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It’s believed that office waste in the UK costs British business at around £15 billion a year, with much of this waste being paper. In fact, its’s estimated that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year. Not only is this usage expensive, it’s also very damaging to the environment. With approximately 24 trees being cut down to create just one ton of office paper.

Thanks to contracts, brochures, correspondence, and advertising, businesses go through more than their fair share of paper. But, is this necessary?

Could your business go paper-free? And could it save you money?

There are many benefits to small business who go paper-free:

  • Saves time. In traditional paper offices, documents need to be printed, sorted and filed, all of which takes time and can lead to miss-filed documents, confusion, and wasted time. But, in a paper-free business, all documents are filed and stored digitally, and available at the click of a button
  • Clean up the clutter and save space. Paper documents can create a mess. If you don’t have time to file documents, they can end up languishing on desks, counters and easily miss-placed. While physical filing cabinets take up valuable floor space that could easily be utilised for other purposes.
  • Accessibility. You’ll have all your documents easily accessible. If you use a cloud-based storage system, digitally stored documents can be available any time of the day, all you need is a connected device, very useful if you need to call up documents while attending meets or events.
  • Reduce your costs. Over 50% of waste created by business is paper, so that’s a lot of your hard-earned money being thrown into the bin every day, by going paper-free you will save costs on replacing this paper, but you will also reduce your printing and ink costs as you will not be printing as many documents.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. The paper industry is one of the largest consumers of energy in the world. This doesn’t just include chopping down trees, but also on the fossil fuel used for printing, by reducing your paper usages you will contribute to a lower demand and hopefully in the long term, encourage more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Whether your goal is offering paper-free services to your customers or switching your internal operations or both. You’ll need to invest time and money to make the change, but you’ll save enough in the long run that the initial investment will be worthwhile.

Where to start

Switching your company to go paper-free takes planning and, in some cases, may require additional help, or investment into new digital systems.

Your first challenge will be choosing the right software, such as a document management system, or online accounts system, these systems will make sure your files are secure, backed up and available at any time of the day.

Once you’ve established which system, you’ll use you’ll need to implement secure password policies for your employees, this might require a company-wide password management system.

You’ll also need to make sure all documents are archived and backed up, with all sensitive data being held in accordance with GDPR guidelines. This may require new policies and training to be developed so that employees who don’t understand the technology don’t accidentally disclose confidential information.

The next challenge will be staff training. Some employees may feel overwhelmed by all the changes, but if you provide sufficient (digital) documentation, training and express clear goals for employees to refer to later, then the change should go smoothly.

Small changes can make a big difference

Whether you’ve decided to go paper-free as part of a sustainability initiative or you just want to save money, here are three easy ways to go paperless today.

Receipts

If your business in retail and commerce one of the quickest ways to reduce your paper costs is to give customers a digital receipt. This is good for your business in a number of ways; you’ll save money on paper and printing costs, you’ll reduce your carbon print as many till receipts can’t be recycled (they are a mixture of paper and plastic), and you’ll gain some vital data about your customer that you will be able to use in the future.

Marketing

If your company engages in any kind of marketing, try embracing digital marketing techniques. If you would usually create and print flyers or brochures, why not try distributing digital version instead? By using digital distribution, you will be able to track the “reach” of the advert which is great for ROI. Also, you will be able to engage directly with your customers using the info gathered from receipts and tailor your message quickly and cheaply to meet your customer’s needs.

Invoices

Switch to paperless billing from your suppliers. With many more business going paper-less there has been a big increase in the number of business “portals” and online customer resources, most likely you will be able to login to a secure system where you can access your statements and invoices rather than having them posted you. This is excellent for reducing the amount of paper you have lying round in your office, and also gives you easy access to all of your historical invoices.

When going paper-free it’s important to remember to be realistic. You won’t be able to eliminate all paper from your day to day operations, but by reducing your paper usage you can make a positive change to your business.