Reducing our carbon footprint is something on everyone’s mind these days, prompting us to participate in everything from recycling and using energy-efficient lighting to driving electric cars. Even businesses get in on the effort by reducing waste, and minimizing or eliminating paper usage through cloud-based file sharing and storage. But is a truly paperless work environment really possible? That probably depends on your industry, and in some cases, the laws governing your trade.
Saving a Tree or Two
Paper-saving solutions have been implemented across various industries to reduce waste, preserve natural resources and participate in eco-friendly business practices. Retailers have certainly jumped on board, following the lead banks and credit card companies established a few years back with electronic submission of statements and ATM inquiries. In many locales, it’s becoming common practice to offer the option of emailing purchase receipts rather than providing a paper receipt at the point of sale. These industries have made a concerted effort to reduce, and even eliminate, the paper stream plaguing society, at least in theory. A number of customers still prefer to have paper-in-hand when it comes to their money.
The Medical Sector Cuts Back
While some medical and dental offices are ultra-high tech, asking patients to complete medical histories and HIPAA forms either online or via tablet, others have them fill out paperwork then scan the documents into their systems. The latter still generates a fair amount of paper in the short term, in addition to the time and effort of shredding paperwork once scanned. (Doing so does, however, significantly diminish the amount of paper maintained by an establishment.) Medical and dental practices must factor in the initial software and hardware costs of integrating a truly paperless system plus the human capital needed to assist those less technically advanced when considering the jump to such an environment. Focusing on the long-term benefits and environmental advantages is great motivation to continue on this path.
Paperless Real Estate Transactions
There’s perhaps no other business situation generating such a great amount of paper as a traditional real estate transaction. From the initial contract to the very last page of settlement, pages upon pages of information must be presented and received by parties on either side. A number of companies have come to the rescue, offering up the opportunity to be a truly, bonafide paperless business. Some of these heroes include Paperless Pipeline, Real Estate Paperless Solutions and dotloop, with new companies touting paperless real estate transactions on the rise.
In general, the title and escrow sector is making to push towards a solely digital interface, yet the extent to which this occurs is largely dictated by lenders and state governments. While in some locales paperless closings are commonplace, not all states allow digital signatures. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, for instance, all closing documents must be signed on the dotted line with ink (typically blue ink, at the preference of most lenders). As technology advances, and the benefits of a paperless system embraced, we may just see the day all real estate closings are completed without pen in hand.
Is it possible to have a completely paperless environment, one without even a single sticky note? The theoretical, and realistic for some, answer is yes. It’s simply a matter of overcoming the technological learning curve and mindset, and making the concerted effort to create a truly digitized work environment.