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Separating the wood from the trees

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Separating the wood from the trees

Wendy Logan discusses how payroll technologies are leading the way in ‘green’ company initiatives.


The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change was published in October 2006. Its shocking findings into the impact our lifestyles are having on the environment saw a new corporate awareness of green issues.

Suddenly, we were taking responsibility for the environment, and companies had to offer greener alternatives for common business practices. But how many of these alternatives are just hype, and how many actually benefit the environment?

When it comes to making companies greener, so far it’s the HR and payroll departments leading the way and implementing green initiatives that benefit the entire business.

There’s never been a better time for companies to look at the options available – research carried out recently by Harte Hanks revealed that almost one third (29%) of British companies are planning to move payroll processes online this year, removing one of the most paper-intensive parts of the business. In payroll particularly, companies have a number of environmentally friendly processes at their disposal, which can drastically reduce a business’ carbon footprint.

“When it comes to making companies greener, so far it’s the HR and payroll departments leading the way and implementing green initiatives that benefit the entire business.”

Making payroll greener can take many different forms. For some organisations, it means moving processes online, from managers and employees requesting benefits to managing the exit process. Others are able to take this a step further and even offer online payslips, reducing a major paper-waster from the process. And for those companies where the workforce is not computer-based, or their staff refuse to say goodbye to the payslip in their hand, it can be made a greener process by printing on recycled paper.

By printing these on recycled paper, businesses will save 1.32 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of paper, when compared to printing on virgin paper. The paper mill producing the reams of paper is committed to environmental responsibility, and has improved the quality of the water it returns after the production process.

The self-service approach

The Body Shop is one example of moving payroll online to save paper. The retailer has extended its pledge to ‘Protect our Planet’ to its HR services through expanding the chain’s use of an integrated HR and payroll system. This system includes a ‘self-service’ module that will reduce paper waste. Using a self-service approach to HR, employees can fill in time sheets and holiday or training request forms online. The tool will cut down both time and paper wasted in the HR processes.

Justin Taylor, HR partner at The Body Shop, commented: “Our work in HR enables us to improve efficiency and provide a better service for employees. By cutting down on the amount of paper used in the HR process, we’re also able to strengthen our commitment to the environment.”

“Using recycled payslips can go a long way to fulfilling carbon commitments. Trials have proved that it’s possible to have ‘green’ payslips at little extra cost.”

It’s easy to challenge our reliance on paper, and the shift is as much about a change in employees’ attitude as it is about new technology. There’s still a long way to go, but companies like The Body Shop are proving that green issues are moving up the HR agenda. The waste-free office, at least in the payroll department, is becoming a realistic prospect.

Not everyone can access the internet, so for large companies providing online payslips isn’t always enough. Most of the ‘official’ information we receive these days can be printed on recycled paper, for example bank statements and council forms. Payroll documents have, until now, been the final resting place for virgin paper, but now there are no excuses.

These days every big business has implemented a green corporate social responsibility policy, and using recycled payslips can go a long way to fulfilling carbon commitments. Trials have proved that it’s possible to have ‘green’ payslips at little extra cost. We’re hoping that many of our payroll customers will make recycled wage slips part of their environmental strategy.

As our impact on the environment gets higher and higher on corporate agendas, it won’t be long before HR and payroll departments are asked to prove that they’re taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Online processes and payslips and the use of recycled paper are straightforward ways to show you’re taking the green agenda seriously, and to start the organisation’s journey towards having a waste-free office.

Wendy Logan is technical operations manager at Northgate HR, a supplier of HR, payroll and pensions applications.

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