Dr. Suman Kumar Kasturi *
Prof. P. Bobby Vardhan**
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” –
“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest”-
There is nothing more powerful than an idea and ideas are the trigger for constant human quest for excellence to create a better future – a seemingly unquenchable quest. Evolution of mass communication goes back to many centuries. With the invention of paper by Ts’ai Lun in 105 AD during the Han Dynasty in China and now with the clout of electronic media, modern gadgets and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) revolution, there has been an unparalleled impact on the capacity and speed of data/voice/video communication around the world. It has completely transformed the way people and organisations communicate across the world. Since last couple of decades every sector whether it is corporate, government, military, media etc has come under the magical spell of the ICT revolution. Despite increasing use of computers and the Internet across the organisations there is still an orthodox/conventional mindset and a hesitation to adopt paperless staff work, e-forms, e-governance and e-administration. To a certain extent, the corporate world realised the importance of paperless staff work long ago. Many leading global companies have successfully reaped the benefits of the paperless staff work. It is the need of the hour to sensitise office staff across organisations towards the larger perspective of environmental sensitive work procedures and practices by embracing technology and thereby obviate the delays involved and drastically cut down on wastages of resources.
The aim of this paper is to sensitise people across the organisations to reduce the office carbon footprint which has been historically defined by Championne as “the total sets of greenhouse gas through gradual reduction in usage of paper and other print resources by espousal of technology and electronic alternatives mainly towards environmental perpetuation while enabling faster action and decision making.
With wide spread usage of the Internet in every sphere touching human life and as a result of the revolution in the field of data communication, the world has now been reduced to a global village. Data handling has hit unimaginable proportions with the advent of 2G, 3G and 4G mobile. However, the tremendous potential and advantages of these technological miracles and the usage of the Internet and intranet are yet to be wholly exploited to unveil and reap the hidden benefits. It is apparent that the corporate world and the global business have been fast adapting to this change. But there has been an element of hesitation and lack of understanding in our governmental setup to exploit the full potential of the ICT. The slow pace of work and the reluctance to come out of the comfort zones of outdated style of functioning, leading to unintended delays of action and decision making are the major hurdles in our work culture. It demands a paradigm shift in our professional lives as “Delayed Action is Inaction”.
This article intends to focus more on optimised utilisation of office resources and suggests ways and means of dealing with the obsolete conventional procedures.
Wastage and Environmental Concerns
Office paper consumption is one of the most direct and visible hazards to the safety of the environment. Due to rapid technological advances, many electronic alternatives that can be very cost effective to paper based output have been created. While on one hand the technology is paving the way for reducing paper consumption on the other hand its consumption is increasing due to wasteful print practices within organisations.
Assuming one ton paper is equal to 400 reams of A4 size paper, the manufacturing costs and the environment impact is gargantuan. There is no second thought that reducing office paper consumption can have a major positive impact on our environment. It is one of the greatest direct contributions we can make to protect the environment. To achieve this, every individual has to set ambitious targets to minimise office carbon footprint. In addition to the protection of environment, to a great extent the cost savings can also be achieved with paper reduction campaign, as these costs consist of paper, ink and toner, maintenance, energy consumption, capital cost and depreciation etc.
The values and culture of the organisation is one of the most critical components that will ultimately impact the success of a campaign for reducing the carbon footprint in an office environment. Making a contribution to the environment and indirectly to the society through a committed campaign must be strongly encouraged in all organisations even as it is happening through the corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Printing rules and regulations apart from backing up the data in a hardcopy format is the main reason why organisations consume paper. There is a requirement to review these policies and associated practices in order to validate the acceptability of electronic alternatives. Technology has advanced so much that printed reports are seldom necessary. We often land up duplicating the work without any specific purpose.
There is no doubt that the technological advancement has its own hitches and ill effects on the environment, as brought out in a recent study carried out by the Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications and Bell Labs. The Internet and other hardware elements of ICT industry annually produce over 830 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, and it is expected to double by 2020. In this context, new models of emission control and energy consumption are unfolding that could help reduce their carbon footprint and thereby mitigate the effects on the environment.
The Indian bureaucracy seems to be finally waking up to the concerns of the environment and the costs wastage of paper and other precious office resources. A circular issued in 2010 by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), an important wing of the agriculture ministry, speaks about the spiralling environment cost of using paper and the optimisation of printing costs in offices. It revealed that more than 15,000 reams of 70 GSM paper were used in the previous year by the DAC office located in Krishi Bhawan. For the paper procured for the DAC office, it requires felling of about 110 pine trees every year; a hard truth that spills over in the circular. The number will be alarming and unimaginable if estimations are done for all the ministries/departments of both the central and state governments. The circular suggests that using the PDF version of documents reduces cost and saving the same on computer and digital photocopiers will further lower the cost of printing. Procurement of duplex printers should be encouraged as they are known to bringing down the average cost in draft mode. Lastly, the circular makes an ironic comment: “This circular should have ideally been emailed instead of printing it, but then it has to be ensured that everyone reads it and saves more paper and toner in the future.”
DSC for Reducing Carbon Footprint
Development Support Communication (DSC) is nothing but an activity aimed at purposive change in a society to improve socio economic condition. Participatory development communication refers to the use of mass media and traditional, inter-personal means of communication that empowers communities to visualise aspirations and discover solutions to their development problems and issues. Such a communication intended for Carbon Footprint Reduction may be implemented in the following stages as under.
- Need Assessment / Information Gathering
- Decision Making /Strategy Development
- Content for DSC
About 50% of the carbon footprint in our office environment is our own making and shows lack of awareness of its serious ramifications. It is indeed a wake-up call for all of us. We must root out this menace and formulate a calibrated approach/methodology to gradually liquidate the office carbon footprint.
The key areas where paper consumption is high in various organisations may be identified. A team of experts may be deputed to look into the problem of paper and other office resources increasing carbon footprint in the organisations, including the extent of paper consumption in a year. To achieve the desired results the following steps are suggested:
(a) Establish Project Team and create national commitment at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
(b) Identify yearly paper consumption across the organisations by doing the following:
- Identify the scope of the project (applicable areas and the sources of likely paper / print wastage’s)
- Collect data from the hardware (printer and toner/ribbon) procurement sources.
- Collect data from paper procurement sources.
- Summarise the hardware and paper consumption data.
(c) Analyse data and identify reduction/elimination opportunities.
(d) Set aggressive targets for office carbon footprint reduction. Communicate the same and actions to be taken to the top management of the station and obtain its commitment.
After the need assessment is carried out and the information is gathered it is important to take a decision to propagate the ideas through the appropriate media. A meticulous approach in this regard is a must to devise the most suitable strategy to be adopted to reduce carbon footprint in organisations across the country.
Content for DSC
The following practices, widely acknowledged as the best, for reducing the carbon footprint are proposed for execution in all organisations through the media chosen.
- Paper audit. Unused reports and documents are a common source of paper waste. Therefore, a paper audit is a must that usually consists of validating the purpose of reports and documents at the recipient end.
- Paper size and type. Weight of the paper is measured in terms of Grams per Square Meter (GSM). The more the weight of paper, the more will be the usage of fibre. It implies that lighter weight paper use less fibre and it results in an appreciably lower environment impact.
- Print output formatting The best practices can be enabled through output formatting changes. In order to achieve maximum benefits, defaulting the optimal settings and user continuity training/education on these features are recommended.
- Best Practices for Fax and Copiers. Advance in copy technology is as rapidly as in printer technology. Most of the copiers and fax machines provide capabilities to help reduce print.
- Recycle Paper. Large proportion of office waste is often made up by paper. Instead of disposing of used paper at landfill/incinerators, we can reuse or recycle it. In order to identify where paper is being thrown out unnecessarily and how office waste can be retrieved for reuse by recycling, an audit of office waste at regular intervals will be useful. Separate papers that have been used on one side in trays for further prints. It is an effective way of reducing paper consumption. Adopt re-usable envelopes for internal mail in an organisation, save and re-use paper packaging and paper printed only on single side.
- Print Guidelines. There is no doubt that these days most organizations have a far greater awareness of environmental issues and a sincere desire to adopt environmental responsive practices. Developing print guidelines linked to the organisation environmental policy is a great way to ensure awareness. Guidelines can be communicated in a visible form in areas where staff may think actively about print decisions.
- Print Behaviour. To sustain the results, it is essential that the staff is continuously exposed to awareness and training even after the targets are achieved, as it is very easy for the old habits to return. Towards this implement desired practices.
- Paper Saving Hardware. Green technology is the target of enormous investment and virtually all major hardware suppliers are focusing on environmental issues. Towards this use compatible hardware that ensures Paper Saving.
- Paper Saving Software. Managing print consumption in the enterprise represents a huge savings opportunity. But it can be very challenging. Departments and users have different print habits and needs. Print devices have different capabilities and cost profiles. Many software companies offer software solutions that help tackle print costs with a phased, measurable and verifiable approach for every part of the organisation.
- Other Source of Paper Waste. Review the silent but significant contributors to office carbon footprint like newspapers, magazines, books/registers, notepads, calendars, reports, manuals, envelopes, packaging invitations, invoices, sticky notes etc.
- Disposal Guidelines. Good quality white office paper is extremely valuable and should be recovered where possible. With the addition of virgin pulp for strengthening it, used white office paper can be recycled for use.
The project implementation should be undertaken very meticulously to make the objectives of the project reach each and every organisation in the country. The concepts of Entertainment-Education (E-E) could be suitably utilized for effective implementation of the participatory development communication to achieve the desired results – Carbon Footprint Reduction.
The project progress needs regular monitoring and evaluation against the schedule/targets. The teething problems and the ground issues need to be resolved to have a forward momentum. Communicate the progress made to the concerned. Ensure following sustenance:
- Celebrate and reward success stories.
- Share the best practices between the organisations.
- Keep educating the personnel on the subject during their On Job Training (OJT).
- Revisit the organisations periodically towards the pursuit of a paperless office.
- Continue communication while sustaining the focus.
To make this model work and implement in organisations across the country, it is needed to institutionalise this initiative aggressively and in a time bound manner. Towards this, the following are strongly recommended:-
- A standard policy issue by the government may be promulgated in the form of an order to envision a way forward for sustenance of post target achievement.
- Office carbon footprint may vary from organisation to organisation. Customized local carbon footprint reduction guidelines may be issued with realistic and achievable targets set on the outlines of the proposed policy of the government.
- It is proposed to implement the same in a phased and calibrated manner. Broadly, a target of 25% reduction in the office carbon footprint may be set for the first year from the date of implementation/notification of the orders and subsequently target a 50% reduction by the end of second year.
- Instead of procuring bulky ICT machines and interfaces with standalone and outdated features, miniaturised and portable advanced machines and interfaces with multifunctional features are recommended which will considerably reduce the carbon footprint.
- A responsible person in every organisation may be deputed for ensuring that the office staff is involved and there is individual and collective conscious effort for effective implementation of carbon footprint reduction. This awareness will deliver a paperless staff work which is greener, leaner and faster towards an effective and eco- friendly human-technology interface.
- It is proposed that the traditional practice of taking printouts of draft letters/documents/reports/returns be strictly prohibited and all officers and the office staff are to inculcate the habit of only e-drafts. Printouts to be taken only on approval of e-draft and the recipient distribution list may be reviewed to obviate unnecessary hard copies. Instead of dispatching hardcopies, softcopies in PDF format must be adopted.
The focus of this time sensitive initiative is not against printing but against wasting office resources in the organisation. While talking about tangible benefits of reducing office carbon footprint, it is pertinent to mention that there are several associated benefits as they unfold as a result of this awareness, especially among the office staff in the organisations. This will encourage them to deliver with great caution and responsibility, sharpen their writing/drafting skills and inculcate the correct practices which will reduce time and resource wastage’s considerably.
Cutting back on the amount of paper we use in the office is a great way to start making a positive impact on the environment. Let us take this opportunity and strive to regain the lost ground and play our part as responsible citizens and contribute our bit towards the environment.