Organizations Using More Paper: Increasing Trends in Paper Usage When It Should be Decreasing

It may seem a bit contradictory to popular common sense and logic. You may be asking yourself why it is that in an age where computers are in almost every business and where multiple file formats allow for the digitizing of almost any document are organizations using more paper.  You are not alone in that line of thinking. According to several projections that were made popular in the 1970s, it was estimated that offices were supposed to be completely paperless by 2015 due to the increasing rise in computers. However, statistics would seem to suggest the exact opposite of this prediction. In fact, in the last 20 years, paper consumption in the United States and Canada has increased from 92 million tons to a whopping 208 million tons. This is a 126% increase!

If you think that is crazy, here are some statistics that drive the point home:

  • Americans consume the most amount of paper per capita—more than 500lbs annually—than anywhere else in the world.
  • Paper is the largest contributor of solid waste in landfills in the United States—26 million tons (or 16% of landfill solid waste).
  • Approximately 68 million trees are used to produce paper in the United States alone.
  • The average person in the US, at the end of the last decade, has consumed as much paper as 6 people combined in Asia or more than 30 people in Africa.

These are staggering statistics that clearly show that organizations (large corporations and small businesses) have neither embraced paperless initiatives or discovered the right way to implement paperless technology.


Why Aren’t Organizations Using Less Paper?

This is a very valid question. If technology has come so far within the last decade, then why hasn’t paper consumption decreased? There may be several answers to this question. First, many organizations are just not aware of the benefits of a paperless environment. The benefits of a paperless office are numerous and significant (these will be discussed later). However, companies that are not educated in leveraging modern advances such as document management software simply will not see the need to implement paperless initiatives.

Another reason why organizations may not be using less paper, and this is probably the most popular reason in most cases, is that companies have not properly implemented their paperless initiatives. This usually stems from a lack of employee education and training. Despite having the latest technology available, employees are still indiscriminately printing documents several times over. It is estimated that the average document is printed approximately 9 – 11 times during its life cycle.

Lastly, there are some companies, believe it or not, that have just not embraced modern technology. These organizations are usually fully paper-based and prefer manual methods of data input and physical filing. Although these types of companies are rare, they do in fact exist in some parts of the world.


What Are the Benefits of Going Paperless?

This is the million dollar question; apart from being good for the environment, companies can benefit greatly from going paperless. First, let’s look at the detriments of a paper-dependent office and the many ways paper consumption can negatively impact organizations.

  • In the United States, companies spend more than $120 billion a year on printed documents and forms.
  • On average, the typical employee spends 30 – 40% of available time searching for information in filing cabinets, and filing costs on average about $20 a month.
  • The time spent retrieving information results in increased company overhead costs.
  • Each four drawer filing cabinet holds an average of 12,000 documents and can take up to 9 square feet of available office space per cabinet and costs up to $1500 a year.
  • It is estimated that large corporations lose a document every 12 seconds, with each misfiled document costing up to $125 and each lost document costing between $350 – $700.
  • More than 70% of today’s businesses would fail within three weeks should they suffer a catastrophic event that resulted in the loss of paper-based records.

The good news is however, that going paperless is not as difficult as it sounds. A report done by AIIM titled “Paper-Free Progress: Measuring Outcomes” surveyed 420 organizations who had taken paper-free initiatives. Of these 420 organizations, almost 50% said that their paper usage was decreasing. This is a 23% increase from last year’s report. Furthermore, according to the research, 84% of executives saw a return on investments as a result of going paperless in as little as 18 months, with 26% seeing returns within a 6-month time period.

Other than increased return on investments, here are some of the other benefits of a paperless office:

  • Increased Employee Efficiency and Productivity. Being paperless, primarily by means of document management software (DMS), means that employees can locate and retrieve information almost instantaneously. Most DMS programs, such as eFileCabinet, have powerful search functions that enable users to search by file names or by document keywords.
  • Reclamation of Office Space. As previously mentioned, filing cabinets can take up valuable office space, often resulting in clutter and uncomfortable working conditions. Storing documents in eFileCabinet eliminates the need for physical storage, and reclaimed office space can be used for other purposes.
  • Increase Firm Valuation and Enhance Profitability. Reduced paper and storage costs means less overheads and potential for significant cost savings. Also less time is spent on compliance, resulting in more efficient staff and, by extension, better customer service.

These are just some of the benefits that companies can reap from making the move to being paperless. Utilizing eFileCabinet’s DMS is a huge step in the right direction to using less paper, thereby increasing your firm’s profitability. If you would like to know more about how eFileCabinet can help you on your way to being paperless, fill out the form provided for a free 15-minute demo.