Businesses are increasingly concerned about their environmental impact. Going green is good for business, and an easy way for any operation to demonstrate its commitment to helping the environment is by promoting a sustainable office. In fact, Boston Consulting Group reports that 37 percent of managers see sustainability as a source of profit and 48 percent of businesses have changed their business models to promote a sustainable office.
Sustainability means finding new ways to remain in balance with the environment, maintaining the social, environmental, economic infrastructure for future generations. To promote a sustainable office means to implement new policies and procedures to minimize the organization’s environmental impact and reduce its carbon footprint. The sustainable office minimizes its consumption of non-renewable resources, such as plastics, and reduces unnecessary power consumption that increases the amount of greenhouse gasses. It also means being smarter about conserving paper and paper resources.
Using recycled paper is clearly more environmentally friendly. However, reducing paper consumption altogether is even better for the environment. In order to promote a sustainable office many organizations are migrating toward paperless processes using document imaging, automating as much of day-to-day operations as possible to reduce paper waste and promote sustainability.
Paper Documents Cost More Money
The United States uses more than 25 percent of the world’s paper products, and the average American consumes more than 700 pounds of paper per year. More than 9,190 tons of paper was generated per year by U.S. business alone.
- The average office worker generates more than 10,000 sheets of paper each year.
- Businesses generate 7.5 billion documents each year and 15 trillion copies.
- The cost to share paper documents is 31 times more expensive than electronic documents.
- The average four-drawer file cabinet costs about $25,000 to fill and $2,000 to maintain each year.
The cost of paper storage alone is phenomenal. The average cost of office space in the United States is $23.23 per square foot per month so wasting this space on file storage is expensive. To store two million paper documents would require $40,000 to $60,000 in file cabinets alone, not to mention the space those file cabinets would take up. Those same documents would fit on 10 CD ROMs.
Also consider that 7 percent of paper documents are lost and need to be re-created, 3 percent are misfiled, and professionals spend about 50 percent of their time looking for documents. Using document imaging to archive and share documents makes them easier to locate.
How Document Imaging Promotes Sustainability
By scanning paper documents and using electronic storage, organizations can save money on paper, storage, staff time, and much more. Here are seven ways to use document imaging to promote a sustainable office:
- Paperless processes – Identify those processes that can be handled without paper. This not only includes internal documents generated using a word processor or emails, but other forms of paper such as bills, receipts, etc. In the legal profession, for example, there are requirements that physical copies be kept for archiving. However, rather than photocopying and sharing paper documents, scan the documents and use electronic copies for distribution and comment while storing the paper originals; it’s more sustainable and more efficient.
- Eliminate paper duplication – One of the biggest paper generators is unnecessary photocopies. Reports, charts, even emails are printed out and copied for paper distribution and use in meetings and elsewhere. Develop processes to share digital documents rather than generating more paper. Consider storing important business paperwork using document management software for easy file sharing and to manage document comments and version control.
- Digital archiving – Implement a records management system to capture and archive business documents. The policy should include a process to prioritize office paperwork for digital storage, and a methodology for generating meta tags and indexing information. A digital archive only has value if it is searchable and archived material can be found easily. Also be sure to implement archive redundancy, such as cloud storage, to protect important business documents in case of disaster.
- Recycle – Even with a paperless process, employees will still continue to generate paper. Encourage recycling and make recycling easy with strategic location of recycling bins and paper shredders.
- Control access to printers and copiers – To prevent paper waste, limit access to the hardware that produces paper. Some organizations require passcodes or code keys to access printers and copiers. Others use billing codes to track paper expenses so they can be billed back to specific departments. Controlling access to printers and copiers will reduce wasted paper.
- Green equipment – Reducing energy consumption is part of the sustainable office. Use EnergyStar scanning and printing equipment to reduce energy consumption.
- Reduction of topic printing supplies – As part of sustainable best practice, try to reduce the use of toxic inks and toner products. Use sustainable cleaning products for equipment maintenance, and recycle all toner and ink cartridges.
These are just a few strategies to promote a sustainable office. If you can make document imaging an integral part of operations and provide secure access to digitized paperwork via the enterprise, you will not only promote sustainability but reduce operating costs and improve efficiencies.
Are you including document imaging as part of your enterprise offering?