Solaricot is facing difficult times. In this situation, the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sounds like a promising way to contain costs and improve workplace productivity. However, using RFID to collect workplace information about Solaricot employees is unethical. As an IS Trainee, my advice is to avoid using RFID to trace workers' movements. "Personal identifiable uses include investigating allegations of work rule violations and monitoring all former employees of an acquired company" (Rand 2005, p.1). Being used in this way, RFID raises numerous ethical questions in all four dimensions of the PAPA framework developed by Mason (1986): Privacy, Accuracy, Property, and Accessibility.
The use of RFID to monitor workers' movements is associated with considerable privacy violations and risks. On the one hand, workers are not obliged to report every movement and step they make in the workplace during the day. On the other hand, they cannot be confident that the information obtained through RFID is stored securely and privately. Many companies store these data indefinitely and do not conduct any external audits (Rand 2005). If Solaricot chooses to adopt RFID, it will have to sacrifice the value of privacy for the sake of security and control (Rand 2005).
RFID also raises numerous accuracy concerns. Even the most advanced technologies are not secured from the risks of errors. Mason (1986) writes that misinformation becomes particularly dangerous, when is has an authority and power advantage. In the organization like Solaricot, where the principles of organizational hierarchy are strictly monitored, any errors in the RFID system can become a convenient instrument of ethical manipulations. In no way should such systems be used to enforce the rules of individual and collective conduct in the workplace (Rand 2005). Employees at Solaricot need to feel confident and secured from any ethical and technical violations. Such violations are also associated with the property aspect of Mason's (1986) framework, since any errors and data leaks can become particularly damaging to workers' dignity and pride. While the company is doing everythig possible to protect its technologies from copyright violations, employees are deprived of the voice in major technical and ethical decisions. In case of such errors and data leakages, employees will hardly be able to reconstruct the events of the day (Rand 2005). They will find it difficult to challenge the RFID system and restore their dignity and positive workplace image (Rand 2005).
Finally, in terms of access, employees will hardly have the right to access and monitor the way, in which the system is tracking their workplace actions (Rand 2005). Even in case such access is granted, these employees may not have enough information literacy and skills to understand and interpret the data (Mason 1986). Eventually, the RFID system will become the center of a huge ethical controversy. This is why Solaricot should avoid using it, because even in the presence of a company-wide ethics policy, the risks of errors and data misuse/abuse cannot be minimized.
Despite the ethical controversies surrounding the use of RFID in the workplace, the system can readily assist in achieving sustainability objectives at Solaricot. As a company that operates in the atmosphere of tough competition, Solaricot is looking for the ways to achieve its sustainability and sustained profitability objectives. RFID provides sufficient opportunities to meet these goals in the short and long run. According to Kiron et al. (2012), companies that include sustainability in their management agendas have greater chances to outperform their competitors in a long-term perspective. The use of such systems in product development and supply chain solutions can help Solaricot reduce its CO2 emissions, minimize and optimize its energy costs, and add value to its operations and image among stakeholders.
The use of RFID at Solaricot will benefit the company in three distinct ways. First, it will increase its environmental sustainability. Bose and Yan (2011) found that RFID systems helped organizations reduce their CO2 emissions. For Solaricot, as well as many other companies that have already implemented RFID, the system will help enhance its product visibility and reducee the environmental costs of traditional product management and delivery (Bose & Yan 2011). Consequently, the company will secure itself from the financial risks of penalties for not complying with the environmental protection regulations.
Solaricot will benefit from RFID, mainly because it will help the company minimize its energy costs. Today, energy efficiency has become one of the primary criteria of organizations' success. RFID holds a promise to reduce both direct and indirect costs of production at Solaricot (Bose & Yan 2011). For instance, RFID can be incorporated in climate and temperature engineering systems at Solaricot. In addition, RFID can be successfully utilized to develop and improve the sustainability metrics within the company (Kiron et al. 2012).
According to Kiron et al. (2012), the rapid expansion of complex sustainability metrics have prompted many organizations to adopt their sustainability systems and monitor their progress. Simply put, sustainable organizations have improved their public image and greatly contributed to their social responsibility reputation. This is also what Solaricot can do, once the RFID system is implemented. It is through sustainability and corporate social responsibility that Solaricot can expand its market presence. The latter, in turn, will increase the public demand for sustainable practices within Solaricot (Bose & Yan 2011). The implementation of RFID will create a circle of interdependencies and increase the company's motivation to become even more sustainable in a long-term perspective. Moreover, it will raise the quality and trust in the company's relationships with stakeholders – an essential aspect without which sustainability is never possible (Bose & Yan 2011). Sustainability implies that the company can meet its basic objectives, while also meeting the needs of the current and future generations of stakeholders. By developing faithful relationships with its stakeholders, Solaricot will have greater opportunities to understand their needs and maintain its sustainability image. RFID will add value to the company's brand image, thus turning sustainability into the main element of its profitability agenda.