FedEx Remote Reps Moving Towards the 'Paperless Office'

Jun 21, 2013 3:15 PM ET
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FedEx Blog > EarthSmart

By Sherri Strickler

When we think about sustainability and our customer service remote rep program, the first thing that comes to mind is how we have reduced carbon emissions by elimination the daily commute. We have another way in which our program is EarthSmart (solutions for a more sustainable world), and that is the reduction of our use of paper and striving toward becoming a ‘paperless office.’ 

The ‘paperless office’ was predicted in a 1975 article in Business Week magazine. It was based on the idea that automation and personal computers would make paper redundant and unnecessary, but that reality did not come to pass in our operation when we were in brick and mortar sites. Very early in the pilot test of remote operations we made a decision that it was time to for the concept of paperless office to come to call center operations. It was not a decision that was met with universal acceptance or standing ovation.

We are creatures of habit and were comfortable with having a document in hand versus locating the document on the computer. It is a process for people to go through to move from paper dependency to comfort with digital resources.

So what are the environmental benefits to reducing paper consumption?  

The paper manufacturing process itself creates greenhouse gases and uses a lot of energy. Over 4.6 million tons of copy paper were shipped in the US in 2000. Producing, using, and disposing of this much copy paper consumes enough wood to build one million average US homes, a day’s worth of water flowing through Niagara Falls, and more energy than that used by all the households in Los Angeles each year; while generating over 5.2 million tons of solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the tailpipe emission of over two million cars. 1

The average sized call center goes through 3 cases of paper per month. This equals approximately 15,000 sheets of paper. One tree yields 8,333 sheets of paper. In a year, going paperless reduces the number of trees needing to be harvested by 21 per call center. 

Are we 100% paperless? No. But we have made significant reductions in our use of paper and we will continue to question whether printing a document is necessary and looking for ways to help our team move quickly through the six stages of grieving over the loss of paper and appreciate how with this change how they are helping FedEx connect the world in responsible and resourceful ways.

[Read more about sustainability at FedEx in our Global Citizenship Report]