What a paperless office really means

Growing up, many of us were instructed not to waste paper - that using too much paper kills trees and harms the environment. Delving into the true statistics behind the state of paper production and use is truly staggering.

Far from just being something told to kids so they don’t use up all the printer paper, the paper production and recycling industry is massive and growing (399 million tons of paper and paperboard were used globally in 2020).

Not only does paper production mean fewer trees, it also uses massive amounts of water - around 300-400 tons for each ton of paper - as well as energy, and applies chemicals used for brightening and other aesthetic measures. Paper in landfills also can produce methane, a major contributor to greenhouse gasses.

Moving beyond paper

At an individual level, many of us have transitioned to using our devices for tasks that have typically involved paper. From emails to to-do lists and even drawing, technology has given us easy, paperless options.

But how has this translated to the office? Email and internal chat tools have become basic working requirements, but according to the Environmental Paper Network (EPN), Europe has the second-highest paper consumption per capita in the world. And offices make up a considerable percentage of this amount.

Paper consumption and your office

Beyond improving their environmental impact, there are additional benefits to offices looking to reduce their paper usage or to go completely paperless.

Reasons to go paperless:

  • Save space: although thin, paper is not known for being particularly space-saving. Offices crammed with file cabinets are instantly perceived as cluttered and antiquated. Digital solutions aimed at helping offices reduce paper usage also directly help with freeing up space used by paper.
  • Cut supply costs: although paper is still cheap, the rate at which most offices use it adds up quickly. Not to mention the cost of printers, ink, envelopes, and more. Many digital tools today can be found at low cost or even free and provide a more streamlined experience without paper.
  • Improve efficiency: loss and mishandling of paper documents has been a pain for office workers for decades. Transitioning to digital documentation management makes it easier to keep track of all documentation and helps to reduce the risk of losing or damaging important paperwork.
  • Increase security: confidential documents have typically been protected with lock and key - not exactly tamper-proof. Digital trust solutions offer heightened security measures that require identity verification for access and signing, offer time-stamping and sealing of documents, and more.
  • Work towards digital transformation: paper has been the basis of operations for many businesses. Those looking to modernize in order to remain relevant must look towards digital options to grow and develop. Conveniently, digital transformation goes hand-in-hand with a paperless office.

While these are only a small selection of the various benefits that a business will encounter in working to reduce their paper consumption, the impact is clear. Many may argue that there are still very good reasons to use paper - namely, to print out documents that require a signature.

Paperless signing with electronic signatures

Traditional “wet” signatures have long been a standard for formalizing binding documents. These must be done on paper and in person. These processes often involve multiple copies, often with dozens of pages.

Wet signatures on paper are not without their risks, not to mention the countless amounts of paper, often postage, as well as transport costs. By working with tools to facilitate electronic document handling and verified electronic signatures, the amount of paper used in an office can be drastically reduced.

Not to mention the additional benefits of working with a solution that takes forms and document signatures online, such as document activity tracking (for audit trails), bulk signing options, sequential signing, easy document distribution, and more.