Going Green

Strangely, today’s omnipresence of technology needed to manage digital information is counterbalanced by an ‘unexpected’ increase in the use of paper. Despite the fact that today technology gives us access to a lot more information than in the past, we still and always will have the need to print this information. This is what we are being told by the quasi-linear increase in the use of paper experienced over the past decades. It is as though to fully understand what we are reading (read, understand and process), we need to resort to the use of printed paper. Some time ago I went to amend the terms of my banking account; I lost track of the number of signatures that I had to place on the various pieces of paper that were being fed to me, it was a truly astounding number, and by the end of it all my file was over one centimetre thick. Looking at the desk of my efficient bank clerk, and taking notice of the piles of files (I counted almost half a dozen) carefully arranged around her desk, which was fairly much the same as another dozen desks spread around the open space we were in, the following question crossed my mind: “don’t you feel flooded by all this paper?”. Her answer, “what you see is only the tip of the iceberg”, made me understand that, at least in certain environments, the paperless office is still a thing of the future.


Paper is and remains an exceptional tool. Light and flexible, and in high res, it holds thousands of characters, displays coloured illustrations as easily as black and white ones, and its high level of contrast always makes it easy to read. The people who ‘use’ paper documents are capable of gathering from them a large amount of paralinguistic information: The layout can highlight aesthetical or qualitative elements, and the way text is arranged, distributed and subdivided can help to immediately drive home the complexity of a document, much like the thickness of a book or report provides indications on its content. The ‘hipertextual’ quality of a book, with its summaries, notes and indexes, makes it ideal for non-linear reading. Furthermore, books and documents smell nice!

But paper costs, and it will sink our business!

Companies are becoming increasingly aware that cutting down the presence of paper in their lifecycle will not only help to gain them a name as a 'socially responsible company', but also offer real savings while ensuring greater speed and productivity. The elimination or downsizing of paper used by a company also results in the immediate elimination/cutting of costs deriving from copies/photocopies, printing, mailing, storage and disposal, as well as sourcing.

Cost savings can add up to 30 times the purchase cost! In other words, a block of paper that costs around €4 can in the end cost up to €120, and this is without taking into account the work required to manage it, which includes activities related to purchasing, photocopying, distribution, collecting printed material from printers, signing documents in one or more places, placing sheets of paper in fax machines, sealing documents in envelopes, adding postage stamps, archiving documents and, when digital copies are called for, scanning the original paperwork.


In order to avoid the production of more paper, we need to configure and adopt usable services and technologies, ones that are simple and intuitive, capable of allowing an ‘agile’ management of digital documents, of easing the management of the period of transition, regulating the conversion of paper files into digital ones, of incentivising communication and the flow of information between staff and/or offices.

The ‘going green’ approach stems from this recognition: “today, all documents are digitally generated with a computer. It is desirable, as well as possible, to maintain this digital genesis, sticking to digital highways that preserve full legal enforceability and compliance”.

Thus dematerialisation is achieved through:

  • Creation and management of digital documents.

  • Legally binding signature of digital documents (authorisation).

  • Digital transmission of documents.

  • Web services that safely and securely manage (strong authentication) authorisation/validation procedures (digital signature).

  • Long term archiving service of digital documents.

Dematerialisation is a major step forward that drastically cuts down company expenses and improves their green approach. It is not free, but the financial investment is tiny when compared to the savings achieved on sourcing, storage, mailing and, last but not least, the ever-present desire for increased staff productivity. Other less obvious but still sizeable savings derive from the minimising of mistakes, causes and concerns related to the loss of documents and the effort to avoid the 'waste of talent' in on-site activities. There is a strong probability that the cost of paper experienced by a company, whatever its size, is much higher than the one shown in the company budget, even in the unlikely event that it has been calculated. Calculating the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the amount of paper in a company cannot be done without a careful analysis of both direct and indirect costs.

So, just for a moment, let’s forget about the environment and think about ourselves and our business and, in case you simply didn’t notice or just forgot about it, now is the time to drive home the idea that…

… a paperless company truly and tangibly increases our competitiveness!