Going Green with E-Invoicing - What's the Real Story?

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22 December 2012
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E-invoicing has been touted as a significant step towards going green. It helps that commonly available accounting software, like QuickBooks, enables e-invoicing. Even a small or mid-sized business can generate an invoice quickly and send it immediately via e-mail, so the sender’s time and cost has been reduced. The sender also saves first class postage ($ .46 as of Jan 2013), the cost of the envelope and the labor cost for printing, envelope stuffing and mailing.

On the surface, it does seem this is a great step toward going green by reducing the volume of printed paper.

However, a recent study by AIIM among large-sized firms shows that the improved ecological value attributed to e-voicing is minimal, if not a total illusion.

And here’s why….

More than 77% of electronic invoices received are immediately printed by the recipient; 10% print this invoice more than once. Sixteen percent of the time, those printed invoices are re-scanned as PDFs … and re-printed yet again down the line, as the payment process proceeds. Do you see your business in this scenario?

Only 23% of the respondents process e-invoices electronically in their capture system. That translates to fewer than one in four e-voices actually producing green results in large companies! In small to mid-sized companies, the percentage of purely paperless payments is likely to be even lower.

It appears the responsibility for printing has merely shifted from the invoice generating entity to the invoice receiving entity. In the overall payment system process, e-invoicing is just one tool. Several more need to be developed to ensure that all parties refrain from printing and printing again, and adopt a truly paperless process. While businesses are trying their best to go green and reduce paper to save money and the environment, e-voicing as a means to that end is not as significant as commonly thought. Until we find more effective ways to go green, paper will continue to be consumed in the AP/AR departments for many decades to come.

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