Do your bit for the environment using technology!

We’re all aware we should all be doing more to help conserve our environment. Government agencies and public action groups are all pushing towards green targets for carbon emissions with a variety of funds available to support environment protection in the property sector, including the Green Deal. Commitments to greater sustainability, and progress towards green goals, has become a key part of corporate responsibility and good citizenship for many companies across the world.

The lettings world has historically used a huge amount of paper due to the nature of tenancy agreements, inventory reports, invoices and other documentation passing between the agent, landlord and tenant on a daily basis. So what are you doing to tackle the volume of paper you use in your office everyday?

Today’s information and communication technologies provide many opportunities for businesses to function with far less paper. Email, internet, online file shares, digital signatures and online document storage can radically reduce paper use, while also saving time and money. In fact some estimates show that 10-30% reduction in paper usage is possible with appropriate use of available technology.

There are probably already many ways you are using technology to help streamline your processes and reduce paper:

  • Using email and social media to communicate with landlords and tenants
  • Gathering digital signatures (via Docusign) on tenancy agreements makes them available digitally, so no printing is required
  • Using online file share systems (like Dropbox) to share documents with landlords and tenants
  • Storing documents in electronic archives using data compression software, saving on filing cabinets and floor space

There are some even more basic paper-saving features available in software packages that we all use regularly, like Microsoft Excel. If you have to print something simply using the “Fit to Page” feature that will automatically re-scale a page to print evenly on one or several pages, and using the “Print Preview” feature will make sure the document prints on just one page.

TouchRight Software helps letting agents create property reports using technology, and creating these reports digitally can save on the need for paper and pen. We’ve looked at different ways to save paper even more by ‘linking reports’. For example, if you create your inventory report on TouchRight, you can digitally link to that report when inspecting the property at the check out, saving the need to print out the inventory report and take it with you to the property. Once reports are created, they can be sent via email to landlords and tenants as a PDF, or alternatively landlords and tenants can be provided with a secure login to access reports that are relevant to them, in a view-only format. The same ‘linking’ concept can be used for the regular mid-term inspections. If you want to see what you reported last time, don’t press print, simply let your device carry the report. The same goes for all those useful property details. No need to write down alarm codes, or beware they have a big dog, the notes field replaces the ‘Post it’ notes.

We also look at our own internal procedures to make sure we are being as ‘green’ as we can be. We use Amazon Web Servers (AWS) to store all our important customer data, reports and photos and recently Amazon has claimed that AWS customers use much less power and have much lower carbon emissions than on-premise operations, resulting in an estimated overall reduction in carbon emissions of 88%.

We’re really proud to be using systems that are striving towards renewable energy, and in fact AWS is working towards its long-term commitment to 100% renewable energy usage. Today the AWS global infrastructure is powered by approximately 25% renewable energy today, and that it expects this to reach 40% by the end of 2016.

We also try to be as paperless as possible within our office, using Google mail and apps for business emails and document storage, online accountancy packages so we don’t have to print off files for our accountant and digital note-taking for our business meetings. It’s a good job the office printer doesn’t have feelings!

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