To see our gallery of paper saving business ideas, click here. Or see our fact sheet of Top Ten Tips for Paper Efficiency. If your company has a good news story to tell about how you have reduced your paper use, we want to hear about it! Please send information to the Shrink Co-ordinator.



In 2013, we assessed 60 organisations’ paper efficiency policies and practices for the 2013 Paper Efficiency Scorecard. UK retail chain Marks and Spencer (M&S) came out top of the assessment with an overall score of 91%. What did M&S do to get such a high score and how can we learn from its success?

First, the company set bold targets to significantly reduce paper usage, e.g. a 25% reduction target in printer paper. It also set targets for outsourced supplier printing, something that few organisations do.

Second, the company made reductions across the business in different paper use areas, including printer paper (29% cut since 2009) and packaging (26% reduction in the same period). In order to reduce employee printing, the company:

  • communicated the true cost of printing to staff and regularly engaged with colleagues and suppliers on paper reduction;
  • introduced technology so that reports can be viewed digitally (e.g. 1700 iPads were introduced to stores);
  • reduced the number of printers and ensured they were all duplex, and introduced ‘Green Print’ and ‘Pull Print’ systems.

To reduce paper used in packaging, the company:

      • signed up to WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment;
      • identified key areas where savings could be made;
      • focused on minimising write-offs of food packaging stocks;
      • simplified the number of packaging materials used and reduced their weights;
      • reduced home delivery and transit packaging;
      • increased the number of in-store products without any packaging at all.

Some of the other business paper savings have been achieved by taking advantage of new information and communication technologies, including:

            • electronic employee payslips;
            • social media for marketing new products rather than traditional print media;
            • engaging with customers through the M&S app and tailored customer emails, leading to a decrease in printed catalogues and magazines.

Overall M&S’s approach is very simple: clear targets that stretch the business enough to encourage innovation, clear communication amongst colleagues and suppliers, followed by implementation of new technology and monitoring of its progress. Its great reduction results show this approach really works when it is applied systematically across the business. [Source: Marks and Spencer]


The phone company uses digital technology to cut printing by 80%.

Vodafone secured top place in the utilities sector in our Paper Efficiency Scorecard in 2013, a whole 30 points ahead of the next best-performing telecommunications company. This is because of the dramatic paper savings it has achieved over the last four years. Despite being one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, its printer contractor now classes Vodafone as an SME based on the small amount of paper it uses!

It is not always possible to avoid printing but Vodafone makes sure all its employees keep it to an absolute minimum. Since starting to monitor paper statistics in 2008/9, Vodafone has been able to identify trends and areas for improvement. In three years they reduced usage from 33 million sheets of paper every year to just 6.5 million. That’s a reduction equivalent to more than 3000 trees. It also saved the company £3.5 million a year.

So how has Vodafone managed to make such significant progress in a relatively short period of time?

  • Running ‘A Page a Day’ employee campaign which talked about how much everyone prints and set a target of keeping it to just one page a day.
  • Bringing in ‘Follow me printing’ which means that nothing is printed unless an access card is swiped. Colour printing is also discouraged and printers automatically print double-sided.
  • Cutting the number of printers in offices to just one printer for every 125 employees, less than half the UK average.
  • Moving from desktops to laptops so employees are not tied to their desks. Vodafone’s policy of hot-desking, part of its ‘Better Ways of Working’ culture, means a strict clear desk policy and discourages employees from printing by not allowing any paperwork to be left on desks overnight.
  • Working with the top 25 biggest paper users to find ways they can change their printing behaviours.

There’s more work to be done before Vodafone can truly call itself a ‘paperless office’. The company has a target to reduce paper consumption by 80% (from their 2008/9 levels) by March 2014. It plans to continue regular employee communications and campaigns and, as a technology company, encourages employees to use tablets and laptops in meetings instead of print-outs. The culture of ‘Better Ways of Working’ provides them with the space and freedom to ditch the old and embrace a new, more sustainable way of working. [Source: Vodafone]


The Post Office saves enough paper to go half way to the moon

The Post Office has been providing essential services to communities from tiny villages to large cities for almost 400 years.  With around 11,700 branches, the Post Office operates the largest retail network in the UK and every week around 18 million customers visit a Post office branch for postal, government, financial and telecoms services.

Even with ever increasing levels of automation, 18 million customers a week still means that an incredible amount of paper application forms, till receipts, labels, envelopes, product leaflets and brochures are used every day; on average about 3000 tonnes of paper each year. Reducing paper, reducing waste and ensuring that what paper is used is sourced responsibly is therefore important to the Post Office.

As a business the Post Office gets through some 20 million till rolls a year. By redesigning the way that customer till receipts print sales details a saving of some 750,000 rolls a year has been achieved which, if put end-to-end, represents over 149,000km of paper – enough to go half way to the moon!

With a product range of several hundred items, the Post Office holds vast numbers of pre-printed forms at main post offices and it is looking at reducing these by introducing print stations in main Post Offices where a customer can just select the form they require from a touchscreen menu and a copy is printed out for them. By holding an electronic copy of the form on a central server, this allows amended forms to be uploaded for instant availability with no reprint costs or waste.

[Source: Brian Glover, Post Office Limited]



The Royal Society for Protection of Birds is Europe’s biggest environmental charity, with more than a million members. Its Human Resources Directorate (which includes functions such as training, personnel, etc.) identified paper use as a significant aspect of the organisation’s Environmental Action Plan. In team meetings, staff looked at the main uses of paper and worked out where they could eliminate and reduce usage.

The following changes were put in place:

  • The health and safety newspaper, which had been sent out on 4 or 5 pages of paper, is now sent electronically.
  • Payslips for more than 2000 staff every month are now sent electronically.
  • Staff are encouraged to use double-sided printing as default and to use print preview to reduce unnecessary printing, to only print key parts of emails to minimise paper use and consider alternatives before printing.

A baseline of paper use was set in 2012/13 and the initial figures for how quickly change is happening are very encouraging: there has been a drop of 4500 sheets – a cut of 22% – in just 3 months.

Other initiatives in the pipeline should reduce paper use even more. They are gradually shifting to an electronic personnel system, which will allow all recruitment paperwork to be done electronically, as well as staff sickness records and leave. They are also looking to replace the organisation’s varied collection of printers with fewer, more flexible printers with a locked printing facility.

The RSPB approach demonstrates three key principles – firstly getting staff involved in finding solutions to reducing wasteful paper use,  secondly identifying concrete and practical first steps to take, with, thirdly, monitoring in place so that success can be celebrated and built upon. [Source: Sarah Alsbury, RSPB]




Patagonia Discovers Less Packaging Means More Sales.

A major role of packaging is to signal to, attract and inform potential customers. Many food product labels are made of paper: sashes on tins, sticky labels on fruit, and the myriad cardboard packets that are used to conceal the cellophane-wrapped contents within, be they sausages or sweeties. Non-food products are also often wrapped in distinctive packaging, not so much to protect the contents physically, but for brand identification.

But in some cases, the packaging may be getting between the goods and the people interested in buying them, as outdoor-clothing company Patagonia found out. In the words of a Patagonia spokesperson: ‘In the early days of our base layer business, when we were still selling polypropelene, we packaged it in a plastic bag with a cardboard tag, which cost us 20 cents per unit. Next, we shifted to paper packaging, similar to a mini grocery store bag. Our environmental impact was lower, and the cost came down to 16 cents a unit. Now, with our Capilene line, we just roll up the bare garment and wrap it with a recycled cardboard card and two rubber bands. We call it the “sushi roll.”… It’s reduced our costs to 6 cents per unit and eliminated tons of waste. As an added advantage, the exposed packaging allows customers to touch the product, which has actually increased sales. Retailers thought it was going to be terrible: they told us time and time again that consumers would hate the sushi roll. But again, when you do the right thing, success follows.’

[Source: Dogwood Alliance]



Littlewoods, one of the UK’s largest and most well-known catalogue retailers, has saved 1.3 million trees in the past three years by reducing its paper consumption by more than 50,000 tonnes.

The company has made drastic cuts, of up to 66%, in the volume of paper used to create catalogues. As well as making a huge reduction in its forest footprint this has also saved 5 billion litres of water, reduced paper-related carbon emissions by 315,000 tonnes and avoided 60,000 tonnes of other pollution.

The paper reductions have been due to a combination of factors, including a drive to shift purchasing online. Littlewoods’ parent company, Shop Direct Home Shopping Limited, has been rationalising to prepare itself for the 21st century and by merging the customer databases for several brands it now sends out far fewer catalogues by post. It has also cut the number of pages in its catalogues, reducing their weight. Its latest catalogue is smaller still and instead of including full details of goods it is a directory designed to point customers to the internet site. The company aims for 70% of its sales to be online by 2010.

[Case study material provided by Ken Roberts, CDMS Ltd]



Haymarket, one of the UK’s biggest magazine companies, has already cut office paper use by 33% since 2005, saving more than 26 tonnes of paper, and it is has set itself the target of a further 15% reduction in 2009.

The results of their efficiency gains are substantial money savings. Erica Okpokpor of Haymarket says: “Not only has the spend on paper reduced year on year but some of the reduction strategies implemented have generated secondary benefits, such as a reduction in the number of printers used, reduced maintenance costs on equipment, lower toner costs and the freeing up of valuable floor space.” This has included replacing desk-top printers with a central pool of printers set to print double-sided.

The spirit of efficiency is spreading from their offices to their core business. Although their aim is to sell more magazines, they intend to make substantial savings by making sure that they print no more than they can sell. Working with distributor Frontline, they have set a target to reduce their unsold magazines by 50%.



The Co-operative Group has achieved astonishing paper efficiencies by transforming the way its staff work, encouraging new, flexible work routines that make the most of digital technology and release them from desk-bound paper-heavy information systems. They have encouraged their staff to ‘cleanse’ their work areas of paper, digitally archiving large amounts of material and reducing paper use in the organisation by a staggering 71%.

What makes the Co-op’s story even more amazing are the knock-on financial savings that this change has brought about. They have recently moved into a new building and their new paper-light office practices meant that they could reduce the scale of the building by one whole floor, saving them £20 million.[Source: Jazz Chana, Co-operative Group]


Bank cashes in on paper saving opportunities, saving $10 million.

Between 2004 and 2013, Standard Chartered has reduced its paper consumption by an impressive two-thirds, avoiding the use of tens of thousands of trees, and saving the company more than 10 million US dollars.

Standard Chartered Bank is a global bank with particular interests in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It has over 1,700 branches, offices and outlets in 70 countries. It has been working on reducing use of office paper across its footprint since 2004 when it set its first reduction targets; these are updated every 3 years. Its current overall target is to reduce its office paper to 10kg per full time employee (fte) per year by 2020.

Part of Standard Chartered’s strategy to reduce paper use has included looking at the type and weight of paper used, aiming to ‘light-weight’ as far as possible. To facilitate paper reduction and ensure that paper is responsibly sourced the bank has devised a grading system for papers: Gold, Silver and Bronze. All three grades must be FSC certified. The Gold standard is FSC recycled paper and the lightest paper (70g). The Bronze standard is the heaviest (80g).

The Bank focussed on reduction of office paper by looking at where paper was printed most and who controlled its use. In 2009 a Group Technology and Operations Sustainability Manager was hired specifically to oversee paper reduction throughout the business. In each of Standard Chartered’s operating countries it has ‘Paper Champions.’ These are staff members who are passionate about the environment and on top of their daily jobs they come up with ideas to save paper. Every quarter the Paper Champions meet virtually together with the Sustainability Manager to discuss ideas and share best practice.

Other practical initiatives the bank has taken to reduce paper use include printing standards, a ‘Say No to Printing’ project and a competition to see which country performed best in terms of paper reduction.

This strategy is certainly working: In 2005 the bank’s paper use was 79kg per full time employee, while its latest figures show that this has reduced to 23kg/fte. Standard Chartered has therefore achieved a 67% reduction in paper use over the last eight years. In 2013, the bank welcomed its 3 millionth digital active customer. Today 54% of its retail customers receive eStatements, saving an estimated 16,000 trees and saving the bank US$10.8 million each year. In our 2013 Paper Efficiency Scorecard survey the bank was one of the highest-flying companies with an overall score of 89%.

[Source: Standard Chartered]



In 2008, Bradford University made sustainability a headline issue with its Ecoversity Project, setting a target to cut paper use by 10% each year for 5 years. The project was championed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, which gave it the leadership essential to reach all parts of the organisation. Ben Tongue, Environmental Manager, said, ‘The paper saving aspect of the project was nice because it could include everyone in the University’.

Meetings with staff and students generated ideas for how paper could be saved across the University. These included a paperless admissions system, running paperless meetings, including paper saving measures in assessment guidelines, and a raft of technological fixes such as ensuring printers are set to duplex by default. ‘There were lots of great ideas, from very basic to high-tech,’ says Ben, ‘and we had good collaboration with departments to start putting them into action.’

The result was that in the first two years, the project targets were met, with A3 and A4 paper bought by the University reducing from 22.5 million sheets to 17.5 million sheets, saving £28,000 per year, plus the knock-on savings of less photocopying and printing, storage and distribution. Its central printing operation saw a reduction of 30% in the same period.


Much of these reductions were the result of a shift away from giving students handouts on paper, and instead giving them online access to learning materials. If students are printing downloads away from the University, then the absolute reduction in paper use may be less than that recorded, but if online billing is anything to go by, it is unlikely that this displaced impact is more than a fraction of the paper saved. Research into paper use by students (and staff) off campus would be necessary to ascertain this.

Unfortunately, since the sharp rises in student fees, the University’s senior management has refocused its priorities away from the Ecoversity Project and there are no longer any staff with a University-wide remit to pursue the paper saving initiative. As a result in the last couple of years, paper purchases have levelled off and the environmental and financial benefits have slowed.

If the project could be resurrected, there is clearly much more that could be achieved. Ben says, ‘We had materials, like documents about how to print most efficiently, which were never circulated, and ideas about how IT could set systems up to save more paper.’ Let’s hope they get the opportunity to continue what was clearly an excellent project.

[Source: Ben Tongue, Bradford University]



FERN is one of the EEPN’s member organisations, and after they signed our common vision they set about tackling paper use in their own offices. As well as encouraging others to reduce their paper footprint, they felt it was important to try to do something about their own. Their first steps were to reduce printing in the office and move to an electronic format Annual Report, reducing the printrun by 95% (from 1000 to just 50 copies).

Then they addressed their monthly news bulletin, Forest Watch, asking all its recipients if they would be willing to receive it electronically, rather than through the post. They pointed out that producing just one copy of each edition uses the same energy as leaving a 40w lightbulb on for 8 hours. Before they did this, they used to send out 800 paper copies of the newsletter. Since appealing for email addresses, they have only sent out 8 paper copies per month and the e-version goes out to 1,200 people.

This saves an estimated 440kg of paper each year. This is a modest amount, but if every organisation, large and small, was taking these simple steps, we would be well on our way to achieving our vision of halving paper use in Europe.



Duchy Originals has produced a sleek new carton for its luxury organic chocolates, demonstrating that shrinking packaging volume by half can bring benefits for branding as well as financial and environmental savings.

Susan Haddleton, Duchy Original’s Head of Sustainability and Procurement, recently joined the Duchy team. She has an ideal back ground in food policy, sustainable development and food packaging. Shortly after joining she looked at the Duchy products with the notion “if products could talk, what would they say?” She knew immediately that she needed to be using a lot less resources to package the chocolate ‘bezants’ (large luxury organic chocolate coins) and that the paperboard that was used needed to come from sources she could trust. The existing paperboard packaging weighed 68g and it held 200g of product.

She contacted the carton manufacturer and started to look at options that would allow for lighter, more resource efficient, packaging. This included looking at different elements and designs within the trade as well as the manufacturer’s ideas on carton closure options. Susan then worked with a design agency to agree the carton shape and finer detail. She also worked with the chocolate producer, and Duchy’s own technical department to get further input.

The resultant carton is no longer rigid like its predecessor, which means it can be transported flat prior to filling. Previously the rigid container meant that a lot of air was being transported as well as the cartons! The new carton is also Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified under its ‘mixed sources’ label – the wood fibre comes from a mix of FSC certified and other controlled sources. In addition Duchy made a priority of choosing a UK-based carton supplier and a UK-based paper mill, Iggesund in Workington. The chocolate bezant packaging now weighs 26g and holds 160g of product. Weight for weight this is a 48% reduction.

Susan and the team at Duchy are viewing the new carton as a journey. They are learning along the way and see it as just one step on the road to greater sustainability. The carton can be improved further, says Susan, especially with regard to telling the sustainability story of the chocolate and a more premium unique carton profile.

Overall the product redesign meant Duchy not only saved paper but also had an opportunity for improving its branding and product information. The new packaging takes up less space on the shelf, allowing more product into the same space. The new look package helps to present the bezants as both a premium and a sustainable product.
In total, this single redesign has saved 8.9 tonnes of packaging, and we estimate that this means Duchy Originals has saved 231 trees, 890,000 litres of water, 58 tonnes of carbon emissions and 10.7 tonnes of other air, water and solid pollution.

[Case study material provided by Susan Haddleton, Duchy Originals]



UK finance company Standard Life has committed to reduce its paper use by 50% by 2012, becoming the first company to make a pledge with the Shrink project. It has already made a cut of 23%, saving 320 tonnes of paper.

Standard Life’s consultation with its more than 1.5 million shareholders revealed that only 6% actually want to receive paper mailings.

Their paper reduction commitment is the result of an overarching environmental strategy to consume less, recycle more and dispose sensitively of what remains, and it goes side-by-side with other great environmental paper commitments such as using 100% recycled paper for photocopying and office printing and ensuring any non-recycled content in paper for marketing literature is certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Its paper cuts so far have saved, by our calculations (with all our usual caveats about approximates based on averages for the paper industry etc), the equivalent of more than 8000 trees, 32 million litres of water, 384 tonnes of air, water and solid pollution, and more than 2000 tonnes of climate change emissions.

So how has Standard Life achieved its paper reductions? Through a combination of reduced mailings and office efficiencies. A consultation with its more than 1.5 million shareholders revealed that only 6% actually wanted to receive mailings like AGM notices on paper and the rest wanted to ‘Go paperless’. The company has therefore been able to make big shifts to online communications.

To get office reductions they ran a company pledging scheme, whereby 700 employees pledged to ‘think before printing, if printing to print duplex and two pages to one side’. The initiative is supported by a Green Team whose members have communicated the message, and given practical assistance like helping staff to set up local printing functions to print duplex and supporting the implementation of new technologies. The company has both upgraded and reduced the number of printers, cutting the number by half and ensuring that all have duplex facilities and other environmental benefits like energy saving.

As well as the the environmental benefits, the result is a substantial saving in costs of paper, energy, postage and storage space.

[Case study material provided by Rachel Turner, Standard Life]



UK magazine publisher IPC Media has saved 9600 tonnes of paper – that’s almost a quarter of a million trees – in an efficiency drive that has slashed the number of unsold magazines.

IPC Media has many popular brands, including NME, wallpaper, Homes and Gardens, Woman and Home, Country Life, Marie Claire, The Field, Woman, What’s on TV, Nuts and Rugby World. More than 60% of women and 45% of men in the UK read an IPC magazine, most of which are supplied on a sale or return basis to retailers. Any unsold magazines are returned for recycling, but this wastes paper and is costly.

IPC set about devising efficiency measures in its supply chain, together with distributor Marketforce. These include computer models that can forecast sales more accurately and new technology for better print order planning. They have introduced sales-based replenishment systems to wholesalers and points of purchase, so the stock of magazines in shops can be topped up as needed, rather than overstocked just in case they might sell well. People are just as big a part of the measures as technology: they have put in place a dedicated team of supply and demand experts and worked on improving communication with their wholesalers and distributors, especially about magazine brands, so that everyone in the supply chain is better informed and able to avoid waste.

The results are impressive: unsold magazines have reduced by 16% since the end of 2006, with 30 million fewer unsold magazines, giving a total saving of 9,600 tonnes of paper. By our calculations (with all our usual caveats about approximates based on averages for the paper industry etc) IPC Media’s paper reduction has saved around 249,600 trees, 960 million litres of water, 11,520 tonnes of air, water and solid pollution and at least 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

[Shrink case study material provided by Adrian Hughes, IPC Media]



Barclays Capital in the UK has saved £200,000 through office paper efficiency measures that have cut in-house paper use by 48.1%.

The cost savings include energy and toner reductions as well as the actual cost of the 20 million sheets of paper they have saved. This 90 tonne reduction is the equivalent of 2340 trees, nearly a million litres of water, 567 tonnes of CO2, and more than 100 tonnes of other pollution.

One of the bright ideas leading to the paper savings was to reformat internal investment presentations known as ‘pitch books’, from single-sided A4 to double-sided A5. In one year, this new format’s use in London saved 7.7 million sheets of paper! A further 3 million sheets were saved by reducing valuations mailed to clients from 14 to 5 pages, and contract note schedules from 20 pages down to 1 page.

Shifting to a managed print service has also brought about both paper and energy efficiencies. One of the technological innovations is the use of ‘PIN to collect’, whereby staff use a swipe card to pick-up printouts from central printers, thus both ensuring confidentiality and reducing waste from forgotten print-jobs.

Barclays has set a target to keep reducing paper use by 4% each year. Paul Baglin,Vice-President responsible for Environmental Management, says “Targets help to drive cost savings and operational efficiency, improve purchasing decisions and support and enhance our reputation as a company that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.”