The Check’s In The…Ethernet Cable?

Consumption of energy and natural resources is an area of high concern for eco-minded businesses. With current per capita paper usage hovering around 334 pounds per year, many businesses are already following easy tips on basic paper savings. But many others are investigating more complex strategies.

What they have found is that the changes will not just save paper, but also money and time. Coupled with other energy-saving options, the impact of these steps is becoming more pronounced.

Converting to electronic invoicing tops the list for many and for good reason. With the use of this mode of invoicing, businesses save time, money, and paper at every step of the process. Invoices are never printed but instead go to the customer’s email. The sender no longer uses paper or ink for the invoice itself and also eliminates the use of envelopes, postage, and labor for collating mail.

The customer receives an invoice that remains in the inbox, where it can’t be forgotten or lost. And that bill arrives faster than a hard copy, helping with budgeting and money handling.

This is an area that is led by newer firms, who have no backlog of old paper records to convert. But in time, new scanning technology–and simple chronological irrelevance–are bringing long-standing businesses into the fold.

Electronic payments are being utilized more widely as well. While credit card companies have been in the game for years now, many other businesses are taking payments via ACH and PayPal as well. Medical billing services, utilities, and even small local businesses are finding methods for accepting electronic payments that are cost-effective, fast, and reliable. They are dealing with fewer bad credit cards, bounced checks, and misprinted money orders, which reduces labor costs and bank fees.

Billing and payment intersect online at e-commerce. A rising number of businesses are scrapping production of paper catalogs altogether and going to a web-based system of displaying goods. These efforts are showing marked efficiency.

First, catalogs can be updated instantly with no significant additional cost. This represents the end of the seasonal product catalogs of yesteryear, which businesses could only afford to update on long intervals. Under that model, there was always a risk of unexpected cost spikes that could turn a profitable item into a loser overnight, all because incoming orders continued to arrive under an outdated price.

Further, catalogs can now be tied directly to electronic sales. Customers can view the item, read details, and immediately add it to their shopping cart, placing an order in minutes. The transaction instantly appears with the merchant, who gets the item on the road to the customer with amazing speed.

This ties into another beneficial, paper-free technique–electronic shipping. Customers can quickly trace their shipments and know precisely when to expect them.

Put together, the collective cellulose left unused by businesses with these steps in place is significant. The end of paper invoices, paper checks to pay them, paper envelopes in which to mail them, and bulky paper catalogs to generate the sales holds significant potential for reducing timber destruction, ink consumption, and energy use. For eco-minded businesses, that’s a dream come true.