A new study reveals the average working Canadian prints 30 pages of documents every day, of which 12 are thrown into the garbage.

The Leger Marketing study, produced in tandem with Recombo Paper Management Systems and Telus Corporation highlighted the need for waste paper management policies and digital document handling to reduce paper use in the workplace.

The study also showed that about half of Canadians surveyed would gladly use digital documentation in order to reduce paper waste at their place of work.

Joe Pach, director of environment at Telus, says the company is committed to reducing paper through the introduction of paperless contracts for its business accounts, which use secure digital signatures and interactive menus to eschew the need for paper. The documents are protected by encryption and fully legally binding.

Pach explains that the initiative, called Telus Secure Contracts, is meant to reduce paper waste in high-volume businesses that tend to use the most paper.

“The average company makes something like 19 copies of each customer-facing document. Having a virtual interface eliminates that need to move paper around — it’s a way of dealing with contracts that is secure, digital and does away with paper,” Pach said.

A move to paperless documents is quietly making its way into the working world, though progress is still slow.

Several years ago, the law office of Behiel, Munkler & Will in Saskatchewan took 20,000 documents and files and scanned them into a digital format, letting the files be sent electronically and stored on hard drives instead of in filing cabinets. The company also converted many document processes, such as the filling of wills and land survey forms, to a digital format. Aaron Behiel, a partner at the firm, admits however that many people still end up asking for paper copies of documents, though the initiative has been a success at saving paper overall.

Pach suggests the acceptance of paper-saving initiatives such as digital documentation is being fuelled at the grassroots level by employees themselves who want the companies they work for to be good corporate citizens. Luckily for businesses, saving paper saves money as well.

“Employees today feel guilty about wasting paper and are expecting their employers will take the lead on environmental conservation. You want to look at the cost savings as well — there are benefits beyond the environmental element,” Pach said.

Pach says the move to digital documents also makes sense from a standpoint of efficiency.

“Who wants to stand at a printer watching bits of paper come out when they could be more efficiently engaged? We’re in the business of moving ideas and information rather than people and paper,” Pach said.