It’s no secret that the continued use of paper in the world is a growing problem for the planet. In 2019 alone, the United States consumed around 73.1 million tons of paper, and some of that paper will have gone to waste for various reasons.
There was once a time when a paperless office was nothing more than a ploy by some companies to persuade consumers they are ethical at heart. Nowadays, the business world realizes the scale of the problem, irrespective of an enterprise’s size.
How Bad Is the Problem?
You’re likely reading this blog post today because you want to make a significant improvement to your firm’s green credentials. But, you’re possibly not sure why you need to ban paper from your business.
After all: there are loads of trees in the world for producing paper, right? Let’s take a look at the scale of the problem, according to some calculations from the Conservatree website:
- One ream or 500 sheets of paper equates to around 6% of a tree;
- One tree produces approximately 17 reams of paper;
- One ton of non-recycled paper is the equivalent of 12 trees.
The earlier mentioned figure of 73.1 million tons of paper used in the United States alone equates to approximately 877.2 million trees. With all that in mind, here are some realistic ways to stop using paper – many of which can even save your business money:
1. Issue Electronic Invoices to Customers
The first practical step you can take to stop consuming paper in your business by ceasing the practice of issuing paper invoices to your customers. It’s so easy to generate electronic invoices from most modern accounting systems.
Plus, email delivery of invoices typically takes seconds, and the cost of invoicing each customer is minimal compared with the traditional alternative, so your business will save on postage costs.
2. Manage Your Payroll Online
If you employ several people on a shift basis, you’ll undoubtedly want to monitor their time and payments to ensure efficiency. Stop using paper records as evidence of their shift work, and start managing your payroll online using one of the many different available solutions.
Also, take a look at these 8 payroll reports every business manager needs to know so you can ensure your business isn’t wasting money or incorrectly paying its staff.
3. Use Only Recycled Card for Product Packaging
Does your business sell physical products? If it does, you’ll undoubtedly have each product packaged using a mix of card and cardboard. Preventing the use of such material isn’t an option as it protects your products in transit before they reach consumers.
However, you can opt for 100% recycled product packaging and not use any plastic with the packaging so that it can be wholly recycled by the end users.
4. Don’t Include Paper Instructions With All Products
You want to make sure that your customers know how to use your products when they purchase them. Plus, you also want to let them know about your firm’s warranty and returns policies.
Usually, you’d include some paper supplements inside of the product packaging with that information. Instead, you should direct your customers to view the information online. For example, you could ask them to scan a QR code that redirects them to the documents.
5. Notify Suppliers of Your No-Paper Policy
It might surprise you to learn that many companies still issue their business customers with a raft of paperwork. For instance, they might incorporate paper-based shipment manifests with each order and several sheets of printed invoices or delivery notes.
With that in mind, you should open a dialog with your suppliers and inform them you’ve got a no-paper policy at your business. Most, if not all, suppliers should be accommodating of your policy and only send you electronic documents.
6. Provide All Customer Documents Electronically
Receipts, returns notes, contracts, and other paperwork are often printed out and sent out or given to customers for their records. As you can appreciate, such processes generate an enormous amount of paper each year.
Your business can cease those processes and elect to provide all customer documents electronically. You could even set up an online platform for your customers where they can download any documents at their leisure.
7. Use a Fax to PDF System
Believe it or not, some organizations still use fax machines and have fax numbers. If your business has valid reasons to use faxes, did you know you can partially digitize such communications?
These days, it’s possible to use software or online solutions that receive faxes and convert them into PDF documents. With many of those solutions, it’s as simple as diverting your fax number to an online fax service provider.
Some unified communications systems will automatically email those PDF faxes to one or more recipients or scan the details into a CRM system.
8. Don’t Take Telephone Messages on Paper
Everyone at your business isn’t going to be at their desks all the time. If someone gets a phone call and a colleague picks up the call, they might need to leave their workmate messages from their callers.
The traditional way of relaying that information is by leaving a paper note at their desk or something like a Post-It Note. But, that obviously means using paper. In those circumstances, messages can get transmitted electronically.
For example, they could send their colleagues brief email messages. Or, if everyone uses a unified communications solution, they could pass on messages through those systems.
Apart from not using paper, another advantage of electronic telephone messages is that the call message recipients always record the call to hand. In contrast, paper notes can end up getting lost or ending up in the wastepaper basket.
9. Return to Sender All Postal Communications
Sending all postal communications back to their senders might seem like a somewhat extreme and potentially time-consuming yet annoying process. But, it’s an excellent way of enforcing your no-paper policy at your business.
The trouble that many businesses face, even small enterprises, is how they receive large volumes of paper-based communications in the mail every day. Some of those communications are junk mail, and others provide out-of-date information.
Refusing to open all postal communications will send a clear message to your suppliers and other people that you operate a strict no-paper policy at your organization.
You might be wondering what could happen if some of those communications come from government sources. The reality is official paperwork from the government often gets communicated online, either through online portals or via email.
10. Set up Recycling Stations at Your Premises
The above ideas will reduce your paper usage and waste significantly. However, there will be times where paper is unavoidable in your organization. For example, products your business buys will have paper, card, or cardboard contents.
Employees might purchase sandwiches from nearby food outlets, and those sandwiches might be contained in a protective card-based enclosure. What can you do about such situations, you might ask yourself?
With such unwanted paper products entering your premises, you can make sure that it all gets recycled. It’s easy to set up recycling stations at your premises for all your employees to use.
What’s more, your staff could even recycle other items like plastic and glass. You may need to pay for such recycling provisions, but you can usually offset the costs against your organization’s tax bills each year.