Earth Day is this weekend. What’s one thing you can do to make your business a little more eco-friendly? Go paperless!
If you are often faced with the decision to use paper or digital documents, you aren’t alone. While it’s sometimes tempting to print documents, we make an effort to reduce our paper consumption as much as possible by using software for invoices, checks, forms, memos and other documents.
What You Need To Know About Paper And The Earth
You wouldn’t think paper causes that much damage to the Earth, especially if it’s recycled—but these statistics say otherwise:
- 50% of business waste is from paper (The World Counts).
- Every year, Americans use 85 million tons of paper, which is about 680 tons of paper per person (University of Southern Indiana).
- 68% of copy paper used is considered “wasted” through accidentally printing emails, failing to print on two sides of paper, printing duplicates, and/or forgetting documents on the printer (ORS Group).
- The Worldwide Pulp and Paper industry is the fourth largest industrial user of energy, amounting to about 4% of the world’s energy (Jobien Laurijssen).
- It takes an average of five liters of water to produce one piece of legal-sized paper (The World Counts).
- Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste and 33% of municipal waste (The World Counts).
- The U.S. uses approximately 68 million trees each year to produce paper and paper products (The Paperless Project).
Why Go Paperless?
Aside from the environmental reasons mentioned above, there are a lot of reasons why a company would want to reduce their paper and printing use.
Finding the right document can be time consuming. How fast can you find a document when you need it? Is it easy and fast to share with your team and/or your clients? Digital documents allow you to instantly access and share them on the fly. Multiple people can view the same document without sitting next to each other. With the right software, you can add password protection and specific user permissions to make sure the right people see the right information. Annotation is even possible, allowing the ability to collaborate on scanned documents.
Paper, ink and printing services are expensive. Keeping a full stock of paper and ink can be pricey in itself. It can also be expensive to file documents in a secure location. If you misplace a confidential document and it falls into the wrong hands, it can be more costly than you think.
Paper documents are risky. Are your important documents in fire resistant locations or do you have multiple copies in many locations? If your documents aren’t backed up digitally, it could be a bigger disaster if there was a fire. Digital filing systems allow you to easily back up your documents to multiple locations. Also, if your files aren’t behind locked cabinets or in a secure location, it could be easy for a malicious person to get ahold of confidential information.
How To Reduce Your Organization’s Paper Consumption
A lot of business owners want to go paperless, but they aren’t sure where to start. Here are a few tips to help you reduce your paper consumption in the office:
1. Think before you print. This seems simple, but with 68% of paper wasted by mistakes, it can be one of the biggest and easiest ways to reduce your paper consumption. Before printing, ask yourself, “Do I really need another copy? Are my printer settings correct?” These questions could save you from sending copy paper to a landfill or recycling plant.
2. Print to PDF. You don’t need special software to save a file as a PDF. Much of what we print can just be saved as an electronic file. This can make it even easier to share and backup important documents.
3. Email instead of mail or fax. This is easy for many internal documents, but it can be complicated when it comes to files from your ERP system, such as accounts receivable invoices. Luckily, most current ERP software has a way to automatically email invoices vs. printing them by setting a preference in the customer setup.
Sage and Microsoft GP have the ability to send a document through email rather than print. This function creates a PDF of the invoice and attaches it to an email ready for you to send off. There are also third party add-ons that will allow your customers to click on a “pay now” link in the email and pay online, or pay from a customer portal. This kind of software is quicker than the traditional filing system, your customers will find it easily, and nine times out of ten, you’ll get paid quicker for your work when you make it easy for customers to settle online. A win-win, and think of the trees you’ll save!
4. Use direct deposit/EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) processing. Consider using direct deposit for employee payroll. Direct deposit allows employees to drop minimum fund fees and gain other benefits from their bank. Plus, it can reduce expensive check paper, ink, printing and distribution costs.
The same concept can be used for your accounts payable payments. Using a custom ERP system integration can allow you to send electronic payments to your vendors to reduce printing and speed up the payment process.
5. Integrate a document management system with your ERP system. Having a document management solution that is integrated with your ERP system allows you to store, easily access, collaborate and move documents through workflows from any device.
With document management, you can automate drawn-out business processes and increase organizational efficiency while reducing your paper consumption. With a set approval process, common workflow hold-ups are non-existent and tasks get accomplished more easily. Rules and workflow delegation can be set so you don’t need to worry when an approver is on vacation. Alerts can even be scheduled to notify employees of approaching deadlines.
What’s Holding You Back?
Companies around the world are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Those that have successfully done so have seen major benefits, including substantial cost savings. Even the U.S. Army headquarters is going paperless and has seen a 15% decrease in late tasks (Fedscoop).
What’s stopping you from reducing your paper consumption and reducing your impact on the Earth? Contact me here or call me at 410.685.5512 to learn how your business can be a little more eco-friendly.