Welcome to the paperless office!

#environmental sustainability #society #business

Way back in 1975, at the very dawn of digitisation, the office of the future was already being seen as a paperless environment. Today, we have the tools to make this vision a reality and its benefits are multiples. In adittion to promoting sustainability, it improves document access and worker productivity.

In 1975, offices were infested with papers, but a visionary article in Businessweek magazine was already imagining an environment without folders and ring binders stored on shelves or stacked on desks. Its author — George E. Pake, the then Director of R&D at Xerox — had a clear vision of every worker having a screen and a keyboard they could use for accessing their documents at the push of a button. Now, digitisation makes it possible to fulfil this prophesy and help to solve the overexploitation of natural resources caused by paper consumption.


It can hardly be said that paper tiptoes its way through the environment. Apart from the energy needed to carry out the process, litres of water, chemical products and, above all, vegetable fibre are required to manufacture it. As the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is at pains to point out, it is thought that 40% of the world's industrial wood is used for the manufacture of paper products. According to the international group of environmental organisations calling itself the Environmental Paper Network (EPN), 26% of this amount is used for writing and printing. Paper recycling, one of the solutions for limiting its impact, is increasingly common, but it still falls short.

Paper is indirectly responsible for other types of health-threatening environmental damage, such as that caused by the volatile organic compounds of some printing inks. The Green Choice report published by Epson ensures us that replacing laser printing with its inkjet counterpart could save 333,000 tonnes of CO2. Modern printers offer numerous options and all that you need to do is to ask yourself a few questions before using them: Shall I print in colour or black and white? Normal or draft quality? One or two-sided? But the key question remains: is printing really necessary? Increasingly more companies are going for the economic optimisation option of using cost per copy formulas, which also help raise awareness of paper consumption.


The paperless office turns to the digitisation of documents and to corporate resource planning systems to reduce the amount of paper in the workplace. Implementing these processes within a company requires a methodical approach. Some of the steps to follow in order to achieve the objective are described below:

  • Undertake a preliminary analysis of everything that's printed to know exactly how much paper is used and what it's used for. If the volume is high, an external printing control audit can be requested.
  • Calculate how much money is spent on paper. Not only on the paper itself, but also all other related expenses. For example, the cost of printer components and accessories — toner or ink cartridges — and of printer maintenance — the technical service —.
  • Acquire the equipment required for the digitisation of documents. In addition to scanners or multifunction printers, software applications for the storage and management of digital documents such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, Adobe Acrobat etc. are required.
  • Provide employee training and review the company's internal processes to adapt them to the running of a paperless office. It is necessary to encourage a new mindset within the company and create a climate that is conducive to successful digitisation.
  • Monitor the amount of paper being purchased in order to follow up on its development. When beginning to work digitally, paper consumption should be monitored. If there is no reduction, the actions implemented have to be reviewed.
  • Scan all documents received and implement the very latest technological innovations: the digital signature for the formalising of contracts, online banking for the monitoring of financial records and electronic billing for the processing of payments.

The key factors of a paperless office.#RRSSThe key factors of a paperless office.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The key factors of a paperless office [PDF]


The main benefits of document digitisation are:

 Protecting the environment
It limits the consumption of paper and contributes towards the saving of natural resources. It also helps reduce the waste and CO2 emissions derived from its production and transportation.

 Document management
Finding a digital file takes less time and enables access to it be remotely authorised or restricted. It also improves its traceability and makes tracking amendments easier.

 Increased security
The digital format is far more secure than paper. It is easier and cheaper to make backup copies, which minimises risk in the event of an accident.

 Freeing up space
Digitised documents can be stored in a server. The space freed up by the removal of shelf units will be useful for enlarging the office with new workstations or meeting rooms.

 Reducing expenditure
There will be savings in the purchase of paper, binders, pens, shredders, ink cartridges, photocopiers, printers, equipment maintenance, spare parts etc.

 Responsible consumption: a key factor in being environmentally-friendly

 Corporate culture in the digital age