Businesses can do much more for the environment than merely buying green products or installing solar heaters. Although buying and using these products is very useful and should be part of everyones action list, organisations have an opportunity to make a bigger impact. Most organisations today exist by running processes which are very paper intensive. Here are a number of ways that processes can be changed to reduce the paperwork flowing on, out and through the business. By incorporating these processes, businesses can cut costs, improve productivity, improve client relations, improve employee morale, and meet corporate compliance requirements, at the same time as making a real impact on their carbon footprint.
Some people like to talk of the “paperless office”, but this really is difficult to attain. Despite that, there are things that organisations can and must do to reduce the volume of paper that flows throughout the organisations and out to customers or citizens. We need to start thinking of the way we DO things, not just the things we BUY.
Think process, not technology. By itself, no technology on earth will reduce paper, hence we need to look at those processes in our organisations which are paper intensive. By following a single process from start to finish, we can identify where documents are required, and whether that step in the process could be improved by using technology.
If we can manage a process electronically, then for many organisations the immediate temptation is to implement a scanning project. This in itself is not a bad thing, and may resolve the flow of physical paper through the offices. The challenge we have is that it doesn’t get rid of the paper. This still flows into the mail room, from whence it is gathered and scanned, and often then stored in its original paper format. So despite having an improved internal process, we haven’t resolved the environmental issue. To compound this, most outputs from the process are still in the form of paper print-outs.
Analysing the process must include understanding the nature of the inflow of documents. If most of the incoming documents are in paper format, then the organisation should look for ways to reduce this. At least three current technologies will help a great deal here. E-Commerce allows transfer of information between organisations and systems without it being transformed into paper during the process. This has been around long enough, yet still isn’t used enough. E-forms should also be considered, as this can significantly reduce the volume of paper. Lastly the use of fax servers or routers can help by sending the electronic fax directly to the recipients desktop.
The technology already exists, so it is our mindsets that are the limiting factor at the moment. Negotiation with our major trading customers and suppliers, a willingness to change, carefully implemented policies, and a phased approach towards green processes will take us a long way towards improving the efficiencies in our organisations, at lower cost and a cooler climate.