Print what?

Random facts. Estimation: 95% of business information is still stored on paper. The paperless office, once predicted as a result of information technology, has not transpired. Recycling 54kg of newspaper will save one tree. 77% of paper is recycled in the Netherlands (67% in Germany, 52% in Japan, 45% in the US). 10,000 trees are cut down annually in China to make holiday cards.

I admit it, better yet, I acknowledge the fact that I am not a big fan of paper. There, I said it. I have been told it is a generation thing, that people with more “seniority” in a company prefer the tactile version of a report, an email or this link attached to the message they just received. Really? How necessary is that?

Of course, I cannot stare at a computer screen for hours either. Of course, some reports require to be printed. Of course, I still see this “Please consider the environment before printing” email signature, and most of them are sitting by the printer for over two days before ending up in the “confidential garbage”, the locked one… Ironic much? I am not a (paper) cop, and I let my clients decide what is appropriate for their environment. I just scratch my head when I see the investments in document management software beside the heavy budget in paper consumption. Something has got to give.

Political correctness certainly gets in the way: once hired to review and suggest a better adapted supply chain, which naturally includes office paper, I often hear cynicism around that very topic. It is a known fact and somehow just seems pointless to address, or a plain wishful way of thinking. So, do I just stay put, sit and smile without saying anything not to offend the inside culture? Because that would be polite. Or do I have a chat with the “head of office supplies”? Because that would be polite too. Refining a procurement process may include a heart to heart series of conversations with the end users: all good until, in this case, some of them are the “offenders”.

Do I support the paper industry, knowing friends work in it, and after all, paper is still “cheap”? Sure I do, and my intention is elsewhere. Call me green or tree hugger if that pleases you, I keep my eyes on the bottom line: my client’s supply chain, budget and processes, with a focus on streamlining where it makes sense for them. If the cost of waste weighs too much on the financial scale, that is a red flag. Recycling confidential paper, disposing of and shredding sensitive documents has become a solid business, and mine is to minimise any kind of waste to my clients: that includes money.

Tough call, yes. “Cheap paper + emails pouring in our inbox + double-side print option + environment reminders” sounds similar to “latest V12 engine on the market + repaved highway + stunning summer day + speed radar”. Who is barking the wrong tree here?