New ways of working to reduce use of paper

05 April 2017
Linda Fotherby and Matt Poole
Publishing systems coordinator Linda Fotherby and BPE programme manager Matt Poole innovate to save paper.

Large organisations and traditional work processes can be a recipe for the consumption of enormous amounts of paper.

It is estimated that a typical office worker can use up to 10,000 sheets of paper a year, and in 2016 the University of Auckland’s use of A4 sheets equated to a pile 16 times the height of the Sky Tower. While this was well down from a high of 23 Sky Towers when monitoring started, there is still a lot more that can be done to make further reductions.

Printing, postage, delivery, storage and archiving add to the impacts of paper, resulting in significant costs both to the organisation and the environment.

In the latest round of improvements, the University is finding new ways of working that will greatly cut down on waste.

The Business Process Enablement (BPE) Programme aims to lead a shift towards a digital way of working. “Our goal is to work with students and staff and move from paper-based processes to a future of digital interactions,” says Matt Poole, BPE Programme Manager.

The programme is working with faculties and service divisions to rethink, redesign and digitise processes, with the aim of phasing out paper forms by 2018.

At its last meeting, the University Council voted to trial board management software which will enable members to digitally share and collaborate on information for meetings. All Council agendas and papers will be provided via this software, from global digital solutions company Diligent, greatly reducing the need for printed documents and saving thousands of pages a year.

Another key initiative is cutting down on paper used in printing the University calendar. This annual publication is distributed to various staff, external organisations and libraries. Though there is an online calendar, some users prefer the traditional print version meaning any fall off in its use has been slow.

Publishing Systems Coordinator, Academic Programmes, Linda Fotherby says: “The 2016 Calendar had 920 pages and we printed 1800 copies – that’s a lot of paper! We wanted to do our bit to develop more sustainable operating practices at the University so we set ourselves the goal of reducing the number of Calendars printed by 30% over two years.

“We were careful to explain why we wanted to reduce the copies ordered and asked for people’s cooperation to help us achieve our goals.”

The team took a number of actions, including producing 12 fewer pages by adopting a more compact font and format. The online calendar was promoted as the definitive and most up-to-date version.

The default order quantity was set to zero; copies were only sent to staff, departments or outside organisations if they specifically requested a certain number. Spare copies ordered were halved.

As a result, the number of calendars printed fell from 1800 to 1340 - a reduction of 25% - well on the way to the University’s 30 percent target for next year. The 2018 Calendar will also be printed on FSC certified paper, which ensures the paper has been sustainably produced.

“Global warming is already having a negative impact on people’s lives,” says Linda. “To turn it around will require every one of us to change the way we do things. One of the biggest barriers is our habits – so making it easier for people to change and harder to keep doing things the old way is the key to helping people make those changes.”