Movies, books, and studies have all been predicting that offices would soon be paperless. Yet, global paper consumption is still measured to be at 421.88 million metric tons. Though the rate of increase has gotten slower thanks to massive environmental efforts, it continues to rise steadily year after year.
Are offices spending on printed forms
Is paper really that much better than plastic?
The fact that the paper-over-plastic movement has contributed to this seemingly persistent growth is a lesson on opting for resolutions instead of popular ones. While paper has numerous advantages over plastic, paper production in itself is an extremely wasteful endeavor.
In a progressively digital society that was further accelerated by the pandemic, the idea of sending out paper feels outmoded and impractical, especially for modern businesses. In today’s remote-working climate, it’s not far-fetched to even deem it unnecessary.
If your enterprise want to be relevant in the 21st century, the goal should be to become paperless.
What are the advantages of a paperless office?
The benefits of going paperless are obvious. There is less pressure on the environment and decreased reliance on physical resources results in serious savings. However, there is so much more to it.
Downsized carbon footprint
Let’s start with the most popular reason. Many enterprises nowadays are asking how can their business lessen their carbon footprint. Though paper use poses less environmental risk than plastic, it is still wasteful by today’s standards. According to the nonprofit organisation The World Counts, over 30 million acres of forests are destroyed annually to produce paper. The consequences of which not only threaten the existence of trees which also leads to a myriad of other catastrophes but also of wildlife.
Producing paper also uses an excessive amount of water. For example, a single sheet of printing paper requires 10 litres. Then, there’s also the consumption of energy to power paper mills and factories.
While many paper proponents claim that paper is biodegradable, it emits methane when it’s broken down or carbon dioxide when it’s burned or composted. In 2016, the pulp and paper industry in the United States alone generated 37.7 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, according to the environmental group Two Sides.
In the spirit of total transparency, data centres that service digitisation also consume vast amounts of energy, but there have been rapid improvements in employing cleaner methods. Google has already invested $2 billion towards renewable energy. Here at e-Boks, we help companies and countries in their digital transformation and we’re also working towards 100% carbon-neutral data by 2030.
Digitisation advocates always emphasise the cost reduction of going paperless. According to the Paperless Project as reported by Forbes, offices spend over $120 billion on printed forms, most of which become outdated within three months. Now, multiply that with the number of employees in the world. Plus, there’s the cost of printers, printing materials, maintenance, electricity. What more, so much space is required just to store many printed documents.
With hybrid and remote work setups becoming more prevalent, large offices are becoming a thing of the past. It is therefore unrealistic to still demand employees to go to the office just to file paperwork. Digitisation assures easy, fast, and reliable accessibility. Moreover, thanks to evolving technology, it’s much more secure to keep files digitised.
Which industries need to go paperless?
Despite strides in digitisation across the world, some industries are taking a long time to go full steam ahead. These are some of the industries that consume the most amount of paper and would benefit from digital transformation the most.
From case proceedings to contracts, the legal industry is one of the heftiest paper consumers in the world. A Forbes report “Law Is Lagging Digital Transformation” pins down this lag from the field’s “overall lack of digital awareness and preparedness.” Another major concern is the validity of contracts conducted through a digital platform.
However, here are some good points on why the legal industry should consider going paperless:
As more countries adopt digital-first policies, law, being a major component of society, needs to catch up. Digital transformation goes beyond technology and digitising. It’s the constant pivot towards improvement.
Electronic signatures are becoming more prominent. Regulation No. 910/2014 in the EU stipulates that electronic signatures “shall not be denied legal effect and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is in an electronic form.”
Companies like us at e-Boks already offer safe, secure, and encrypted online signature platforms that can protect your signature and documents. To add to its efficiency, contracts can also be filed digitally!
Postal and Logistical Services
Parcels are still wrapped in paper products—from the cardboard to the stuffing to the labels on the side. From end-to-end, couriers consume paper: senders fill up numerous forms, recipients sign proof of delivery, then there’s so much more in between. As for the post, there are the actual letters, the stamps, plus the envelopes. There’s also the documentation and filing. Apart from paper, there’s also so much energy and manpower being consumed throughout the entire process.
Here are more reasons why these industries should go paperless:
Many postal services, particularly in Europe, have already made the switch to digital when they saw the benefits of fully digitising the postal industry. The Danish government, for example, has already made Digital Postboxes mandatory for its citizens.
Better than emails, Digital Postboxes employs a closed, secure network for its users, thus preventing spam, ads, and severely limited malware and phishing attempts. Other countries that have adopted this service are Norway, Sweden, Greenland, and, recently, Ireland.
Though other countries haven’t fully digitised their postal systems, many have already resorted to hybrid solutions, signaling bigger steps into modernisation.
The shipping industry has done experiments to test limited door-to-door deliveries by assigning days committed to house deliveries and days committed to sending parcels to a general address. Recipients will receive a message if their package is already on the drop-off site. They can choose to pick them up right then or wait for house delivery days.
In 2005, IBM’s Global Logistics observed that their manual system was an inefficient process. Parcels go through certain steps, but no one could oversee them. Only the people in charge of a certain stage knew where the package was at a certain point. The company then began to digitise. Though crude for today’s standards, their idea to scan forms and launch them into an online server that was accessible by employees was revolutionary at that time. Delivery times were cut from 15 days to 25 hours and the number of missing items was reduced from 25% to zero. The fact that this was done 16 years ago shows the massive potential of digital transformation in the logistics industry.
Banks and Financial Services
In 2018, a printing company conducted a study on which industries print the most. They have calculated that the finance industry printed an astonishing average of 20.2 pages per employee. However, just a year earlier, the American Banking Association surveyed that two-thirds of Americans preferred digital banking channels. The disconnect between these two figures is intriguing. Why are banks resistant to going paperless?
One of the reasons is about tenacity more than anything else. Many of the world’s biggest banks are impressively old and they may be attached to some pretty old habits as well—traditions that they may believe has kept them last this long. In fact, IBM conducted a study on legacy banking institutions and discovered that many of them continue to use computing systems from the 1960s. To add to this, Financial News reported that 80% of their IT budgets go to the maintenance of such outdated systems.
Another roadblock for banks is that their departments are usually autonomous from each other, with divisions having their own systems without much consideration for the others. Creating a streamlined digital system, then, entails a major overhaul.
It would appear that the hesitation stems not so much from the desire to digitise but more from the conversion adjustment that it would take to go digital. The irony is, the more they delay, the more complex that process would become.
Here are more reasons why banks should switch to paperless:
One suggestion to help banks make the switch and enforce better implementation is to look at fintech. Fintech companies are offering digital-savvy banking clients online services that banks can’t seem to deliver: apps that help people build their assets on autopilot and allow for more flexibility, easier loan platforms, platforms for other assets such as cryptocurrency.
Studies have already shown that banking customers prefer more efficient ways to perform their transactions and see all-in-one solutions to handle their finances. A J.D. Power survey even showed that customers who applied for auto-financing on paper are less satisfied than those who applied online. Several payment systems are already solving this issue. If you can’t beat them, join them!
Banks should use this competition from fintech companies as a catalyst towards digital transformation.
It’s really just faster. Analog processes are cumbersome. In today’s digital era, where people are relying on more instant, 24/7 responsivity, carrying this dead weight is just not ideal.
It increases transparency, which is essential in the banking industry. Everything is online and accessible. Every step can be tracked and traced when need be. Employees and customers will both become much more accountable.
It improves security. From digital signatures to archiving, the virtual space is just actually much safer, especially with all the latest developments in technology. Returning to the previous statement, cases are virtual crime are much easier to monitor and detect.
Going digital has also proven to reduce errors, enhance productivity, and improve the customer experience.
With millennials’ purchasing power reaching $1.4 trillion in 2020, this generation has become banking’s biggest clientele. Reports have shown that they are also the biggest users of mobile banking services. They are also notorious for switching when things become too inconvenient. Millennials, as well as the succeeding Generation Z, prefer banking without limits. Adjustments are needed to cater to the current demographic.
What does paperless banking mean?
The Bank of America, as reported in Tata Consultancy Group’s 2020 study “Going Paperless: A Strategy for Financial Institutions,” revealed that “a complete shift to online statements will reduce about 37,000 metric tons of GHG emissions and 136 million gallons of blue water consumption.” This is a good thing, but the impact of this shift is far greater.
The same study concludes that “merely having an online banking option” does not a digital transformation make. It’s like putting the entire newspaper online. It doesn’t make a difference to put the same thing on a different platform. Rather, banks must learn to automate their entire process, simplifying and digitising back-end operations, and coming up with transformative policies that must evolve to the needs of both the financial institution and its customers.
How can banks start going paperless?
Develop e-forms that auto-fill information for customers.
Employ platforms such as e-Boks for digital signatures and online contracts. It would be a bonus if customers only need to sign once even if they bought multiple products.
Enable transparent transactions and allow for real-time updates.
Send billing statements and other notifications online.
Deliver more contextualised experiences for the customer, such as using behavior analytics to customise the interface based on users’ needs.
By going digital, banks can gather more accurate data that can help them understand their clients’ preferences, thus enabling them to facilitate better service and evolve. On the business side, it can even help banks make sales. By using predictive analytics, for example, banks can assess customer needs and advertise solutions for them.
How can you make your customers go paperless?
If progress is a two-way street, then so is resistance. Tata Consultancy Group also discovered that despite digital options, only 40 to 50 procent opted for digital statements. Using data, banks must address the reasons for customer opposition and come up with solutions, like perhaps a hybrid system for partially and non-digital customers.
Many banks are tackling this issue by going with a “paperless, not people-less” approach. Some customers are wary of getting answers via a chatbot. With the trust they put in their banks, it’s important that they feel that their banks care about them as well. Ensure that the customer experience is heightened and highlighted. In the end, it is imperative to emphasise that this conversion offers mutual benefits for both the financial institution and the customer—and the environment.
From the postal service to the banking industry, there continues to be a move towards going paperless. The benefits are apparent, but what’s even more obvious? In a world that’s moving towards efficiency, you wouldn’t want to be left behind.
Looking to transform your industry? Start your digitisation and growth with e-Boks.
- For more than 20 years, we have helped public authorities and businesses securely digitise their communication flows.
- We proudly provide the governments of Denmark, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Ireland with national digital post solutions.
- Well-renowned international banks, insurance companies and energy service providers have chosen to use the e-Boks platform instead of pursuing their own solutions.