1. Save money on paper and shipping.
  2. Increase the effectiveness of core processes.
  3. Integrate field operations.
  4. Reduce real estate costs.
  5. Improve employee productivity.
  6. Reduce offsite storage costs.

This might sound like an organization's wish list, but it's actually the Association for Information and Image Management's (AIIM's) top six reasons for organizations to go green with enterprise content management (ECM) technologies.

"If the U.S. cut its office paper use by roughly 10 percent, or 540,000 tons, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by 1.6 million tons—equivalent to taking 280,000 cars off the road for a year," said to AIIM president John F. Mancini. AIIM is a nonprofit organization focused on helping organizations understand the challenges associated with managing documents, content, records, and business processes.

"ECM technologies are one of the best kept secrets when it comes to technology investments that can help the environment. The key to making a real environmental impact—as opposed to a cosmetic one—is to think systemically about the role of paper in your organization. There has been a great deal of focus on reducing paper use through such efforts as copying on both sides of the paper. While this is important, this kind of effort only begins to touch on the kinds of paper savings that can be created by actually getting rid of paper through automating and digitizing core business processes."

According to Conservatree, a nonprofit advocate for ecologically sustainable paper markets, 1 ream of office paper (500 sheets) uses 6 percent of a tree. So, reducing paper consumption not only saves money but also trees.

Oracle, a sponsor of AIIM's Green ECM website, quantified the cost and environmental savings for four organizations that drove paper out of their core processes. Here's what Oracle found:

Click to enlarge

According to AIIM, driving paper out of core processes has other benefits as well. Distributed capture solutions—such as capturing documents in their electronic form and using the digitized documents throughout the process flow—can result in:

  • More effective core processes. For example, driving paper from financial processes can result in accounts receivable getting invoices out faster and accounts payable paying invoices faster.
  • Better integration between field offices. Mailing, courier, and shipping costs are also reduced.
  • Reduced real estate costs. Less paper leads to fewer filing cabinets, which means less office space is needed.
  • Improved employee productivity. Digitized documents sets the stage for greater flexibility in employee working arrangements, which can lead to happier, more productive employees.
  • Reduced offsite storage costs. Storing digitized documents can save the costs associated with storing paper copies in offsite storage facilities.
  • For more information about the green impact of ECM technologies, go to AIIM's Green ECM website.