Is sustainability a priority? How a paperless solution can help

Construction industry
Is sustainability a priority? How a paperless solution can help

Is sustainability a priority for your business? For many companies, sustainability has become an issue not only internally, but in the eyes of their customers and potential customers. By now, we all know the havoc that humanity wreaks on the environment through various activities, so a logical response is to limit our impact however possible. In your business, that might mean any of a number of different measures which are known to be more sustainable or environmentally-friendly. Sometimes taking these measures or agreeing to sustainability targets can be easier said than done; as a report from Ethical Corporation reveals, there has been overall low adoption among the private sector of UN sustainable development goals. We think for a lot of companies though, it may be a case of taking things one step at a time, implementing simple changes that will have some positive impact on their overall footprint. Let’s take a look at sustainability, going paperless, and the sorts of solutions that can help:

Companies prioritising sustainability

While the Ethical Corporation report mentioned earlier showed that worldwide, companies are lagging when it comes to adopting sustainable measures, here in the UK, nearly 70% of businesses consider sustainability to be a priority. Of those, 40% register sustainability as a “high priority.” A report from NICEIC flags sustainability as a key opportunity for electrical contracting companies. It makes sense that, if customers are demanding sustainable buildings for themselves, they would also expect the contractors who work on them to have adopted sustainable business practices. Make no mistake, customers are increasingly demanding sustainability as part of their overall expectations of companies. A recent international study from Unilever revealed that a third of consumers actively choose to buy from brands that they believe are doing social or environmental good. Another study pegged that 84% of consumers seek out responsible products “whenever possible”, while nine out of ten expect companies to do more than simply make a profit. The short of it is, sustainability doesn’t just make sense from the point of view of being kind to the planet - it makes sense for businesses whose customers hold these values. Consumers have increasingly higher expectations, while they also have more resources at their disposal to check up on companies and make a judgment as to whether they uphold those standards.

Why go paperless?

Resource efficiency is a high priority among companies with sustainability measures in place. A paperless environment represents one way that companies can be more efficient with their resources. By “paperless,” we mean that all documentation, files and records go into a digital format. While the electrical and construction industries tend to still be very “traditional,” more and more companies turn to paperless options, both for sustainability and other benefits that going paperless can offer. These may include:

  • Better accessibility. Where files are stored digitally on the cloud, people don’t need to be physically present to access them. This can help teams where remote access is a necessity. It can also facilitate easy sharing and collaboration across distances.
  • Time savings. How many filing cabinets does your office still have, loaded down with paper files? Every piece of paper had to be printed off somewhere, affixed to the correct file, then filed away appropriately. All of this takes time, not to mention that there are always cases of paperwork going missing! Digital files don’t lose pieces of paper, or require time consuming filing.
  • Space savings. Back to those filing cabinets - how much space do they take up? Digital files take up no physical space.
  • Cost savings. Going paperless reduces the costs of paper, ink, toner, storage space and postage. Think about how many times paper and ink end up wasted when the wrong document is printed, the printer chews the paper, or documents go missing and are reprinted!
  • Better security. With good protocols in place, your documents are more secure in the cloud than being physically accessible in an office. Digital documents are encrypted so that they’re much more difficult to get to if someone is unauthorized. From another perspective, digital storage keeps documents safe from the possibility of being destroyed in a disaster such as fire or flood.

Does it make a real difference to sustainability?

You might wonder how much of a real difference going paperless makes to sustainability goals, so we found some UK statistics that make for interesting reading:

  • Over 40% of wood pulp goes to the production of paper.
  • Out of every 10,000 sheets of paper, 6800 are considered to be wasted.
  • The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year.
  • Every person in the UK consumes the equivalent of 4.48 trees per year.

So yes, it’s fairly clear that cutting back paper use can and will make a real difference, although there is one caveat that blurs the lines a little bit. E-waste has been a growing problem, particularly as people rapidly discard electronics for the next new model. Our suggestion would be that prolonging the life and usage of your electronics should be a sustainability policy to go hand-in-hand with going paperless. There is obviously a carbon footprint created with each new device that is manufactured, so conserving what you already have makes sense from a sustainability point of view.

How cloud-based solutions work

A cornerstone of paperless business environments is the use of cloud-based solutions. “The Cloud” refers to a network of servers which store data on the internet, as opposed to you saving a file to the hard drive of your computer. There are many advantages to using cloud-based solutions. For example, your files won’t get lost if the hard drive of your computer suddenly malfunctions. Cloud storage platforms allow you to give access to anyone else who needs to be able to view and/or edit documentation too, meaning they can do so from anywhere. Some servers are responsible for storing data and some deliver a service (or a combination of both). For example, Microsoft’s Office suite now offers “Office 365.” Instead of buying software and installing it on your computer, you pay for a subscription to 365 which allows you to access all of the Office products via the cloud. This includes their own storage solution, “OneDrive.” An advantage of this is that those programs are no longer taking up a huge amount of hard drive space, you can share with others quickly and easily, and you can safely store files in the cloud. You are also guaranteed to always have the most up-to-date version, because updates happen automatically. There are now many examples of software packages which operate in the cloud. Countfire is one of them, and helps electrical estimators to truly go paperless. The traditional way to count take-offs is to print drawings, get your highlighter out and start counting manually. With Countfire, drawings can be uploaded into the software with no need to print. Estimators can work from anywhere and save their work with ease to the cloud. This digital basis also allows the automatic counting, which helps to save a tremendous amount of time and reduce the occurrence of errors.

Final thoughts

More companies are prioritising sustainability, as concerns around responsible business practices and reducing environmental impact are more common. There is a large group of consumers who expect businesses to be applying sustainable practices, so it often makes sense from a business perspective as well. Going paperless is just one thing that businesses can do to promote sustainability. This is usually hinged on implementing cloud-based technologies, so that printing and paper use become unnecessary. With internet usage now relatively ubiquitous, it makes sense to take advantage of the capacity to access from anywhere. Countfire helps electrical estimators to go paperless. Start a free trial here today.