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Go paperless: 6 steps to a paperless business

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Going paperless can be daunting but more and more companies are embracing the challenge.

Up to 50% of business waste is paper, so by going paperless a business can significantly reduce their impact on landfill while reducing costs.

Converting to a paperless office can also support other earth-friendly efforts, such as water conservation, as each sheet of paper takes an average of five liters of water to produce.

In a recent Cpl survey, 30% of companies stated they have successfully gone paperless. Here are 6 easy ways your company can follow suit and go paperless this year:

1. Get leadership and employee buy-in:

Employees are often resistant to change, and it can take at least a month to change habits. To get past any resistance create clear company policies for going paperless.

With any new initiative always explain why you are doing it and what processes will, or won't, be changing. Outline your new procedures and remind people regularly to follow them.

Set up targets to reduce printing and reward those who embrace the changes. This should encourage others to cut down paper usage and get you closer to a completely paperless office.

However, while every employee plays a part in the process the business leaders are the ones who can make or break it. If they don't embrace paperless changes other employees will follow suit and initiatives won't be taken seriously.

In Cpl, a key driver at becoming environmentally friendly has been the support of our leadership team. Cpl CEO Anne Heraty started the year by stating 'Cpl is committing to taking the necessary steps to go Green in 2019 and I am personally passionate about this. We are all aware of climate change, the melting polar ice caps and the threat from rising seawater. The evidence confirms that human activity is accelerating the rate of climate change which is something we can address.'

This leadership support encourages employee buy-in and led to the creation of the Cpl Green Works committee.

2. Create a plan and set goals

Going paperless won't happen overnight. To succeed you need to have a digital strategy in place to replace anything you would have printed before, for example, contracts for new starters. You'll also need to set clear goals to manage this process.

Start by organising your current paperwork and files in a system that works for your company. It might be a good idea to have each department handle their own while following overall company guidelines.

A 50% reduction in printing is a good starting place, and a final goal of 80% reduction is a realistic end goal. Within our own Cpl offices, our aim is to reduce our paper usage by 70% this year. Whatever your goal, check progress regularly and adjust operations as needed.

3. Make it easier to work without paper

Going paperless needs to be easy for employees and deliver tangible benefits. For example, by storing all your information online, rather than in files, the information will be easier to find and use.

Having the right technology to replace paper is also essential. Ensure all employees have access to a laptop which they can take to meetings or organise iPads for meeting rooms so people can take notes digitally.

In our offices, we provide everyone with a laptop, so they don't need a notebook to bring to meetings. We are also piloting the use of iPad's in meeting rooms for our recruiters to use during meetings.

4. Work with suppliers to reduce waste

A good step for reducing waste in your business is stopping it before it comes in. By working with sustainably conscious suppliers you can dramatically reduce your waste consumption. Contact any current suppliers to ask for minimal packaging and explain your company's ethos around reducing waste.

Make sure that that your suppliers send all invoices in PDF format via email. This will save paper and make invoicing more efficient.

When we contacted our suppliers about reducing packaging almost 95% were happy to comply and have agreed to send minimal packaging.

5. Make printing difficult

To avoid unnecessary printing make it difficult for employees. Reduce the number of printing sheets kept in the printer and change the printer settings to make it mandatory to print on both sides.

You should also opt for black and white ink where possible - it is more efficient and uses less vegetable-based colour inks which helps reduce air and land pollution.

After a settling in period it can also be a good idea to limit printer access to a small group of people, or even remove printers from your office altogether.

6. Set a clear deadline

Choose a deadline for being paperless and stick to it. It's difficult to change old habits so you will need to be patient and keep people informed on progress and on the benefits of a paperless office. 6 to 9 months is an achievable timeline for most companies.

Creating a paperless office is an ongoing process, one which should be adapted and perfected over time.

Follow these guidelines to create your own plan which is tailored to your employees and your line of work.

If you'd like to learn more about going paperless or other sustainability initiatives get in touch, one of our Future of Work experts would be delighted to advise.