FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Project data
Authors David Luke Oates
Location Kingston, Canada
Instance of Green IT
OKH Manifest Download

Couriers contribute greatly to global greenhouse gas emissions; in 2008 UPS emitted 13.2 million metric tons of CO2.[1] Emissions are the result of shipping across great distances and consuming fossil fuels to power cars, locomotives and airplanes. When a company chooses to ship a document/package, a significant amount of carbon dioxide is emitted. This is a problem because carbon dioxide is classified as a major pollutant by the EPA and is believed to be the main contributing factor to global warming.[2]

In shipping documents in hard copy, businesses incur costs that may be avoidable. For instance, email and other technologies provide a good medium to transfer documents electronically, reducing both costs and carbon emissions. In today's world, companies have the option to save money and reduce their ecological impact by making use of electronic information exchange.

Link to spreadsheet: File:Document Virtualization ECM.xls

Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

Couriers[edit | edit source]

The courier business model is very carbon intensive. Some major methods of distribution are truck and air travel, which consume a significant amount of fossil fuels and have a significant ecological footprint. For Example, FedEx Express is the world's largest airline by freight tons shipped.[3] The quantity of emissions produced by a courier depends on many parameters, including whether the package is shipped by air or by ground. UPS, for example, publishes data on CO2 emissions per Available Ton Mile (ATM) for air shipping, as well as gallons of fuel consumed per ground package for ground shipping.[1] These figures are convertible into a total emissions value for a particular package. Note that emissions per ATM are a way of normalizing emissions data by distance and mass. 1 kg CO2 per ATM means that one kilogram of carbon dioxide is emitted when a package weighing 1 kg travels a distance of one mile.

Printing[edit | edit source]

The environmental impact of shipping documents is not limited to the shipping itself. Printing also produces emissions, both in terms of the paper used to print and the energy use during the printing process. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the production of every piece of paper emits 0.013 kg of CO2.[4] For example, when printing, a small-sized printer can consume up to 600 Watts.[5]

Economic Impact[edit | edit source]

Traditional Shipping Costs[edit | edit source]

Sending documents by courier incurs a cost for consumers. This ECM considers several factors in arriving at a cost.

Time Related Costs[edit | edit source]

One of the most significant economic costs of conventional shipping is the delay it introduces into the work flow. Two days lost to shipping means that writing must be completed two days earlier, or that the entire project takes two days longer to complete. The significance of this effect depends greatly on the project situation (is this document a part of critical path activities?), with shipping time being important for some projects but not others. In order to account for this, the ECM introduces an input allowing companies to specify the proportion of projects where this time loss is significant.

Cost of Shipping[edit | edit source]

Shipping costs are generally related to the distance traveled by a parcel, speed of delivery, and parcel weight. The ECM does not account for parcel weight in calculating shipping cost, assuming that most document parcels will be of comparable, low weight. The cost of shipping is largely affected by the distance the parcel needs to travel. This information may or may not be readily available to a firm. For ease of use, shipping distances have been divided into several bins. The Table below shows the values used for different ranges of parcel in the ECM.

Range Cost per parcel ($)
Local 0.15
Regional 25.00
Provincial 28.00
National 36.00
USA 52.00
International 80.00


Cost of Paper[edit | edit source]

According to the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 56% of organizations have increasing volumes of paper records and 40% print off new documents and emails for the purposes of filing them.[7] This research indicates that companies are printing large quantities of documents. The cost of buying enough paper to print large quantities of documents is included in the ECM. A cost of $0.016 per sheet of paper, increasing by $0.006 per sheet per percent of recycled content, is assumed.[8]

Electronic Sending Costs[edit | edit source]

Cost of Document Sharing System[edit | edit source]

In the past, this cost could have been quite significant. However, many freely available options now exist to share documents electronically. These systems are both easy to use and secure. Two such systems include Google Docs and DropBox. Electronic document sharing also creates additional opportunities for collaboration, an advantage that is not accounted for in the ECM.

Cost to Set Up Program[edit | edit source]

It may be necessary to purchase scanning equipment in order to allow documents currently stored in hard copy to be sent electronically. Additionally, for large firms, there may be labour costs associated with installing the document sharing system on large numbers of computers and training staff to use the system.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Collaborating and online documents sharing can have economic benefits to businesses, depending on the situation. Reducing dependence on couriers and printing also brings environmental benefits by reducing carbon dioxide emissions associated with transportation and paper use. Online document sharing has been faced with some resistance from major delivery companies, but this may prove to be an opportunity instead of a risk if approached correctly. There will always be a market for the delivery of goods, and these companies should welcome an opportunity to green and could present a value add in terms of the interface to share such documents. Further research should be conducted on human factors like preference for a hard copy, effectiveness in contract signing and impression on important clients.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 2008 UPS CSR / Environmental Stewardship. UPS; 2008. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20140728181201/http://www.responsibility.ups.com/Sustainability.
  2. Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions — PNAS. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20110918031324/http://www.pnas.org:80/content/early/2009/01/28/0812721106.short%5D [Accessed February 12, 2010].
  3. FedEx Express - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fedex_Express [Accessed February 12, 2010].
  4. Paper Calculator v2.0. Available at: http://www.edf.org/papercalculator/ [Accessed February 12, 2010].
  5. David Luke Oates. Power Meter Study - Samsung ML-2010. 2010.
  6. FedEx Rates and Transit Times. Available at: https://www.fedex.com/ratefinder/home [Accessed February 7, 2010].
  7. Miles D. AIIM Industry Watch: Electronic Records Management - Still Playing Catch-Up With Paper. 2009. Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20100611072800/http://www.aiim.org:80/Research/Electronic-Records-Management-Research.aspx.
  8. Copy and Multipurpose Paper White - Paper - Paper Forms Envelopes - Office Supplies at Office Depot. Available at: http://www.officedepot.com/a/browse/copy-and-multipurpose-paper-white/N=5+4224/;jsessionid=00000eI5rXGUaAKrF30Q8NbIVmT:13ddq0tng [Accessed February 13, 2010].

Return to the GreenIT Project page.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.