In today’s global economy Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is regarded as one of the key aspects of running a successful business. Customers expect that companies make an extra effort to promote positive social and environmental change for the long-term benefit of our society as a whole. At this time and age companies all over the world recognize the importance of embracing environmentally sustainable business practices but often struggle with the idea of incurring short-term costs that do not provide immediate financial benefit.

However, it is becoming increasingly easier for businesses to have a positive impact on the environment without not only compromising profitability but actually increasing it. Going green and running a paperless office is one example of this.

A Business Case for Paperless Office

The global Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) found that two-thirds of companies who adopted paperless processes reported a payback within 18 months and estimated increase in productivity by an average of 30%. By going paperless, these businesses not only helped save trees, they also reduced paper filing, storage and retrieval costs, eliminated costs of ink, paper, printing and associated labour costs.

On the other hand, Gartner research suggests that in the US alone annual filing, storage and retrieval costs amount to $USD 25 to 35 billion. PWC estimates that, on average, 7.5% of all paper documents are lost and a further 3.5% are misfiled, meaning that 11% of paper based documents simply fall through the cracks. In the UK, according to YouGov, 80% of companies are printing documents just to get them signed, which costs them an additional 3 days to complete an otherwise straightforward business process. Most companies also grossly underestimate the true cost of using paper and printing costs to their business. Cost of printing alone can be as high as 8 times the cost of paper itself. Add to this all other costs, such as storage, filing, retrieval, disposal, productivity loss associated with inefficient paper-based business process, and you can see how much impact using paper can have on a company’s bottom line.

Environmental Costs

What about environmental costs? One tree can produce, on average, 17 reams of paper and takes about 100 years to grow. At the same time, producing 17 reams of paper releases 50 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. Now consider that, according to UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), an average office worker uses 46 sheets of paper per day, of which over 50% is regarded as waste. When you look at how quickly your office can go through these 17 reams of paper in relation to how long it takes for them to be produced, it is clear that such practice is environmentally unsustainable. By remaining mainly paper based, businesses produce a cumulative negative effect on our planet’s atmosphere, contribute to loss of natural habitats in certain areas due to intensive tree farming, to high chemical and energy use in manufacture, and to the detrimental effects from landfilling or incineration of paper waste.

And yet, only 1% of EU businesses are actually paperless.

There is a strong case for going paperless, both from an environmental and a business profit perspective, a truly win-win situation. By exercising CSR companies can help protect the environment and have a positive impact on their own bottom line.