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It’s an admirable goal to make your business paperless. For some business owners, it’s about positively benefiting the environment. For others, it’s about maintaining a certain image. For still others, it’s about saving money. Whatever your motivation, there are some important strategies you’ll need to integrate if you want to make your business fully paperless.

Sneaky Sources of Paper

Before you completely commit to making your business 100 percent paperless, you should make yourself aware of sneaky sources of paper that many business owners overlook. These sources of paper are very hard to eliminate and may throw a wrench in your plans of going completely paperless.

  • Notepaper. Even in mostly digital offices, people still sometimes rely on physical note paper for taking notes, writing down schedules, or even just doodling during meetings. There’s also something special about having custom-printed notepads or letterhead and stationery with company branding; it’s not always easy to let these things go, even if they are technically unnecessary in the digital age.
  • Disposables. You’ll also need to think about disposable cups, plates, and silverware. Even if you don’t offer any of these things to your employees directly, they may be tempted to bring them in from outside, especially if they visit a local fast-food restaurant for lunch or a coffee shop on their way in.
  • Toilet paper. Did you forget about toilet paper? Yes, this is a type of paper too, even if we treat it as a strictly necessary one. One option for reducing (or even eliminating) toilet paper consumption is installing a bidet; these bathroom devices are more hygienic, more comfortable, and better for your health, yet it can be a significant culture shock to include one in your office bathroom.
  • Napkins and paper towels. Napkins and paper towels are also forms of paper, convenient though they are. Are you committed to using cloth napkins and towels on a regular basis when you need them?

The 5-Step Process

If you’re still ready to make your business 100 percent paperless, you can follow this five-step plan:

  1. Inventory all your paper use. Collectively, offices in the United States go through 12.1 trillion sheets of paper every year. Do you know where all those sheets are coming from? The first step of the process is to inventory all your paper use, even down to toilet paper and napkins. This way, you can eliminate each source one by one.
  2. Develop digital and replacement systems. The second step is the longest and most important: develop digital and replacement systems to eliminate the need for paper. Sometimes, this is as simple as choosing a cloud-based management platform. Other times, you’ll need to think outside the box to figure out how to eliminate a paper need.
  3. Digitize existing paper files. Once you have that system in place, you’ll be ready to start digitizing your existing paper files. If you’re like most businesses, you have massive archives of paper information that need to be incorporated into your new systems.
  4. Inform your clients and partners. At this stage, you’ll be ready to start informing your clients and partners of your transition. If they currently send you paper mail, make sure to provide them with instructions for how to send this information digitally – and make it as convenient as possible to encourage adoption.
  5. Look for stragglers. Once all this is done, you can start looking for stragglers. Are there people who still send you physical mail? Are there any paper uses that might have slipped by you in your planning process?

The Many Benefits of Being Paperless

It can be an exhausting effort to go paperless, but there are many benefits to enjoy at the end of the journey:

  • Cost reduction. Perhaps the most obvious and immediate benefit of going paperless is cost reduction. Even if you’re a small office, you’re probably spending at least hundreds of dollars on paper products every year.
  • Speed and efficiency. Transmitting information digitally is both faster and more efficient than doing it physically. This is a move toward speed and efficiency.
  • Centralization and access. Transitioning to a centralized digital platform also increases accessibility and improves the centralization of your document organization. There’s a single source of truth, and everyone who needs access to it can access it anywhere, at any time.
  • Environmental benefits. We produce 420,000,000 tons of paper and cardboard every year. This is a huge environmental burden to bear, and it’s not sustainable. Reducing demand protects the environment.
  • Bragging rights. And, of course, once you’re paperless, you can brag about that fact and showcase your brand as an innovative leader.

Going paperless helps our planet, helps your business, and supports the next step forward in sustainability. Regardless of your core motivation, you’re taking a step in the right direction by eliminating your reliance on paper – even if you can’t eliminate all of it.