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Going Paperless: The Ethical Choice

Wadih Pazos December 1, 2014

Going paperless: The ethical choice
Document Management
Some companies have the option to go paperless, but law offices may be under ethical obligation to do so. Despite the hard consequences law firms may face, some might wonder why businesses aren’t more pressured to involve electronic document management in the first place.

Forced to go paperless 

Scansnap reported that the American Bar Association made it a guideline in their rules of professional conduct that law firms must keep up with new technologies. This means that lawyers who print out their documents and do not consider using document management software could be in direct violation of the ABA’s rules.

Scanned documents also are less likely to be altered, which is important in law. Most recently, changes in ABA’s rules and technology have allowed lawyers to use scanned images of checks instead of painstakingly hunting down their clients’ canceled payments, reported Scansnap.

Going paperless and going green

Regardless of the change in the ABA’s rules, it is a better ethical choice for industries to make the decision to go paperless for the environmental reasons.

According to a recent report from the Association for Information and Image Management, titled “Paper Wars 2014 – an update from the battlefield,” 56 percent of organizations have an environmental impact policy in the office to reduce printing paper, but only one quarter actually enforce it.

“What will it take for businesses to get the message that overuse of paper must stop—that it has a negative impact on both their business and the environment?” said AIIM President John Mancini. “Millions of unnecessary sheets of paper are printed every single day, but reducing reliance on paper means organizations can respond to customers faster, be more productive, save on storage and have a significant impact on the world we live in.”

AIIM’s study revealed that using paperless document management increases productivity and allows for quicker response times to customer inquiries. The environmental advantages of electronic workflow in the office are immense, as 4 billion trees are cut down each year to produce the 300 million tons of paper used annually.

AIIM promoted paperless offices by hosting World Paper Free Day in November 2014 and donated to The Arbor Day Foundation for each registration that was made.

Important paperwork

Physical signatures seem to be the reason offices have trouble moving forward, as well as lack of awareness of the technologies available for paperless offices. Organizations that have those environmental policies in place, but don’t support them as much as they should, most likely still consider a physical signature on paper to be more important than the electronic copy.

The AIIM president tried to encourage companies to lose this mindset and realize the other benefits of a paperless office.

“If helping to save the planet isn’t enough for some organizations to reduce their use of paper, then perhaps the myriad business benefits enjoyed by those who have can be a factor,” said Mancini. “The fact of the matter is we need to use less paper…achieving paper-free processes is a realistic goal for any business and there are many ways to capture, manage and store information digitally.”

The push for electronic document management in offices will be successful in the workplace and for the environment. Only with encouragement from business owners, paper documentation will be a thing of the past.

Wadih Pazos

Wadih founded both PairSoft and PaperSave. He is an avid technologist who specializes in streamlining operations and maximizing productivity.

View all posts by Wadih Pazos
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