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Ponder the consequences of security breaches, which may result in identity theft and fraud, unhappy clients or employees, negative media attention and expensive lawsuits. Add to that, your company’s intellectual property and commercial secrets leaked to your competitors, and you can see that the damage of compromised security to an organization’s reputation and brand can be significant and potentially devastating.
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In today’s economy, when the pressures to cut costs are apparent, it is important not to lose sight of your organization’s long-term goals and most valuable business assets. Reputation is one of those assets – powerful, yet intangible and fragile it serves as a magnet, attracting resources and attention.
In a survey at the World Economic Forum, more than one hundred of the world’s top executives regarded a company’s reputation as the second most important measure of success, closely behind quality of products and services1. If your products and services are already meeting your customers’ needs, reputation is the engine that will continue to drive growth, increase profits and help you beat the competition.
Reputation is not only defined by your company’s services and products; “Leading companies understand that serving their clients also means protecting them, particularly from any harm caused through these companies’ own actions,” says Vince De Palma, President and CEO at Shred-it. “In this digital age, one of the most important individual rights is the right to privacy, which is closely related to the security of our personal information. New and existing laws and regulations recognize and protect these rights, and so should all businesses and organizations, large or small. Furthermore, this protection should extend beyond your clients to your business partners, employees and all stakeholders.”
The protection of this sensitive information is critical to an organization’s ability to conduct business with various stakeholder groups. If your clients or partners have concerns about the security of their financial or personal information while it’s in your trust, they may take their business elsewhere; and they are almost certain to do it if the security of their personal information has been compromised while in your custody. At the same time, an untainted reputation for information security will give your customers, employees and partners the level of comfort they need to count on you as a trusted partner.
Security breaches on average cost Canadian organizations more than $843,000 a year – a whopping 97 percent increase over 2008, according to study released by Telus in partnership with Rotman School of Management2.
One may question, what’s a company to do with this information? The answer is simple; calculate your potential cost of a data breach. This can be done internally or by using a reputable vendor who can perform a free data security assessment.
An organization’s reputation is not adequately protected if its stakeholders are exposed to any of the risks below:
Inadequate protection from unauthorized access by outsiders of your electronic or paper-based information, such as employee records, customer data, email lists, etc.
Inadequate protection from unauthorized access by company employees of electronic or paper documents.
Paper waste leaving the office in a way that allows reconstruction of confidential documents.
While the risks associated with electronic information receive a large portion of media and corporate attention, a large number of security breaches can still be traced to paper documents, particularly when they are recycled without prior shredding, or simply thrown into unsecured garbage bins.
Small and medium-sized organizations are especially vulnerable to such risks, particularly those that are in early stages of organizational development or use a more informal style to conduct their business, as they may not have formal information security policies and procedures in place. According to Shred-it’s 2011 Information Security Tracker conducted by Ipsos Reid Research, 47% of small Canadian organizations believes that a data breach will not impact their businesses.3
If a breach does occur, smaller organizations are less likely to have adequate legal and other necessary resources to deal with the regulatory and financial consequences of such a breach. Companies of any size should realize that taking risks with the security of their customer and business information could lead to potential repercussions such as: litigation costs, fines, negative media attention and reputation damage. A secure document destruction process allows organizations to not only invest in their security and reputation, but also in long-term productivity.
For more information on proper document destruction for a specific industry, please visit Shred-it's online resource center.
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