Paper-to-Digital Can Drive Sustainability at Scale

Adobe created the Portable Document Format, the PDF, in 1993 to provide an easy and reliable way to create, present, and exchange visually rich and composed documents independent of the device being used. The invention was one of the biggest steps toward the “paperless office,” perhaps second to computers.

A workplace built on digital technologies is not only more efficient and collaborative, but also more environmentally friendly.

Paperless Productivity

There’s greater focus on sustainability as companies evaluate their environmental impact, especially in the hybrid world of work. An Adobe study of U.S. workers found that 57 percent believe paper consumption is the biggest contributor to their employer’s environmental impact.

PDF has been around for 30 years, so you’d think that most organizations have already sunset their paper-based workflows. However, the Adobe Future of Digital Work Study reveals that nearly one out of three technology leaders say that about 50 percent of their work is still paper based.

Cloud-based technologies reduce or eliminate the need for paper documents and can also decrease other resource-intensive activities. With cloud-based tools, a salesperson could close a deal without ever printing a presentation or contract, getting on a plane, or driving a rental car. I see this firsthand every day with our customers. Using Adobe Acrobat, they convert and securely save slides PDF format, then easily email and track them. They share contracts via Adobe Acrobat, which allows the two parties to collaborate on the terms of the deal and make edits and leave comments directly in the PDF.

Once terms are agreed upon, our customers use Acrobat Sign to share and sign contracts as well as archive critical documents in their system of records. Additionally, with the Acrobat Sign integration with Microsoft Power Automate, our customers’ sales teams can automate the entire workflow using a simple drag-and-drop system to set up automated and customized e-signature workflows for their contract—no coding experience required.  

This example also demonstrates how digital documents and e-signatures can significantly increase sustainability—and productivity—by removing paper from the equation. Footwear brand PUMA employs 1,200 workers at its headquarters and handles around 500 contract processes per year. PUMA realized how much paper it was using to manage contracts and adopted Adobe Acrobat Sign to enable a more sustainable document management process. As a result, it shortened its contract processes from several days to an average of a few hours and saved thousands of sheets of paper, and CO2 emissions that would have resulted from posting contracts.

Sustainability at Scale

Sustainability initiatives can be daunting, whether because of size, scope, or cost. In the next few years, one in five employees believe their companies will spend more than a million dollars on sustainability alternatives, according to our study.

However, companies can help scale their sustainability efforts with the paper-to-digital transition. For example, documents created, signed, shared, and stored with Acrobat drive a 95% reduction in environmental impact compared with paper-based processes. Each year in the U.S. alone, Adobe Acrobat document and e-signature solutions transform what would have been 30 billion paper documents into digital workflows, saving the equivalent of 2.7 billion pounds of greenhouse gas, 3.2 billion gallons of water, 1.1 billion pounds of wood, 177 million pounds of waste and 1.1 billion kWh of energy.

Every organization can make digital document solutions a part of their larger sustainability strategy. ITV, the largest commercial television network in the U.K., has a goal to be net zero for carbon emissions and zero waste by 2030. To help meet this goal, ITV adopted Adobe Document Cloud digital documents and e-signatures to automate its document processes. The switch helped more than 800 employees save 3.4 million pieces of paper a year. In addition to reducing its paper consumption, ITV staff were also able to meet quick turn requests and stay productive, despite production challenges and requirements.

Adobe became a leader in the paper-to-digital evolution 30 years ago with PDF. We’re committed to continuing our mission with the guiding principle of scaling our impact by enabling our global customers to meet their sustainability goals through our products. In the past year alone, more than 8 billion electronic and digital signature transactions were processed through Adobe Document Cloud.

Learn how to make your business more sustainable by saving time, resources, emissions, and costs—as well as provide data and benchmarks for sustainability initiatives—through our free calculators that estimate the environmental savings that come with using Acrobat digital document products.

Digital Transformation