Being smart with paper can make you business more sustainable

Very soon we’ll be living in a paperless society. It would be interesting to know who first said that and when. To be fair, our paper usage is much lower than it used to be, but sadly it’s probably still much higher than many people might think.

In fact, even a small office can generate significant amounts of paper waste in a very short time. While it may not be as significant or hazardous (for which industries have to hire environemental consultancies like RSB Environmental to be compliant with the laws), paper waste is nonetheless part of the issue. It’s probably common knowledge by now that minimizing the quantity of products we consume is good for sustainability in general, but what may be less obvious is that can also be good for the long-term sustainability of a business.

With this in mind, here are three tips on how to be smart with paper and how it can help your business.

Digitize any outstanding paper archives

In principle, digitizing paper archives should be an easy win. In practice, the size (and tedium) of the job can sometimes deter companies from undertaking it. The fact is, however, that digitizing paper archives offers a wide range of benefits in addition to helping the environment by recycling paper which is no longer needed. It frees up valuable office space, lowers the risk of fire and improves data security. There are document management software solutions out there to help you do this – if you’re a small business, for example, you could search “DMS for our small biz” and see what comes up. There will be DMS for every size of business so, if you haven’t done so already, why not have a look online and see what could work for you.

Move to “digital-first” processes

Similar comments apply to the benefits of persuading staff (and in some cases customers) to start treating paper as something to be used only when necessary rather than the default means of communicating anything significant.

There may still be the odd occasion when paper is clearly the best option, for example, if you want to commemorate a special occasion in some tangible way, but there are many occasions when the use of paper is just an ingrained habit.

A classic example of this is printing out paper copies of PowerPoint slides for audience members to follow along and take home with them if they wish. Audiences should be able to follow along with the main presentation and frankly if they can’t then the presentation needs to be changed. They can then be emailed a soft copy of the presentation if they wish it.

Basically, challenge your staff to think about why they are using paper and work to remove any barriers to them going digital, for example, unwieldy processes for updating internal and/or external websites.

Implement controls on the use of printers

These days, many offices implement network printers as standard. This is very convenient for staff, but the fact is, if you want to change an established behaviour, it can often be very helpful to make it a bit less convenient.

Larger companies can implement a process called “follow-me printing” which basically means that staff can send documents to a printer from their PC as usual but that they then have to go an activate the job by tapping a card on a reader.

Smaller companies may wish to consider the option of just removing the network link and forcing staff to transfer any documents onto (company-provided) USB sticks and take them over to one specific, printer-linked computer for printing.

Author Bio

Joe Muddiman is the General Manager at Rads Document Storage, a secure facility based in Nottingham which provides professional document management services.