Going Paperless for Sustainability
Learn about the environmental benefits of going paperless
Is your organisation going paperless for sustainability reasons? There are several environmental benefits of going paperless. Replacing paper with digital processes can be beneficial to the planet, people and your business. Customers prefer to use brands and companies they know aren’t harming the environment, and the use of paper is inefficient and impacts your organisation’s carbon footprint. According to a study by Unilever, a third of all global consumers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing environmental good. In this article, we look at how going paperless affects sustainability.
DocuSign and its customers are saving billions of sheets of paper waste
DocuSign has helped millions of people worldwide save a massive 38 billion sheets of paper by assisting them in implementing digital processes that don’t require paper. The paper saving estimates are based on figures from January 2020 using the Environmental Protection Network’s Paper Calculator and an aggregate number of transactions via DocuSign eSignature since 2003. The model is based on the assumption that customers would usually print a document at least once on average.
How does Going Paperless Benefit the Environment?
The world produces around 420 million tons of paper each year, and even in the first few weeks of 2022, over 15 million tons have been produced. There are many adverse side effects of producing paper, so going paperless can benefit the environment in the following ways:
- Reduce deforestation
Forests are essential to our lives, and more than 20% of the world’s breathable oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest alone. According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) titled "Deforestation Fronts: Drivers and Responses in a Changing World", over 160,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of California, were lost to deforestation hot spots between 2004 and 2017. According to the WWF, the pulp and paper industry accounts for 13–15% of total wood consumption. The WWF has developed free tools such as the Paper Company Environmental Index and the Check Your Paper Database to help paper buyers find products with the lowest environmental impact, but reducing your paper use will likely have the most significant impact.
- Reduce use of water
The projections of the UK Environment Agency suggest that parts of the UK will face significant water deficits by 2050. Reducing water usage is key to reducing climate change. World Counts suggests it takes 10 litres of water to produce a single A4 sheet of paper. DocuSign and its customers have saved over 2.5 billion gallons of water since 2003.
- Reduce waste
Not only does paper-making release chemicals into the air, encourage deforestation, and pollute water supplies, but it also creates an enormous amount of waste. Paper waste accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills. In addition, waste is created from the production of the paper itself. Eliminating paper from your business can help to decrease these side effects of paper production.
- Reduce CO₂
Paper pulp mills require a tremendous amount of energy supply to produce paper, and some mills are powered by fossil fuels which emit carbon. In addition, the distribution and transportation of paper are often powered by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. What’s more, decomposing paper turns to either carbon dioxide or methane, which is an even more damaging greenhouse gas. Going paperless reduces these carbon emissions. The paper saved by DocuSign and its customers since 2003 has spared our planet over 2 billion pounds of additional CO₂.
Calculating Environmental Savings with the Environmental Paper Network
The Environmental Paper Network (EPN) is a global nonprofit whose mission is to promote more sustainable paper consumption and production. The EPN’s Paper Calculator helps DocuSign customers calculate their impact in protecting the world’s forests by using DocuSign eSignature. They help organisations that are striving for more sustainable paper consumption and production to use less paper overall and, where it is necessary, to use environmentally friendly options. The Paper Calculator is widely recognised as the most credible, most transparent and most independent calculator of environmental impact estimates for a wide variety of paper choices.
DocuSign uses the Paper Calculator from the Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Calculator Version 4.0 to estimate the environmental savings from reduced paper usage. Since not all paper comes from virgin tree fibre, the estimate of environmental impact from reduced paper usage assumes a recycled content percentage of 10%, slightly higher and more conservative than the 8% estimate contained in the Environmental Paper Network’s 2018 State of the Global Paper Industry Report. For more information on the Paper Calculator, please visit https://c.environmentalpaper.org/about.html.
Want to get started on going paperless today? Find out more about how to go paperless in your organisation and 3 easy steps you can take to start going paperless. Take a look at the DocuSign Agreement Cloud to help you rapidly reduce paper use in your organisation or start going paperless immediately with a free trial of DocuSign eSignature.