The annual World Paper Free Day, which this year took place at the start of this month, is helping to raise awareness and beginning to strike a chord with many businesses, explains Kefron’s Pia Brennan.
The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), an international non-profit organisation that promotes understanding of information management in business, recently published an Industry Watch report Paper-Free Progress: measuring outcomes of over 400 global businesses and found that 49% of respondent organisations are now reducing their annual paper consumption.
Does this mean that the days of desks piled high with paper are gone? Well not exactly.
Although 49% of organisations are reducing their consumption, 20% are actually increasing their use of paper. This means there was only a net reduction of 29%. This is still a huge improvement on the 2011 figures, which highlighted a net reduction of just 3%.
The survey also found that only 22% of organisations have an environmental policy in place to actively reduce paper wastage.
For offices and businesses, there’s still a lot of waste paper to be found. In fact, according to research from Kyocera the average office worker uses 45 pieces of paper every day. For a typical business, that can result in over 260,000 pieces of paper used in a single year. Approximately two thirds of this paper is wasted.
How to reduce waste paper
With all this paper being wasted, what can business do in order to further cut back on their consumption? The AIIM survey looked into this further:
- 35% of respondents still print out invoices. If these can be sent electronically, businesses should consider whether they really need paper copies
- Just 22% of organisations have any kind of environmental policy in place. Paper reduction goals should come from the top down with management driving the changes
- Management driven paper reduction plans help all staff to understand the paper-free options available to them, as many employees are currently unaware of the different methods and processes that could be utilised
- For many businesses, it’s important to change staff culture and preferences. At present, 31% of staff respondents admitted to printing a document and scanning it back in without any changes. Similarly, many companies have a habit of retaining mark-up copies on desks and contracts or forms with approval signatures, when they aren’t strictly needed
- One key solution for reducing paper consumption is to use document scanning tools and electronic content management solutions, helping to free up staff time and contribute process efficiencies.
The benefits of digitisation
Digitising files and documents is clearly an effective way to reduce unnecessary waste by reducing the dependence on paper, but there are also a number of other benefits for businesses that implement digital workflows into businesses. These include:
- Saving office space by reducing the need to store legacy documents
- Improving productivity by reducing clutter on desks and around the office
- Streamlining accessibility and ease of access to records retrieval, with added searchability functions, and simpler options for sharing
- Supporting faster customer response times with paper free processes
- Improving staff’s ability to work remotely.
The remaining importance of paper
Despite the steps being taken towards reducing paper consumption, and the potential for greater digitisation in the future, a paper-free office still seems a long way off.
For most industries, some form of paper storage is still required, whether that be in order to comply with specific regulations or to protect important data. This includes signed contracts, deeds and other vital documents. Indeed, 40% of offices use paper for filing what they deem “important stuff.”
Paper consumption won’t be cut overnight, but the important thing to remember is what’s efficient for a business. Excessive paper use is not conducive to a productive office, so businesses should learn from this report and ensure they put an effective, streamlined workflow system in place, that’s paper-free wherever possible.
Pia Brennan, marketing manager for UK & Ireland at Kefron, a Dublin based information management provider.
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