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Travel & Expense ManagementSF Add-On

The Green Shift: How Digital Expense Management Contributes to Corporate Sustainability

By December 26, 2023April 30th, 2024No Comments

Table of Contents

  1. The Hidden Environmental Toll of Paper Expenses
  2. The Benefits of Digital Expense Management
  3. Reimburse In Action: Transforming Expense Management Workflows
  4. Measuring the Environmental Impact
  5. Next Steps: Driving Digital Adoption

Resources > Blog > The Green Shift: How Digital Expense Management Contributes to Corporate Sustainability

The Green Shift: How Digital Expense Management Contributes to Corporate Sustainability

Rolling Arrays
Published on Oct 14, 2023

Consider that one ream of basic printer paper produces over 5kg of carbon emissions. Now, envision the volumes printed across your global organisation. This paper-fueled footprint thwarts green goals.

It’s time for a green intervention in expense management. Those antiquated paper-based processes? They’re destroying forests faster than a wildfire. It’s time to digitise and rethink expenses for the future of sustainable business.

Legacy expense reporting via physical documents is a massive blindspot undermining environmental initiatives. Processing paper receipts and forms leaks sustainability across operations, from increased emissions to wasted productivity.

But by going digital, finance teams can transform expense management into an engine of eco-efficiency. Streamlined online platforms eliminate paper usage while optimising workflows.

This article will examine how paper-dependent expenses counter sustainability efforts and cost bottom lines. We’ll also demonstrate how digitisation injects green into financial processes through automation, visibility and integration.

Let’s dive into reimagining expenses for the future by understanding why traditional paper trails are stuck in the past.

The Hidden Environmental Toll of Paper Expenses

Processing expenses via paper may seem innocuous on the surface. But in reality, it’s a toxin damaging both sustainability and productivity.

There are also emissions from manufacturing, transporting and powering reams of paper. And antiquated document routing snarls up workflows, saving hours better spent on strategic initiatives.

In short, reliance on physical expense reporting inflicts environmental and efficiency harms. But digitisation offers solutions, as we’ll now explore.

The Benefits of Digital Expense Management

Digitising expense management delivers a sustainability slam dunk, eliminating paper usage while optimising financial processes. Let’s overview the key benefits:

  • No More Paper Waste: The entire expense lifecycle from submission to reimbursement happens online with a digital system. No printing is needed for reports or receipts.
  • Streamlined Workflow: Expenses can be submitted via mobile app and seamlessly routed for digital approval. Automation eliminates friction and delays.
  • Data Integration: Online platforms sync expense data directly into accounting/ERP systems. Manual data entry or reconciliation is optional.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Digital tools provide analytics on spending patterns that are impossible with paper. Trends can be analysed to inform cost optimisation initiatives.
  • Eliminated Non-Compliance: Smart expense management systems can eliminate non-compliant or duplicate expenses through real-time checks at submission, approval, and settlement stages, reducing incorrect reimbursements.

Together, this translates into massive paper reduction, freeing employee time while tightening compliance and financial management. For global companies, digital expense platforms also facilitate central oversight and policy consistency across borders.

Leading options like Reimburse integrate seamlessly with ERPs while offering flexible customisation. 

Reimburse In Action: Transforming Expense Management Workflows

Reimburse offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities to digitise traditionally paper-based expense workflows. Some key features in action:

  • Mobile App Submission: Employees can snap photos of receipts and submit expense claims instantly using the mobile app. No more collecting paper receipts.
  • Automated Approvals: Expenses are automatically routed to managers for digital approval based on configurable policy rules—Streamlines compliance.
  • OCR Receipt Capture: Reimburse scans and extracts vital details from receipts using AI-powered OCR, auto-populating fields to eliminate manual data entry.
  • Direct ERP Integration: Once approved, expense data flows directly into finance systems like SAP S/4HANA without reconciliation.
  • Reporting and Analytics: Custom digital dashboards provide real-time visibility into spending patterns not possible with paper reports.

By digitising the end-to-end expense process, Reimburse helps organisations eliminate paper usage, improve efficiency, tighten compliance and gain data-driven spending insights.

Measuring the Environmental Impact

Shifting to paperless expense management delivers immense sustainability gains. But how can organisations quantify the benefits? Here are some methods:

  • Paper Usage Savings: Track reams of paper purchased annually for expenses pre and post-digitization to showcase reduction.
  • Carbon Footprint: Use online emissions calculators to estimate the carbon savings based on paper no longer used and transported.
  • Energy and Water Reduction: Digital processes cut electricity and water usage for printing and paper production. Estimate savings using published conversion factors.
  • Waste Diversion: Calculate the volume of paper expenses that now avoid landfills or incineration. Demonstrates less solid waste.

For example, a global company with 50,000 employees could save 5,000 reams of paper yearly by going digital. That translates to over 27 tonnes of CO2, 140,000 litres of water, and 2500 kg of solid waste avoided.

Tying these measurable sustainability gains to corporate CSR commitments boosts the case for digital expense technology investments. The rewards span both financial ROI and global environmental impact.

While calculations require assumptions, they enable organisations to quantify and report on the green benefits of modernising expense management. Let’s now explore how to drive the adoption of paperless processes across your enterprise.

Next Steps: Driving Digital Adoption

Once digital expense management’s sustainability and efficiency potential are evident, next comes driving organisation-wide adoption. Here are some recommendations:

  • Build the Business Case: Quantify the paper, carbon and cost savings based on your current volumes. Show the hard ROI.
  • Train Employees: Provide hands-on guidance on new digital processes for submitting, approving and tracking expenses. 
  • Engage Finance Stakeholders: Get finance teams on board by showcasing the integrated data and enhanced reporting digital platforms enable.
  • Refine Approval Workflows: Leverage the flexibility of digital tools to optimise approval rules and routing scenarios for compliance and speed.
  • Develop Sustainability KPIs: Track paper usage reduction, carbon savings and other metrics to showcase the ongoing sustainability impact.
  • Communicate Results: Share success stories, usage metrics and environmental gains through newsletters and events to sustain momentum.

Organisations can transform employee expense habits at scale with a compelling business case, change management planning, and continuous improvement. The payoff is a streamlined, sustainable approach to financial management.

By embracing a culture of continuous improvement, finance teams can spearhead sustainability across all business operations. The green expense journey leads the way. Let’s walk it – digitally.

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