Paper is one of the most commonly used items in businesses. Whether it’s blank paper to print on, post, promotional items, catalogues, forms or post-it notes, paper is ubiquitous in office life – and generates far more expenses than could be thought.
However, the issue here is not just about economising paper and saving money, but on a higher level, about being more efficient at work and more environmentally friendly by reducing each employee’s carbon footprint.
Here are 10 tips to help businesses reduce their paper consumption:
1. Make an inventory
Investigate your corporate paper consumption over the past year, including not only blank paper for printing but also posters, flyers, post, letterheads, envelopes, forms, payslips, brochures and catalogues, notebooks, i.e. all paper-based item used or seen in the company’s premises. This will be the basis on which to fix improvement targets at all levels, based on individual and team specific requirements.
2. Go electronic
Most paper sheets can be replaced by their equivalent in hard copy for each department: forms, surveys, newsletters, memos, brochures, invoices, etc....
Even well-wishing cards can be replaced with e-cards and important corporate information such as induction booklets, appraisal forms and pay slips can all be processed electronically.
Standardising forms, documents and presentations is key to the success of the project. With templates and instructions accessible to all from the intranet (or server’s shared area), everyone will use the same corporate documents and be mutually motivated to do tasks online.
Meetings do not need paper!
Agendas can be sent to participants electronically, presentations can be done on a whiteboard and notes taken on a laptop or notebook. If reports must be distributed around, this can be done on a portable device. Subsequent to-do lists are easily done on Outlook or similar tools and even post-it notes can be placed on your computer desk electronically.
3. Reduce printing
If there are any left, get rid of individual/team printers and replace them with a unique common multifunction printer that records requested tasks and requires users to swipe their staff ID to start printing. Instead of printing easily from the desktop printer on your desk, making people walk to the printer and have to use their card before collecting their prints makes them think twice about launching a print. It also enables the invaluable collection of data – how many sheets are printed or copied, by whom (individual or service), when, etc. (not to mention any personal use of the machine).
Most catalogues and brochures can be uploaded onto corporate websites as a PDF for viewing online. Clients can browse from their computer and if need be, print the relevant pages on their personal printer at their own expense.
As for ordering, this can be easily done online – and it’s safer and quicker than the post!
4. Reduce copying
Is copying really necessary? Can’t the document be sent in electronic version?
If not, double-sided copies should be the default norm, if possible on thinner paper, e.g. 70gsm paper costs 15% less than the standard 80gsm sheets used.
5. Forget faxing
Does anyone really need fax machines nowadays? Most computers have software that can replace the function, saving space, paper and money.
6. Set up your computer
It is quite easy to set up printer-friendly options on employees’ computers: With default settings to double-sided, monochrome and quick print, there will be savings on paper and ink. If everyone in the company uses reduced margin and fonts, this should also lower the amount of paper used.
7. Use the right software
Systematically opting for soft over hard copy means you may have to edit and amend documents on screen; there are revision features for word processing software and even for PDF documents. These functions eliminate the – sometimes long-lasting – process of printing out drafts to proofread and approve.
8. Reduce post
To reduce unwanted letters, contact companies to unsubscribe from their mailing lists; it is also possible to be taken off the marketing lists by asking the national post distributor. Also, a sign “no promotional post please” on the mailboxes should deter tracts and free papers distribution.
Businesses should provide paper collection bins in offices, near “strategic” places such as the printer, photocopier, etc. Re-use paper sheets as draft paper, notebooks or internal memos to be displayed if there are no digital screens around.
Used paper can be recycled and reused, and shredded paper can advantageously replace padding in your packs and boxes.
To be successful long-term, it is necessary that office mentalities change: reflexes must be to use digital rather than hard copies. Therefore it will be very important to communicate the why and how of the new savings/environmental strategy. Communicate targets and get everyone onboard: IT (to provide help at the start), HR (to inform and show the example), marketing (to adapt tools to the new strategy) etc. ..
Every month, paper consumption vs. targets should be published by service/individual to make each employee aware of their individual ecological footprint; this knowledge will enable everyone to realise and take control of their use of paper.
Very soon, the savings and green credentials will be apparent to confirm the business is on the right track.