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Going paper-light is good for the environment, but it’s even better for business

By Chris Gaskin, Document Solutions Consultant, Kyocera Document Solutions UK

The concept of the ‘paperless office’ was introduced in the 1940s and has been talked about ever since. Advances in technology mean that it is now possible to work without paper and yet its global consumption continues to rise, recently exceeding 400 million tonnes per year, according to Environmental Paper Network.

For most organisations, the notion of truly paperless working is daunting – a leap into the unknown that few are brave enough to take, despite its potential for greater productivity and agility and reduced costs and environmental impact.

Perhaps the answer is for organisations to lower the bar and aim to be paper-light, rather than paper-free. With the right tools and solutions, this can be done quickly and with minimal effort – and the rewards are still substantial, especially if all stakeholders understand what the organisation hopes to achieve by reducing its use of paper.

Here are four reasons why we believe businesses should move towards a paper-light way of working based on document digitisation and process automation:

1 Accelerated processes and better agility

As information locked away on the printed page isn’t easily found, shared or analysed, many organisations already rely on Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems to capture, store, secure and process content that would otherwise be unstructured and difficult to access.

Indeed, one of the driving ideas behind the implementation of ECMs over the last 25 years has been to release content trapped on the printed page by digitising it and putting it online, where it can be accessed more easily.

As ECMs transition from on-premise systems to cloud platforms, content is now more accessible than ever. Workers in remote locations (and different time zones) are able to collaborate easily by accessing documents in the cloud, from anywhere and on multiple devices.

2 Security and compliance

Another benefit of digitisation is improved data security and compliance, as the control of digital documents falls under the remit of an enterprise-wide cybersecurity strategy. This includes employee acceptable usage policies and ISMS (Information Security Management System) controls, such as ISO 27001.

As security threats are constantly evolving, continuous monitoring is essential to establish ongoing governance of the print infrastructure and to ensure compliance, for example through the detection of unauthorised access to documents. Digitisation enables many monitoring, control and auditing processes to be automated.

3 Reduced paper consumption

As well as speeding up business workflows, digitised document processes significantly reduce the use of printed documents, leading to lower consumables, paper and hard copy storage costs. Digitisation also gives businesses the opportunity to reduce the number of print devices deployed in their offices.

Print management solutions that give control and visibility of print activity provide additional opportunities to save money and reduce waste, for example by identifying where there are high levels of unnecessary printing and putting in policies to prevent wasteful practices.

The benefits are not just financial; less printing means lower energy consumption, fewer carbon emissions and reduced environmental impact from the production of paper, plastics and chemicals.

4 Greener reputation

Awareness around environmental sustainability has grown significantly since the introduction of the paper-light concept. According to Global Web Index, Millennials are particularly concerned about the environment, with 60% stating that they would pay extra for eco-friendly or sustainable products, compared to 55% of Generation Xers and 46% of baby boomers.

To really make a difference, businesses have to look beyond their own offices and influence their supply chains to develop a broader culture of sustainability, taking it from a buzzword to a better way of doing business. This means asking suppliers difficult questions about how they manufacture their products and the steps they have taken to reduce their own environmental impact.

A positive outcome for everyone

As organisations digitise their document processes and move to a paper-light working culture, they will still need to print and that means choosing a partner that can deliver printed documents in the most environmentally positive way.

It would be a missed opportunity to treat environmental sustainability simply as a box-ticking exercise when considering your next print and document management solution.

Sustainable print and document management is not only about printing less or using recycled paper but about limiting the environmental impact of the whole product lifecycle, from packaging and day-to-day use through to end-of-life decommissioning of the machine and its components.

While environmental sustainability changes societies, lives and futures, it also makes sound economic sense. Reducing energy, materials usage and waste is a positive outcome for everyone.

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