Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carbon Footprint of Paper versus Electronic Invoices

One of my Green ICT students pointed out the very useful paper "Assessing the Carbon Footprint of Paper vs. Electronic Invoicing" ( Tenhunen, Maija and Penttinen, Esko, 2010). They found electronic invoices reduce the carbon footprint by 63%. Most of the saving comes mostly from reduced manual labour, not reduced paper production or transport.


In this paper, we assess the carbon footprint of paper versus electronic invoicing practices. Based on expert interviews and a case study, we develop process charts for each process (paper vs. electronic, outgoing vs. incoming) and pinpoint the main differences between the paper-based invoicing and electronic invoicing. Our findings indicate that moving from paper-based invoicing to electronic invoicing decreases the carbon footprint of one invoice (lifecycle) by 63%. The greatest effect comes from the elimination of unnecessary manual work, while material and transportation are significant factors as well. This is due to the fact that invoice data in structured, electronic format enables the automation of invoicing in greater extent than paper-based invoicing or electronic invoicing in non-structured format (such as PDF-files). This further underlines the benefits of electronic processing of invoices in addition to the processing cost savings.

Recommended Citation

Tenhunen, Maija and Penttinen, Esko, "Assessing the Carbon Footprint of Paper vs. Electronic Invoicing" (2010). ACIS 2010 Proceedings. Paper 95.

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