Confidential Information Management and Recycling

Posted: October 19, 2010

Never has the old adage that every solution creates a problem been truer than in the case of recycling. Organisations are now laying heavy emphasis upon the need to recycle waste material in order to improve their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to their local communities, which brings with it a unique set of business challenges.

Latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published in June 2010, reveal that £4.2 billion has been spent annually on environmental protection by UK companies over the past decade. However, this commitment to environmental awareness and responsibility has brought into sharp focus the importance of differentiating effectively between confidential information and waste.

If this distinction is not made and managed appropriately, then organisations are potentially making their confidential information freely available to others, thus risking a data breach.

According to research carried out by Ponemon Institute, every customer record lost costs the organisation £64 on average. For organisations found to have committed a data breach the consequences can lead to considerable damage to both their finances and their reputation. Since April 2010 fines of up to £500,000 can be issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as they look to deter organisations from taking risks with sensitive information.

The damage caused to the company may not, however, just be financial. Harm to the reputation of the company’s brand, which may have taken years to build up, and counteracting any public relations and other marketing campaigns that may currently be in progress, may represent a far greater cost.

Losing brand equity can result in a loss in customer confidence, leading to a decline in the organisation’s client base. According to research carried out by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, if the outcome of this was to be quantified, the reputational costs of a data breach becoming a matter of public knowledge can be up to £250,000.

Particularly in this age of economic uncertainty, this is an outflow of cash companies simply cannot afford. This means that putting all documents into unsecured recycling bins will no longer suffice as the risk far outweighs the immediate convenience to employees and the cost savings for organisations.

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