Reducing Paper Consumption and Saving the Planet, One E-Signature at a Time

Mary Ellen Power, April 16, 2014
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Earth Day is around the corner and many businesses are stopping to take a close look at their day-to-day operations and consider ways to be more environmentally friendly and reduce paper consumption. E-signature policies can position organizations to reduce their paper use substantially. One major organization recently implemented an electronic signature software suite and reduced its paper consumption by 25 percent. E-signatures can help companies go paperless, and the benefits of the technology go well beyond just eliminating printer projects.

A few key ways that e-signatures can reduce paper consumption in the office:

1. Reducing emissions from vehicles
Transit is a major issue when it comes to contract issues. Organizations that need to get individuals to sign a sensitive contract need to mail or courier the document to the person who needs to sign it, then have it sent back to the business. The greenhouse gasses created by all of the cars carrying documents between destinations can be staggering. This is especially true when sending particularly sensitive contracts, as these documents need to be carried on secure trucks that are often heavy, have poor gas mileage and create significant carbon emissions. E-signatures deal with all of these problems by removing the need for courier services.

2. Eliminate waste paper
Some documents and records need to be printed for one reason or another, but many organizations end up printing records unnecessarily. This can waste paper as people not only print records that are best transmitted electronically, but also duplicate those contracts as people require copies for various purposes. Furthermore, multiple versions of records are often stored for an extended period. The end result can be excess paper use.

This increase in paper consumption doesn't just lead to more trees getting cut down, it also creates more shipping and all of the other issues associated with managing a large supply chain that starts with generating raw materials for paper creation and moves forward with shipping logs to factories, creating the paper, shipping into it stores and resellers and then dealing with delivery to end users. All of these layers of delivering paper create greenhouse emissions and organizations that eliminate unnecessary paper consumption through electronic signature systems have a positive impact on the environment throughout the entire paper industry pipeline.

3. Alleviate storage concerns
Paper is made of materials that break down over time if they are not stored in the right atmosphere. If rooms where paper is stored are too hot, the material can dry out and become brittle. If it is too moist, mold becomes a problem. These types of issues force organizations to carefully store paper in temperature-controlled rooms that can handle a large volume of records, feature advanced fire suppression systems and are secure. Sometimes, office buildings end up needing to be renovated over time solely because of records storage issues. The environmental impact of these types of storage problems can be substantial, especially considering the ease of maintaining a digital file of a record.

Electronic Signature

The Beginner's Guide to Electronic Signatures

This comprehensive, 31-page beginner’s guide to electronic signatures introduces important legal concepts and key considerations when creating digital business processes with e-signatures.  

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Moving to e-signatures to save the planet and reduce paper consumption


Storing electronic data does use electricity and create an entire data center industry where waste is an issue. However, the amount of waste generated by such solutions can be far less significant than that generated through paper storage, especially as renewable energy resources and efficient power delivery systems become common in major data center environments. This makes it easier for e-signature software companies to offer incredibly sustainable platforms that help clients reduce their carbon footprint and contribute positively to the state of the planet.

Organizations that want to promote sustainability through e-signatures, but are unsure of how to get started, should check out our beginner's guide to the technology.