Go Green, Save Green: The Dual Benefits of Collaboration Technology How Your Company Can Cut Costs and Your Carbon Footprint

So how can we win when the odds are (literally) stacked against us? According to a new report by the Harvard Business Review posted on the New York Times' Green Inc. blog, the smartest companies are adopting new environmentally friendly technologies to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.


10 September 2009

As a business professional, I fend off hundreds of emails in a day with various weapons of choice like my BlackBerry or my company laptop. (One recent report estimates the average person sends and receives 133 email messages a day!) Yet just when I think I'm winning the "Battle of the (email) Bulge" by diligently responding, filing, and deleting, I realize mine is a pyrrhic victory. The corporate paper trail I deal with extends well beyond email, piling up in reams of documents that clutter our desks, filing cabinets, faxes, and printers.

The real war against document proliferation is going on right in front of us: on the desktop (the physical one, not the virtual one). A recent study by the Association for Information and Image Management (AAIM) shows that the average professional photocopies a single document 19 times. Multiply that by the estimated 4 trillion paper documents in the U.S. that are growing at a rate of 22% per year and you have quite a pile of paper to manage.

So how can we win when the odds are (literally) stacked against us? According to a new report by the Harvard Business Review posted on the New York Times' Green Inc. blog, the smartest companies are adopting new environmentally friendly technologies to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

I know firsthand that when it comes to content and document management, using an online, on-demand (SaaS) solution can have an immediate impact on a company's bottom line. For instance, Intralinks' critical information exchange service - also known as a virtual dataroom - quantifiably saves our clients hard costs associated with printing, storing, and sharing information outside of the enterprise. I suspect that much like the way email has replaced paper memos or faxed communications, online document management will soon be widely adopted as a more efficient, more responsible way of managing business information.

Think of it this way: Since the majority of business documents are now "born digital" (created in a spreadsheet, generated as an email, made as a JPEG, etc.), the upfront cost and time to implement SaaS solutions should be minimal and easy to justify. And, as a recent Oracle whitepaper points out, there are also environmental returns on investment when companies turn to online solutions for printed materials, including the paper storage space and office spaces that "require energy consumption for heating, lighting, and humidity control."

If you're still don't believe new technology can benefit a company's finances or are just a Luddite like I used to be, consider the cost of all the photocopying, filing, and printing you do as an individual employee. The value to you is your time (and probably your patience), but to the companies we all work for these inefficiencies are expensive. In fact, AIIM estimates companies spend $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document, and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost document. If you need to share a document in a hurry, the average cost to send a package via courier service is between $8 and $15.

As a reader interested in this post, you likely already see both the financial and environmental value of "green" solutions within your company (and thus I'm preaching to the choir). For the unconverted, however, the impact of environmentally-conscious technology is more tangible than it might seem. At Intralinks, we created a calculator that shows the environmental savings of taking your document-centric business processes online. (In fact, the calculator resulted from a client's feedback on how Intralinks' solution had a significant, quantifiable impact on their green initiatives.) For those who want to go a step further, there are even a number of applications that measure your personal carbon footprint, including a new Facebook application.

What can your company save with smarter IT choices? Try entering your information in our calculator to see the results.

Credits:
Research by Dana Prostano
Calculator by David Adams and William Huang