Research from the European Environmental Paper Network (EEPN) has assessed paper efficiency standards across a number of key organisations and found marked comparisons according to business sector.

Government bodies and banks came out as the best performers, taking serious measures to cut paper usage within their organisations. Utility companies were rated as the worst performers, with many retailers also lagging behind.

Revealing the findings at a seminar in London yesterday, EEPN co-ordinator Mandy Haggith said the results were quite surprising.

“There are quite a lot of organisations where the paper efficiency egg has yet to crack. Utility firms have a long way to go to reap the benefits of saving paper – we thought energy companies would be pretty switched on with resource efficiency,” she said.

And while there were a few “great performers” in the retail sector, Haggith said the majority were slow in tackling the issue.

EEPN has developed a paper utility matrix whereby companies can assess the carbon lifecycle impact of their paper use, from forestry practice through to consumer use and disposal.

Haggith advised that the best way for businesses to approach paper efficiency was to eliminate single-use applications such as printing off documents or emails, but added that paper applications needed to be redesigned to reduce additional resource demands.

“In your average office it is estimated that cost-wise, 11% comes from the cost of paper while 89% is the associated energy consumption, printing, postage and storage needs,” she said.

The Co-operative Bank is already demonstrating good practice in this field – speaking on behalf of the organisation, Jazz Chana said the bank engaged in a significant paper efficiency drive when it moved its head office to Manchester.

Before the move, staff were encouraged to declutter their filing systems and a backscanning procedure was implemented whereby files were digitally scanned wherever possible.

More than 3,000 filing cabinets were removed and desk pedestals were eliminated. In addition, the company switched to digital mail to enable it to control paper entry more efficiently.

“The business achieved a 71% reduction in paper usage from this exercise,” Chana told delegates. Going forward, the bank intends to build on its paper strategy and cut back on its printing requirements further.

“Bank statements are due to be digitalised, our advertisements and promotions will become digital and we are moving towards electronic invoicing,” Chana added.

Maxine Perella

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