Pros and cons of going paperless

Posted by Kevin Pearce in Personal Finance on 7 December 2018 - Kevin is a Senior Credit Analyst at checkmyfile

Whether you are environmentally motivated or simply to get a discount for moving your billing online, you might find it makes sense to abandon paper for your business, if you haven’t already.

As technology gets more advanced and more prevalent in day-to-day life, you would expect paper use would gradually get phased out, or at least reduced dramatically. But instead, paper usage has increased heavily over the last 20 years According to Keely Travis Business Solutions, with 208 million tonnes of paper produced worldwide each year, up from just 92 million tonnes in 1997.

So how can we reduce our overall environmental impact by changing our office habits?

What does paperless mean?

As the name implies, paperless refers to removing paper usage from a business where possible. Usually this is motivated by a desire to be more environmentally-friendly.

Paper usage itself is not inherently bad for the environment, at least not when compared to other materials, such as plastics, which is why recently there’s been a trend towards replacing plastic straws with paper versions. However, the process of recycling, disposing of used paper or creating it fresh leaves quite the carbon footprint, making it the fourth largest contributor to greenhouse gasses in the world.

For that reason, a number of businesses have chosen to go ‘paperless’ in recent years, taking their product or correspondence available online wherever possible.

Pros of going paperless

As you might expect, there are plenty of good reasons to consider cutting back on the amount of paper you or your business uses.

Environmentally friendly

The biggest and most obvious benefit of removing waste paper from the workplace is to lessen the impact to the environment. Although most newly-made paper is uses renewable energy to do so, and recycling paper reduces the number of toxic chemicals that are released into the environment, reducing our usage of paper lessens the impact dramatically.

Paper, postage and printing costs

A huge amount of money can be saved for the companies that make the switch to paperless. Even though bulk email services will charge, the cost pales in comparison to the expense of buying paper and paying postage.

Increasing consumer demand for things to happen immediately (or as close as possible) has meant many would rather hear from companies by email than through traditional snail mail.

That also means things won't get lost in the post, but you might have to check your email’s junk folder from time to time.

Less clutter

Bills and paperwork soon accumulate, and it’s not long before physical copies start to take up a lot of physical space. Not too long ago an archive of filing cabinets would have been needed to do the same thing that computers connected to a network can.

You might find that if you can’t go fully paperless that even by cutting down on paper usage you can free up a lot of extra space.

Speed up applications

These days you can apply for credit online, send off any verification or security documents and even sign most credit agreements online. NatWest even offer a ‘paperless’ mortgage, which takes the whole process online, which means you won’t get snowed under with physical paperwork.

Cons of going paperless

We’re not going to pretend it’s a perfect world in a land without paper, and inevitably as technology expands its reach there are going to be some hiccups along the way.

Security

The rise of interconnected technology has made it that bit easier to steal information, even with security measures as advanced as they are today. Keeping this data as a physical copy makes this harder to illegally obtain because short of physically breaking in to a building, you’re unlikely to get access to this kind of customer data.

Environment

Although ultimately the environmental impact of going paperless is less than the impact of creating, pulping and recycling paper, computers and servers aren’t exactly carbon neutral either, since they all require electricity, which is typically produced by non-environmentally friendly methods.

Easier to forget bills

Unless you receive several reminders and check your emails regularly, you may not keep on top of important bills. It’s harder to ignore a bill when you’ve stuck it to your fridge or left it under your car keys.

In most cases however, if a business thinks that you owe them money, they are likely to be persistent no matter how you ask them to contact you, so they can be hard to miss.

What do we know about going paperless? Well, we launched the UK’s first online Credit Report almost 20 years ago. With 20 million Credit Scores generated in that time, you can just imagine how many trees have been spared.

Updated 07/12/2018 by Jamie Mackenzie Smith

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