RSA Canada is cutting paper, not trees

As the CFO of RSA Canada, John Asher loves a lean budget. As a father, he loves the idea of leaving a healthy planet for his two boys. So, when a look at the company books revealed that the insurance leader consumed roughly 17 million pieces of paper on internal printing last year, the equivalent of almost 500 trees, John was happy to step up as executive sponsor for World Wildlife Fund Canada’s Print Responsibly Challenge in April.

Forest in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada. © Global Warming Images / WWF

It’s just one example of RSA Canada’s long-standing commitment to sustainability. Over the years, they’ve implemented a slew of green initiatives, including recycling ink cartridges, using only FSC-certified paper, participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and becoming a lead sponsor of WWF-Canada’s Living Planet @ Work.
For the Print Responsibly Challenge, the company encouraged employees to shrink their paper footprints. In some cases, that meant simply taking a few printers offline to dampen the CTRL+P impulse. It also meant taking the time to better understand the needs of employees and investing in tools like eSignLive, an app that allows individuals to sign documents digitally. Meanwhile, staff leveraged existing software like Microsoft OneNote to take notes during meetings and they are now encouraging their suppliers and business partners to scrap the paper that often gets left behind. “We found that two of the largest uses for printing was to sign documents and take notes during meetings,” John says. “We easily identified alternative digital solutions for these functions.”
“Here are some examples of the piles that I used to pick up each day. They were automated reports, which represented at least four to six packages of paper per week!” 
—  Anne-Sophie Bergeron, Quebec City green champion

To bolster participation, RSA Canada also held educational workshops and ran contests. “I always believe you have to make it fun for people, as well as educational, in order to encourage new behaviours,” says John.
John Asher and sons © John Asher

Changing workplace habits can be difficult, particularly in large companies with long-established procedures. John emphasized that the challenge was to print responsibly, not to eliminate printing entirely. “We challenged our people to make their day-to-day paper impact as small as possible and we were thrilled to see them come up with new ways to do just that,” says John. Some examples included saving client documents in electronic folders instead of printing and filing hard copies, using two screens to compare documents and using simple tools like screenshots and electronic document markups to review and make notes.
By the end of April, the company slashed internal printing in its two biggest offices by 39 per cent on average, saving more than 62 boxes of paper in only two weeks. And, the benefits didn’t end there. In fact, John cites that for every dollar a company spends on paper, it spends $10 in staff time moving that paper around.
Buoyed by its success, RSA Canada is now looking forward to tackling two more Smart Office Challenges — one aimed at reducing e-waste and responsibly recycling, the other at trimming energy consumption.
“You can do things that are better for the environment and you can reduce your costs,” John concludes. “It just takes a little bit of conviction.”
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