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Discovering the Environmental Benefits of AP Automation

Automation helps to eradicate many AP workflow challenges, such as lost or missing invoices, manual data entry, and manual routing for approval. However, the positive environmental impacts of automation are often overlooked.

Robert Lynch, P2P Insights Analyst
Published on April 17, 2023

Companies adopt AP automation to address the biggest accounts payable workflow challenges, such as a high amount of exceptions during invoice matching and manual approvals that take too long. Accelerating AP operations is crucial to running a profitable business.

However, one of the benefits that’s often overlooked is the impact that automation has on environmental goals.

The stunning statistics on paper usage may encourage you to question the wisdom of continuing the practice of issuing paper invoices. Paper creates up to 25% of landfill waste, 33% of municipal waste, and 50% of business waste.

Working towards reducing greenhouse emissions is becoming vital to businesses. 61% of companies expect that in the next three years, climate change will affect strategy and operations. Businesses also feel pressure from stakeholders including employees, management, the board of directors, shareholders, competitors, customers, and even lenders to act on climate change.



Reducing paper and achieving more efficient operations through AP automation minimizes your company’s environmental impact. At the same time, pursuing “green growth” improves brand reputation and recognition while increasing employee morale.


Embracing Innovation in the AP Process

Compared to the manual AP process, automated accounts payable workflows create fewer bottlenecks with less manual intervention. Buyers and sellers leverage technology to achieve a more efficient and cost-effective way to process invoices and payments. Your company can receive an invoice that carries billing data and even the traditional image of an invoice electronically.

AP software extracts data from purchase orders and invoices so that it’s ready for reconciliation and processing. The process eliminates paper and allows companies that value environmental protection to create an impact over the long term. Companies that choose to adopt automation find that it greatly improves their existing billing process. It reduces the amount of manual work, and it improves efficiency for their business and customers.


Understanding the Environmental Impact of Inefficient Manual Processes

Accounts payable departments are paper-intensive functions in many companies. Companies that process invoices manually have to print several documents every day.

High paper consumption is one reason behind global forest cover and forest loss. The pulp and paper industry has a significant impact on forest conservation since it accounts for 13 to 15% of total wood consumption. The United States only accounts for 5% of the world’s population, but it uses 30% of the global paper supply.

By absorbing water and releasing it into the atmosphere, trees facilitate the distribution of rain. Their canopies release oxygen, their root systems help prevent erosion, and the presence of forests protects wildlife. Unsustainable practices cause deforestation, which contributes to climate change, loss of biodiversity in forests that can affect entire ecosystems, soil erosions that can cause flooding and landslides, and water cycle disruption that puts the planet at risk.

Switching to AP automation reduces demand for paper as companies can operate with fewer paper documents. Automation minimizes paper use in the finance department, allowing your company to come closer to creating a paperless office. Reducing paper usage eliminates fewer trees. At the same time, an efficient process reduces energy consumption, which plays a vital role in addressing climate change and global warming.


Why Should Businesses Care About the Environment?

When humans consider the impact of felling trees to make paper, it puts things into perspective, providing important reasons to focus on automation. While preserving the environment for future generations is an admirable mission, for businesses, the impact goes beyond creating a sustainable and livable environment.

Concern over climate matters has increased over recent years. Deloitte reports that climate change is the second most pressing issue – second only to the economic outlook. Sustainability efforts accelerated over the past year as 75% of organizations increased investments in green initiatives. Almost 20% increased sustainability investments by a significant margin.




For 46% of companies, a top climate issue is the cost of resources and resource scarcity. However, for the largest organizations with more than 50,000 employees, shareholder pressure is also a factor.

Regulation is also another area of concern. Organizations have to keep up with evolving laws and regulations designed to preserve the environment, alongside changing customer perspectives when it comes to sustainability. Customers want to see the businesses they support make environmentally friendly decisions.


Taking a Positive Approach

Automation increases efficiencies in the office, improves customer convenience, and enables customers and companies to realize savings of time and money while staying on a path to preserving the planet. Some of the benefits deserve close examination to further understand how AP automation can make a meaningful difference.


Ensuring Invoice Accuracy

Accounts payable automation creates a seamless and more efficient workflow by achieving a first-time match rate and setting up effective invoice approval workflows. Without automation, it’s easy to miss details that could result in significant losses.


Improving Quality of Work

Some of the benefits of automation show up as minimizing typing errors that require administrative rework and sometimes result in costly mistakes. Companies can obtain greater efficiency with data and exercise greater control over it when human error does not intrude.


Satisfying the Corporate Leaders

The benefits of automation that may appeal especially to corporate executives focus on its ability to present an accurate and up-to-date snapshot of cash flow. The availability of crucial information on a timely basis can add significant value to the data as it provides a basis for informed decision making.

With accurate and reliable financial information available on demand, corporate leaders may develop a competitive edge. Enhanced access to data may improve the ability to forecast that gives companies a valuable advantage in the marketplace.


Taking a Responsible Position for the Future of the Planet

You can take pride in helping your company accept the advanced technology that moves toward more efficient business practices and the protection of the environment. A change that occurs in almost any business practice may seem daunting or even forbidding at first, but AP automation does not alter the way that your company does business. It does, however, make it more efficient, more error-free, more cost-effective and more satisfactory to invoice issuers and payers. You can also unlock several environmental benefits. With patience and understanding, you may help your company show respect for the environment by switching to AP automation.

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