The Financial and Environmental Impact of Digitalising Paper Documents in Various Industries

Posted 21st January 2020

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E-Sign is a UK based company, which specialises in online documentation management and authentication. The company provides a service which allows other sectors and industries to digitalise all documents and store them safely on an online server. This service allows for a reduction in the use of paper and printing, as well as a reduction in time spent posting paper documents. E-Sign allows electronic signatures to be added to documents and returned to the sender almost instantly. As it is an online service, it provides access to documents from anywhere in the world, at any time.

The continued use of paper documents, in the majority of industries worldwide, has resulted in an increase in carbon emissions, as well as the sustained cost and time of printing (1). This increase in carbon emissions results largely from the production of paper, as opposed to the waste disposal (2). Three of the biggest paper dependant industries are: Legal,  recruitment/HR and eCommerce. In each of the three sectors listed, there is still a huge emphasis placed on printing each document and using traditional methods of postage to deliver those documents to clients. As well as the postage incurred, the storage of documents and transportation to the storage unit has all contributed to the cost of managing printed documents. Along with the financial costs incurred by companies in the above industries, the constant printing and posting of documents has also contributed to the carbon emissions generated in the U.K. and worldwide. A report by Neopost in May 2016 (3) found that the continued use of paper documents impacted business efficiency, productivity and profitability. This was due to the limited access of paper documents by employees, the unnecessary expense of using paper and impaired productivity. The reportalso found that the digitalisation of documents allowed employees to access documents from home, which in turn reduced CO2e emissions as well as improving productivity. Furthermore, the paper-free process revolution handbook (2012) (4) showed that the Association of Information and Image Management found that if a business digitalises documents from the very start, it can result in a 30-50% increase in process productivity and a 3 to10-fold reduction in turnaround time. This reduction in turnaround time can beexplained by the process charts shown below.