7 Steps You Can Take to Help Make Your Business Paper-Free

Attempting to make your business paper-free may seem daunting, but these tips can help you take the plunge.
February 28, 2018

Businesses have long recognized the benefits of paper reduction, including environmental benefits and significant cost savings. But even the most conscientious company probably has quite a few pages landing on the office printer every day. It can seem like an unavoidable part of getting work done.

Even a small amount of paper waste can take its toll, though. If you're looking for ways to cut costs and go green, reducing the reams of paper and ink cartridges you're still purchasing can make a difference. Here are a few steps you can take to drop paper use even further in your business.

1. Shrink file cabinets.

Many offices still have large file cabinets equipped to hold decades of files, despite the fact that less paper is generated each year. Not only does this take up much-needed space, but it may also encourage workers to generate and save paper files. It's time to digitize those old files using a tool like a document management system.

Even if you've taken measures to automate processes, you're likely still using more paper than necessary on a daily basis.

Going digital will help you shrink file cabinets to a small drawer. By doing that, you'll encourage everyone to keep paper files to a minimum, while also sending the message that you're a company that prefers to work electronically. The document management tool can help make it easy for employees to access old files when necessary.

2. Digitize your meetings.

If you haven't discovered the power of technology to transform your meetings, you may be missing a great opportunity. Even if all your meetings involve sitting around a conference table with team members or clients, you can eliminate paper waste and improve the content of your meetings. If your team members have tablets or laptops, encourage them to use them for note taking rather than relying on a pen and pad of paper. Use a projector or whiteboard for your visuals instead of paper-based handouts.

3. Invest in e-receipts.

If yours is a customer-facing business, receipts can be a serious source of paper consumption throughout the year. As more storefronts have shifted to electronic receipts, customers are beginning to prefer them, not only because they're more environmentally responsible, but also because an email or text is easier to save than a piece of paper.

If your existing point-of-sale setup doesn't allow for this, consider making the switch, since it can make things easier for everyone involved. At the very least, begin asking your customers if they actually want a receipt, especially if you specialize in low-dollar items that aren't often returned for a refund or exchange. You'll likely find at least some customers decline, allowing you to save paper.

4. Create a payment portal.

Another area of a business that can be paper-intensive is accounting. Invoicing may still involve paper at least on a small level, since there are some vendors and clients who prefer paper-based processes. Instead of relying solely on email or billing software to manage your invoicing processes, consider investing in a payment portal that will allow clients to pay their invoices with a simple login. Automation can also have the added benefit of improving cash flow, since you'll spend less time waiting for things to circulate through the postal system.

5. Rethink your marketing.

If you're still using direct mail marketing, you may be needlessly wasting money. Pay close attention to the ROI on these campaigns, taking into consideration the cost of printing and postage to get your messaging in the hands of customers. Instead of paying for coupons in local circulars, consider a loyalty program that will keep customers coming back. Email campaigns can save money while also giving you the analytics you need to inform future marketing efforts.

6. Use a collaboration tool.

When paper is being used for interoffice communications, it's likely a sign you don't have a platform available for employees to collaborate. A collaboration tool can bring everyone together in a social media or chat-style setting, giving you the perfect place to post announcements and track project progress. This can especially benefit organizations that have a combination of on-site and remote workers, since they'll be able to stay in touch in a way they couldn't otherwise.

7. Make it competitive.

Few things can encourage a team of workers to participate in an initiative like a competition. Announce your goal of reducing paperwork and offer a prize to the team that does the best job of helping out. The prize could be awards to the team that comes up with a great suggestion for a way to cut costs, or for a demonstrated reduction in paper usage in a particular department. Even if only one team can win, the overall result can be a workforce that is more conscientious about waste.

Businesses have plenty of reasons to cut down on paper use, starting with the cost savings it brings. Even if you've taken measures to automate processes, you're likely still using more paper than necessary on a daily basis. By performing a business audit and identifying possible areas of reduction, you can become more environmentally aware while also helping to make your operations more efficient and productive.

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