Green accounting and the paperless office

Date: 16th November 2016

The words ‘green’ and ‘accounting’ are not often seen together and you may not think of your small business office systems as having any impact on the environment. However, with use of smart cloud business tools, your accounting systems can become greener and more sustainable for the benefit of your business and the environment.

Sun shining through forest trees

In this article, eco consultant and owner of Aim at Sustainability, Florence Micond, looks into why and how to take your business systems into the cloud and go ‘paperless’. This is part one of a two part series.

Why go paperless?

A lot of paper is generated by accounting and, as you need to keep your records for 7 years, it tends to accumulate. Inland Revenue now accepts records in electronic format so this long term habit can be revisited.

Paper production is linked to deforestation. Even if you buy FSC paper (made from sustainable forests), it may come from large monocultures with damaging impacts on the local environment and communities.

Despite process improvements over time, paper production is still severely polluting. It releases nitrogen, sulphur (ever smelt the air around a pulp plant?) and carbon dioxides into the air, as well as chlorine, dioxins and heavy metals in water.

Recycled paper production is less polluting so it is an option.

Inks are made of volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and non-renewable oils. Throwing away cartridges is wasteful. Switching to vegetable-based ink in reusable cartridges will limit the negative impact. Several printer providers in New Zealand offer toner recycling or even carbon neutral printing so perhaps consider these options before your next printer purchase.

Cloud tools enable paperless offices

There is now a whole range of online business tools for email, document storage, inventory or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and accounting tools. They are designed to simplify business and save time so that you can focus on the core of your business, and they have an environmental benefit as they reduce paper use.

Cloud business tool advantages are many:

  • They’re cheaper! You won’t need an on-site server. Many offer a free version for one-man businesses. For bigger businesses, a monthly plan enables access to multiple users and usually advanced capabilities.
  • Keeping your data online is safer, you don’t need to backup. Even if your laptop falls with the latest accounts not saved elsewhere, or an earthquake has squashed your server, your data will be available as soon as the internet and electricity are back on. You just need to use strong passwords.
  • Most data is easier to retrieve. Scanned PDF documents can now be searched by word so a document will be found even if it is incorrectly named or stored in the wrong folder.
  • Your data is accessible everywhere. You have access to your client database and any other information when you’re out on the job. It enables telecommuting which reduces your employees’ transport footprint and increases their well-being.
  • The data is updated continuously in real-time so everyone in the company has access to the same and latest version. No more USB transfers, documents sent in attachments and multiple versions of the same document!
  • Applications communicate with each other so a lot is done automatically. For example, when an invoice is paid, a “thank you” letter and receipt is sent and stored with the client’s record.
  • It saves paper, which saves forests and reduces pollution.
  • It saves further money on printing and reams
  • And it saves space therefore potentially enables moving in smaller offices which are cheaper; or growing without having to move.

Cloud accounting increases efficiency and reduces waste

Online accounting tools are very efficient systems compared with traditional versions. Tools now include transactions, invoices, receipts, payroll, GST, account balances and financial statements.

Most cloud accounting software integrates with bank accounts so a payment is automatically entered into the accounts when it is received.

Xero cloud accounting software takes it one step further by enabling GST returns to be filed automatically to Inland Revenue and they are working to integrate further.

A few limits to the paperless office

We are still in a transition situation where we can’t go totally paperless, as some contracts, government documents and employment records need to be printed. Also some clients are not paperless and will prefer paper invoices, receipts etc.

Something else to consider in the paperless office is the “near absolute” need for double screens per work station, which comes with a cost and ongoing energy demand. However, the laptop for round trips can be used in conjunction with the desktop in many cases.

All in all, cloud-based business tools and accounting are so convenient that once you’ve shifted, you’ll wonder how you used to do it, and they are good for the environment too!

Get help going green

Other physical aspects of your office can become more efficient and sustainable. Aim At Sustainability has developed a Green Office Makeover audit covering energy, printing, waste, procurement, emergency preparedness, transport, culture and environmental awareness.

Act now so that your business can save money, time and the environment!

More about business sustainability and working in the cloud

Aim At Sustainability

5 reasons why you should take your payroll online

One click GST filing from Xero

Inland Revenue targeting business record keeping

3 ways accounting can improve your small business & your life!

Working remotely, off the grid

Capitalising on the Cloud

Posted in: Alexandra, Latest News, Queenstown, Wanaka