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The Vexing Problem of Culture in Managing Security Globally

By Stephanie Berrong

Many organizations operate in multiple locations worldwide, and because each region has its own unique risk profile, finding appropriate security solutions can be a challenge.

 
 
The main challenges are cultural, says Luca Tenzi, security manager for Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Philip Morris International. Tenzi says the cultural element is three-pronged. The first prong is the company’s own security culture, manifested in what the organization considers a threat, how sensitive senior management is to its risk exposure, and the security culture of the industry in which the company is operating. German companies, for example, tend to be more security conscious and risk averse than Italian or Latin American companies, Tenzi says.
 
The second prong is the culture of the local market. “If you bring the American idea of security to Europe, it doesn’t go down so well,” Tenzi says. For example, certain American companies view terrorism as one of the key threats for them. They fear they are a target “because they are American and because they represent American interests overseas,” he says. “When you go to certain countries, that is not a fact. Yes, there is a terrorist threat, yes there are issues, but in the list of priorities, terrorism is not up, up in the scale.”
 
Multinationals may also face resistance from the local population when they try to base their security solutions on a corporate standard rather than the reality on the ground. For example, for trace explosives detection, dogs are primarily used in the United States, says Philip Lomax, a Hong Kong-based Kroll associate. But they are not commonly used in Pakistan, because Muslims believe dogs to be ritually impure.
 
(To read the full version of "Taking Security Global" from the August issue of Security Management, click here.)
 

♦ Photo by K9Centrum/Flickr

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