmental piece, it's also about the social development, your people piece — culture — and building that into your program, including talent retention. There are various aspects of sustainability that really need to be looked at from any organization.

All right, that's a good answer. So uber nerd Nils, same question to you. What's the connection between sustainability and security?

In terms of it being lip service or if it's a game changer? Travis was pointing out it being dynamic. And it is a bit dynamic in that, depending on who you're talking to, it's going to be either front of mind or back of mind for them.

But the one thing that matters, in my experience in working with end users and customers who are looking to purchase products specifically around personalization of a plastic card (which by nature is not necessarily the most green product out there), is that they're wanting or expecting that the company that they work with is putting measures in place to be more sustainable.

Now, do they want to pay more for that? No, it's almost like when you go to buy a car, you expect there to be airbags and seat belts in that car, and you're not going to get upcharged for it.

So we're in this world here now, where, whether it's through osmosis or actually going out and looking for sustainable products, people are more or less expecting that to be there. Are they looking to pay more? Probably not. It's something that I think on the surface, some people may say, "Oh, it's lip service. You're making your products GreenCircle Certified so you have a nice logo on the front." Well, in some way, shape or form, it's nice for us to market that, but there are tangible benefits in terms of reducing the amount of electricity that's used by a given printer that will also give savings back to that company. So I would say it's a little bit of both.

When you talk to the users, they're not going to be, like, "I want to pay more for sustainability." But the expectation in the marketplace is that companies are thinking about sustainable products and sustainable manufacturing — how we develop solutions — and customers want to see that.

So I would say it's definitely something that's underpinning everything, as Travis was mentioning. It's a sort of core tenet of a lot of organizations.

The green wave is on its way. That's cool. Travis, back to you. You mentioned some of the larger indicators, some of the larger factors, but what would you say are some of those key drivers that the security industry can actually impact? Nils mentioned it's not just GreenCircle certifications, but that's important too. What do you think are some of those key drivers that can truly make a difference?

I think the key driver that actually makes an impact is resiliency. And whenever you think about organizations, organizational change, relevancy, customer relevancy — that's huge. A lot of organizations, if they remain static in the way they do business and they don't want to grow with change, expand their portfolios, have certain product offerings, or ensure they build in environmental resiliency within their own programs and their own controls, then they're open to risk and it really can impact them from the business side of things. If you want to be profitable and you want to remain relevant, the reality is that you're going to have to get on the sustainability bandwagon at some point.

Very good. Nils, I want to take that question and put a different perspective and angle on it because you're close to customers and you're also very close to product engineering and manufacturing.

So when you're talking to both end users and to our channel partners, what role does sustainability play in their decision-making? You can have a corporation that's really pushing this message and this agenda forward, but does it resonate with them or is it closer to the customers themselves? What are you hearing on the ground?

Yeah, I would say that customers may not be overt, like, "We're looking for sustainable solutions." But when you think about a sustainable product, a lot of times that means a product that can last for a long period of time. If I'm purchasing something, I don't want it to be a consumable, meaning I'm going to use it once and then I have to buy another one.

So in the example of purchasing products, customers want to buy something that's going to last for a significant period of time, at least five years, if not 10 years, being able to potentially — specifically talking about personalization of cards — maybe issue more than 100,000 cards. And so with that, they're expecting or wanting to get a solution that will last that long.

They understand that, "Okay, if something were to wear out, you guys will provide me with something to replace it." Whether that's a roller, a gear or something else on that particular product, they want to have a way of keeping it going in the same way you would anything else. So really what they're looking for is, "I want to have a product that's going to last for a while. It's going to be able to be replaced or be adjusted without having to throw the whole thing out." And then when you think about the actual items that they're trying to deliver, they're thinking a little bit more about the cards and how they're actually issuing those cards. They’re thinking about maybe using a different type of ink or how much ink they're using, maybe even looking at different types of cards or how can we reuse a card by putting maybe a label on the outside of it to accomplish that task.

Travis, similar yet different question to you. I know you're plugged into a lot of groups and you talk to a lot of people about this important topic. What are you hearing at the larger level about what this means for the future of our industry?

Yeah, as you mentioned earlier, sustainability is a buzzword in a lot of industries. A lot of industries are really investing, and this is really what the push is from a lot of global groups. Corporations like Microsoft and Google, all these big name brands are putting a significant amount of emphasis on sustainability more from the carbon capture perspective or just making sure that they have resiliency built into their business models.

I don't think that's going anywhere anytime soon, so I think that's going to be table stakes for us as well. For HID, we know that an energy crisis, for example, is at the top of everybody's mind, especially in the EU. Europe has some pretty substantial increases in cost as far as gas and energy are concerned, and there's always a trickle-down effect. Because of that, the resiliency aspect really needs to be elevated to the top. Without the proper innovation, without the proper investment, then we will be lagging. And we're not unique to that, so all organizations are dealing with the same things.

Absolutely. Now let's talk a little bit more about HID.

Nils, I'm going to put you on the spot because I look at you via Zoom and I look at Travis here in the studio with me, and we're all wearing our plastic HID badge in the form of an ID card. What do you think is the role of the plastic card now and in the future?

Ooh, that's a big hot topic. So what we're seeing, or at least what we're hearing with the plastic card, is that it's not necessarily going away, but people are thinking to the future and how they're going to maybe intertwine or integrate some form of a digital ID.

A lot of times they may not necessarily be thinking about the digital ID in the form of waste, but you do hear people talk about digital IDs in the form of, "It just might be a little bit easier to get the badge in the hands of our user. And it also might make it simpler from an issuance perspective." And when they talk about that, it's sort of tying back a little bit to waste, right? "Oh, maybe I don't want to always issue this plastic card."

But more often than not, at least right now, what we're hearing is more of an integrated approach or a hybrid approach to where you have a physical ID, and you also have a digital ID for particular instances. It's almost like a companion. If you were to lose one, you have another.

And people do like that visual identification around their neck when they're walking around a corporate office. Then for other verticals like healthcare, it almost becomes, I wouldn't say a necessary evil, but you really need to know who is in your healthcare facility — should they be in the NICU where the babies are born, or should they not be there? But it's ever-changing and we're seeing more, I would say, questions and topics come up in terms of how can we make the card go from plastic maybe to something like wood or more recycled materials that could be issued?

One of the things that we're doing at HID to try to help facilitate that is offering up different styles of print technologies. For example, using ink-like inkjet — what you would see when you print that’s underneath your piece of paper, which again, is more of a recyclable material — how do we take that and move it into the ID card space rather than the more traditional, what we call dye-sublimation (to get really nerdy on you) in that space. But with dye-sublimation, you have this ribbon which has panels on it, and regardless of whether you print one small dot or you use the entire ribbon, you're still using the same amount of material.

You can just imagine the amount of waste that is potentially created with that. Whereas if you move to inkjet, that's more color on demand; you're only using the amount of color or ink that you need to make that particular image. I think, probably in the next three or four years, we'll see a much larger shift to moving to more sustainable issuance products, maybe moving more towards inkjet versus traditional dye-sublimation and the introduction of maybe some creative technology forward-looking credentials.

Very nerdy answer, indeed. Travis, nerd out as much as you like, please. What are your thoughts?

Yeah, I'd love to weigh in on this conversation. And I agree, I do think it needs to be and that it will be a hybrid kind of model.

There's going to be specific industries, including some ID sites that have physical identification requirements because of the security constraints. You're going to have those types of industries that are like that. They want that physical access control; they want that physical ID. They want to be able to see someone carry their badge with them at all times.

And you also have cases where you don't allow mobile phones or anything like that on the floor to where you can't access any readers or whatever. So you're always going to have that dynamic. I do think there's going to be a push in the future for more mobile credentialing, some digitization. I know with HID, we want to go down that route as well and get more in depth in that space.

On the comment about building more circularity within your plastics, the good news is there are existing solutions. We know that there are solutions. In fact, at one of our facilities in Victoria, Australia, they're working with a partner, Bank of Queensland, to build cards with recycled PVC. So at the end of their life, going back to a lifecycle perspective, they're actually being recycled into plastic planks for flooring. And they're working with the local manufacturer from that. In fact, over the last year and a half or so, they've diverted about 170,000 tons of plastic waste from the landfill just by working with this manufacturer. It's getting a lot of headway with Bank of Queensland. Of course, it's the first card of its kind in Australia, and there's more momentum being built around it.

I also know from an R&D perspective, they're testing out cardboard, believe it or not, cardboard cards. It's going through ISO testing. It's really just in the R&D phase for now, but it looks promising. So if that's something that we can do to help eliminate some of the plastic waste that's going out into landfills or to other waste streams, whether it's being recycled or whatnot, and having more of a lifecycle perspective being built into our product lines, that's the route we want to go. I think we'll definitely get there. It will take some time, but a lot of push — a lot of industries are pushing for that as well.

That's a really cool perspective. I think there are two themes that I gather from both of your responses.

One is there's not a silver bullet that is just going to completely, for lack of better words, clean up any industry, including ours. It's a lot of little things, a lot of steps and a lot of concerted efforts to make those steps add up to big steps that'll take us to the second point.

It's going to take time, but the conversations are taking place, the tides are turning, the green wave is coming, as I roughly referred to it earlier. It's probably going to grow in importance moving into the future. And there's a lot of good things I think that we can help to support that.

So Travis, just to give yourself and your role a plug, tell us a little bit more about what we're doing at HID to lessen our footprint and to be good stewards for the planet.

HID has a lot of initiatives on the table. Actually, it might be surprising to a lot of listeners that HID actually started our sustainability journey a long time ago. You said that it's a buzzword — it's being thrown out everywhere in the industry these days — but quite frankly, we've been on this sustainability journey for over a decade. A lot of people don't realize that. The sustainability framework actually came from a process called the Nine Tenets of Sustainability that focus on ecology, environmental and social initiatives with basically a dropdown list of things to review that all make up the sustainability framework and program. This includes product sustainability and circularity, health and safety, employee morale, social responsibility — all types of different aspects to it. And we've been doing this for a very long time.

Over the last year and a half or so, we've worked with ASSA ABLOY, our parent company, where we've aligned with them on setting science-based targets to halve our carbon emissions by the year 2030. So we are technically in the second year of that. We're gaining traction and momentum there as well. Again, we're really pushing the investment piece of it in order for us to get to our goals, but I do think we'll get there. I know for a fact that there are a few projects on the line for 2023 that are pretty promising.

We have green teams at multiple locations, including 16 locations globally. Our green teams encompass things like teaming, community involvement, waste, energy, water reduction initiatives and consumable reductions. We look at aspects of these through the green team events that we conduct on an annual basis at several of our manufacturing facilities.

We also have all of our sites ISO 14001 certified. The ISO 14001 is an environmental management certificate. Basically we're audited by a third party, and that third party validates that we have objectives and targets in place and that we're doing things in an environmentally conscious manner and we're meeting compliance obligations.

Over the last year, we've also adopted the use of a “sustainability by design” philosophy within our manufacturing footprint process. Basically our real estate team — any time we have an acquisition or a lease that's up — takes a look at the sustainability by design model and sees what sustainable elements that we can put in. LED is the most common. We don't have any buildings that have CFL or old fluorescent lighting. LED is pretty much standard. But we also look at other things like EV charging stations. We look at modern design, interior outfitting, eco-friendly sourcing, natural light, stuff like that.

These things don't just impact us from a sustainability perspective, from an environmental sustainability, there's actually a wellness aspect to it as well. All types of studies have been conducted and show that it does have a correlating impact on health and wellbeing for those things.

We've also got product environmental declarations that Nils and our lovely team from Eden Prairie would be very, very familiar with. So there's environmental product declarations for our readers and GreenCircle certifications for our printer lines. These build some type of environmental component into our product lines specifically as a customer requirement. Sometimes it's not even just a requirement, it's just something that we do because we know that we've got the technology, we've got the innovation, let's do it. It's what's right for the environment; it's what's right for our business.

And then of course, we have kind of like a tiger team, if you will. We look at Scope 3 emissions — Scope 3 emissions are any carbon emissions that are related to our value chain. We look at the product raw materials as well as transport and logistics. There's a team that's looking at that as well, as far as looking for opportunities to reduce our carbon emissions and hopefully reduce our costs as well. So yeah, these are just a few things.

So you're not busy at all is what it boils down to. There's just nothing going on.

Travis Hensley:
No. (Laughs)

No, that's incredible. That's very helpful. I really enjoyed watching that nerd war between the two of you, and you're going into the dyes and you're going into all of the certifications. That's very cool stuff for me.

So let’s bring this to a conclusion. Nils, over to you, what's the single most important thing that you want our listeners to know about this topic, at least from your point of view?

When you think of sustainability, I think of this as an investment in the future. And if we were to just go fast, create a lot of waste, it might be simpler and easier to accomplish. But when we take that lens and put it on the products and solutions that we're trying to deliver, it is sort of an investment in our future, not only in the future of our kids, but also in the products themselves.

So when we take a closer look, we say, "All right, let's look at how we manufacture and design these products." By going, I don't want to say slower, but taking a more pragmatic approach to how we do that and by investing in our design philosophies and approaches, we actually find that in the future side of things, we're able to deliver faster. We're actually able to deliver better products and products that people are going to want to use.

As an example, our usage of recycled materials and the ability to repurpose materials across different products create less time for our development team in terms of what they have to design because they're reusing stuff that already exists. So you’re saving time, you’re saving energy and you're saving the need for building multiple products. When you build multiple products or components, there's natural waste, whereas when you're building smaller runs of things, you have to change stuff. And in the end, going faster and creating more waste is not necessarily going to be good for the bottom line.

So here we find that looking at sustainability not only hits at delivering at an investment in the future for everybody else, it delivers a better product; we help meet the customer needs. It's really kind of a win-win-win on all three facets of that. I would just take away that for us, sustainability is sort of built into the fabric — at least the team here in Eden Prairie, and I know in talking with other team members across HID — it's ingrained in how we design and develop things. It's just a part of what we do in our everyday life.

Very good. Travis, same to you, what's the single most important thing you want people to know about this topic?

I'd say being sustainable isn't industry specific, like I said at the beginning, right? It's not about politics or solely environmental issues that you may hear about on the news and all the back and forth. I think it's important for people to understand that if you want to build resiliency within your business, you have to become sustainable. You have to have that sustainable mindset. You have to have that strength. You have to have customer relevancy. And it needs to start with the culture, and not just from the bottom up, I mean from the top down. That's the most important piece.

As Nils said, what they do on a regular basis, sustainability is ingrained in their business models. And I would 100% agree with that.

It may not be environmental sustainability that they're referencing — they're talking about sustaining business, sustaining operations and being relevant. I think that's an important factor that people need to remember.

Very nice. Well, with the question of the day being, “Is sustainability in security lip service or a game changer?” I think that based on our discussion today, it is definitely a game changer. The game is changing, and we are changing the game.

Thank you both, gentlemen, for your insights on this. I have several years to catch up to you, and I thoroughly enjoyed your perspectives. So thanks to you both for sharing and for joining us.

And most importantly, big thanks to our listeners for joining us for this episode of HID Connects. We really do have a good time creating this podcast, and we really hope that you enjoy listening as well.

Before we head out, while you're with us, help us move from this conference room into an actual studio by subscribing to HID Connects. Doing this will make sure that you stay connected and not miss future episodes, and you could subscribe wherever you get your podcast.

In the spirit of connection, please do send me your questions, topic ideas, anything else you have to help us shape future episodes. All you have to do is drop me a line at [email protected].

And on that note, be sure to join us next time when we ask the question of, “Mobile IDs, what's in your digital wallet?”

Until then, thanks for listening. May your identities forever be secure.