From XU Magazine, 
Issue 29

Be ESG compliant by ditching the paper

Businesses worldwide are enacting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policies. In particular, solutions to environmental issues caused by business are a priority. The world just can’t wait.

A gold-standard solution is remarkably close to home: reducing or even eradicating paper use within businesses.

Around 85 million metric tonnes of paper are used worldwide each year. 

If all that were sheets of printer paper in a stack, it would be over a million miles high. If you sat on top of the pile of paper and shone a laser pointer, it would take six seconds until the light reached the other end!

And paper manufacturing is a big environmental polluter. The UK’s paper manufacturing industry alone was responsible for 2.23 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, prior to the COVID disruption.

It’s not just environmental cost. As supply chain prices rise as the world recovers from COVID, stationery’s draining fiscal cost is impacting businesses.

Almost £150 million is spent on envelopes in the UK each year, according to the Office for National Statistics. Around £53 million is spent on business forms, and £36 million is spent on notebooks. 

Surely there’s a better way of doing business for both you and your clients?

How to go paperless

Like everything else in working life, the more preparation you take, the easier the process. 

Here are five real world tips for reducing or even eradicating paper from your business. 


1 - Use accounting software 

Accounting software and cloud-based documents are a huge part of the paperless puzzle. But you really need to proactively make use of all the features on offer to reduce paper usage.

Are you sending paper invoices? Do you print every receipt? Move as much of your data entry and accounts to the cloud as possible (all, if you can). 

Business on mobile in particular is a boom industry: in the first quarter of 2021, the Amazon Appstore showed a 108.98% increase in download of business apps. By comparison, the second biggest-growing app category—social networking—grew by just 6.86% in the same period.

This all indicates a wider trend towards how acceptable it is, in our post COVID world, to rely on technology much more than before—and ditch the paper. 

2 - Train staff and take time to get them on board 

Going paperless is a cultural challenge as well as a logistical one. Take the time to communicate what you’re doing, communicate to your colleagues the importance of the initiative, and take the time to train them if necessary. 

The same applies to clients. Help them follow your lead, and informally educate wherever there’s an opportunity. Remember: Less paperwork is good for you, too!

Buy-in is an important part of this process. 

3 - Audit your paper use 

Research has shown that 20% of print outs are never collected from the printer. They just linger there, until they’re thrown away.

Which departments use the most paper and why? Is a hard copy necessary every time? Are printouts handed out at meetings? Does the design department print out individual drafts during the discussion process? 

If you want to formalise this audit, have your staff put their recycling in a designated container for each department over the course of a week to measure who’s using paper for what. The purpose of this is not to point fingers, but to show room for simple, practicable improvements. This could also function as a tool for getting buy-in: colleagues might not be aware of the extent of their wastage.

4 - Limit access to printing

This one might not suit every workplace, but limiting access to printing can have an immediate effect on usage. If a printer is in a separate room, or even password protected, colleagues might think twice before making a hard copy of every document. We would advise having an alternative infrastructure in place beforehand - such as cloud storage - to minimize disruption. 

Remember: Using paper with the goal of recycling it after isn’t an environmentally-friendly solution. This means that two amounts of carbon dioxide are produced, even if it means fewer trees are destroyed. It’s better if that paper isn’t manufactured in the first place. This way, zero carbon dioxide is created via manufacturing.

5 - Replace notepads with note taking apps and software 

Taking notes in meetings is important, of course. But you don’t have to fill notepads to capture the relevant information. The likes of Microsoft OneNote, EverNote and GoodNotes are as good if not better than notebooks—and they create shareable, online documents for all meeting attendees. If nothing else, the highlights, details and dates of meetings will forever be easier to find.

AutoEntry - good for your business... And the planet

AutoEntry helps businesses become more efficient and cost-effective and less paper-dependent. 

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