Paper is bad for the environment – and business performance

The intensification of deforestation is a headline topic and a deeply worrying development. Illegal logging, forest fires and the encroachment of farming are threatening biodiversity, releasing carbon rather than trapping it, pressurising indigenous cultures and endangering unique habitats. Deforestation is a global catastrophe which no responsible company can ignore.

At DocuSign, we firmly believe that sustainability should be built into a company’s culture. It is not only an environmental imperative, it is also increasingly what customers and stakeholders demand; purpose beyond profit is now a fundamental part of the business environment. A commitment to sustainability makes sense at all levels.

However, it’s not always easy to take a holistic view of a company’s day-to-day operations to identify areas where improvements can be secured to help meet sustainability goals and CSR commitments. Some practices have become so routine that they are now unrecognisable. This is especially true when you look at our use of paper. For all the talk of a paperless office, we still instinctively use it, despite there often being secure, reliable and more flexible digital alternatives. So, is our obsession with paper such a big deal?

The short answer is, yes; even products from managed forests have an environmental impact as the process of turning wood pulp into paper is both water and energy intensive. Therefore, the less paper we use, the more water we save and the less CO2 we emit. The business benefits of going paperless are no less impressive and further underline why our reliance on paper-based processes needs careful reconsideration.

Olivier Pin, VP Product Management, International at DocuSign

According to a commissioned study, “The State Of Systems Of Agreement 2020” conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of DocuSign, nine out of 10 firms are burdened by manual agreement processes, which are to blame for poor customer experiences, project delays and increased costs. Taken together, these factors can negatively impact a firm’s ability to recognise revenue. However, that need not be the case – digital tools, such as the use of e-signatures and other cloud-based applications, help hundreds of millions of people around the world replace sheets of paper with digital, paper-free alternatives.

So, what does that mean in real terms? Well, two key benefits are business intelligence and productivity. Business information locked away in dusty documents and physical filing cabinets is often unexploited despite its value. By transitioning to a predominantly digital workflow it is possible to extract that value using advanced analytics and innovative search options to deliver valuable business insights. Contracts can be digitally signed and actioned, quickly, efficiently and securely; having data locked away in isolated paper archives no longer makes sense.

As a result, the use of digital services that automate agreements and enhance workflows will not only help reduce paper-related carbon emissions but also improve your customer service capabilities and business performance.

Of course, no one company – no matter how committed – can go at it alone. As with so many things in life, partnerships are important if we’re to achieve shared objectives.

Our common goal should be to safeguard our planet’s resources for years to come so we should all encourage customers and stakeholders to increase awareness of their environmental impact, too. As part of this philosophy, we should help protect and preserve the world’s forests and actively support not-for-profit organisations that are doing critical environmental and preservation work such as The Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Rainforest Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Trees for Cities.

Sustainability should be embedded into every business’ culture as we have a collective responsibility to actively work on new campaigns and initiatives that reflect this commitment. Everyone can contribute, from CEOs to the employees, by volunteering at organisations promoting healthier forests, including urban woodlands. Companies should also convert their paper processes into digital ones as it’s not only good for the environment, it will also help them meet their CSR objectives and improve their overall business performance. The time is now to sign on the digital line and put paper in the recycling bin.


Olivier Pin

VP Product Management, International at DocuSign


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