Going Paperless: A Greener Future
Owing to the technological developments and the age of cloud storage, piles of paper have now become a thing of past. Along with being environmentally friendly, going paperless saves both time and money so why keep our heads buried under the burden of dead forests? Computers were invented to make our lives easier, so why not take the initiative and make the switch?
Businesses have depended on paper documents for centuries. Today, with computers at every employee’s desk, the use of paper rises an average of 7% per year. Due to increases in awareness, many organisations have adopted the radical approach of converting information on paper into data and are transitioning from physical documents to electronic management systems. Did you know, on average a U.S. office worker prints 10,000 pages in a year? Let us consider the environmental impact of 10 million pages to understand the situation better. The below mentioned figures help to signify the gravity of the implications that can occur if businesses choose to be oblivious to a paperless future:
- 2500 trees cut down
- 56000 gallons of oil consumed
- 450 cubic yards of landfill space
- 595000 KW of energy used
With emerging technologies, a transformation can be observed in business procedures and beliefs. Software technologies with the likes of emails, electronic fax, document management, backups, cloud computing and online storage, have created a solid case of eradicating the clutter of paper in the work flow and increases productivity. As governments are also becoming increasingly sensitive to the issue at hand, legislation has been passed in most of the developed countries to legalize and enforce electronic signatures to reduce printing of legally binding documents.
It has been estimated that the U.S. spends an average of $460 billion in salaries every year just to manage paper driven information. Going paperless reduces costs associated with purchasing paper, fax machines, printers, ink cartridges, so on and so forth. More and more businesses have started realising that relying on paper can prove to be an expensive and inefficient affair. The market in general has become supportive as well, for the prices for paperless equipment such as computers, storage devices, software, scanners etc. have dropped in comparison to the early days of their introduction. Also, money spent on such equipment is money well invested from long-term perspective. Gradually but surely a shift is being made towards electronic document management systems.Let’s take a look at the time and money spent on handling paper on a yearly basis below:
Cost of Handling Paper
- 70% of time is spent processing paper
- 90% of documents are paper
- 7.5% of documents are lost
- 15% of documents are misplaced
- 30% of the workday is spent searching for hardcopy documents
- 30% of documents contain obsolete information
- One four drawer file cabinet:
- Holds 15k-20k pages
- Costs $25,000 to fill
- Costs $2,000 per year to maintain
- One four drawer file cabinet:
Cost of maintaining one four drawer file cabinet as according to the source above, turns out to be $2,000 per year.
Other than the monetary aspect, there are many other valuable benefits associated with going paperless:
- It helps to better utilise office space by removing filing cabinets
- Staff can work efficiently as time spent on searching for documents is marginally reduced
- Fast response to customers because of the mobile atmosphere of the business
- Presents a more professional image to customers
- A faster business work flow is created as the time wasted on getting signatures on documents is eliminated
- Real time updates and document delivery
- Secure backups of all documents and information
- Conduct an environmental friendly business and be proud of it
Having acknowledged the advantages of eliminating paper, it must also be noted that doing so is not an overnight process. The entire process involves a lot of time and effort and hence, many business owners and managers are intimidated by the prospect of making the switch. It can be argued that the major hindrance that stands in the way of a paperless office is not technology but the resistance towards re-engineering business processes to accommodate this transition. Needless to say, no matter how intimidating the concept may be, management needs to open their eyes to the overwhelming impact businesses have on the environment by cutting down forests and also to the numerous benefits an organisation can reap by deciding to go paperless.
Let’s go paperless! Let’s go green!