The paper-free office remains a distant dream

Paper still jamming businesses on World Paper Free Day

Almost half of businesses say that the single biggest productivity improvement would be to remove paper, yet paper consumption is still increasing for one in five organisations, according to a report from information management analysts AIIM.

In the study, ‘Paper Wars 2014: an update from the battlefield’, 68 per cent of respondents said that 'business-at-the-speed-of-paper' will be unacceptable in just a few years' time, as the rising expectation amongst customers and employees is for a more rapid response. However, only one in five companies has a board-level-endorsed policy to actually reduce paper.

“Reducing paper-use has a tangible impact on business, from improved customer service to increased productivity,” said John Mancini, AIIM president. “Business-at-the-speed-of-paper simply isn't compatible with the modern digital enterprise and while we can't eliminate paper altogether, we can all be much smarter about using less.”

Organisations already committed to reducing paper reported a notable return on investment on paper-free projects within 12 months. The biggest benefits from going paper-free were cited as being able to give a faster response to customers and increased productivity.

The ‘Paper Wars 2014’ report was launched today as part of World Paper Free Day 2014, an AIIM initiative that aims to show how much paper is wasted and how well we can manage without it.

Hundreds of the world's biggest organisations are supporting the Day, including IBM, Accenture, London Underground, Citigroup, US Department of Defense and HP. With around 300 million tonnes of paper produced each year, resulting in almost four billion trees cut down annually, World Paper Free Day encourages businesses and consumers to pledge to go paper-free for one day. For each registration AIIM is making a donation to The Arbor Day Foundation, a charity that encourages the planting of trees.

Over half of respondents to the AIIM survey admitted printing personal paper copies to take to a meeting or to add a signature. They also use printed copies for reading offline or out-of-the-office (50 per cent), especially to review and add mark-up (45 per cent).

Many respondents feel a lack of management initiatives (47 per cent) and a perceived need for physical signatures (44 per cent) were the main reasons why there is still so much paper in their business processes. There was also felt to be a general lack of understanding of paper-free options. Legal and finance departments were considered to be the most resistant to the introduction of paper-free working, followed by HR and general administration.

“Millions of unnecessary sheets of paper are printed every single day and businesses of all sizes are seeing the office cluttered and their processes slowed,” concluded John Mancini. “The fact of the matter is we need to use less paper. The paperless office will probably never arrive, but achieving paper-free processes is a realistic goal for any business and there are many ways to capture, manage and store information digitally.”

The survey was taken using a web-based tool by 444 individual members of the AIIM community between 12 September and 7 October 2014. The full report is free to download:

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