Secure Shredding: You Can Protect Documents and Achieve Eco-friendly Goals

The timely destruction of documents is important to any records management program, and using digital workflow and governance solutions can save time; but there are still requirements to store original records for set periods of time.

Businesses love paper. The amount on which they write, print and store grows 25 percent a year.1 This reliance on paper, however, can lead to these scenarios:

  • Decreased productivity as employees spend more time looking through paper documents to find what they need
  • Increased exposure to legal and financial risks when records are not properly destroyed

The reasons why businesses rely so heavily on paper vary: Some business leaders view paper as more secure, while other companies have always kept their records on paper, so they’re reluctant to change. At the same time, more companies are committing to reducing, if not eliminating, environmental damage that results from their operations. Shredding and recycling paper documents can help enable organizations to achieve their sustainability and financial goals.

The timely destruction of documents is critical to the success of any records management program, but it must be handled in ways that safeguard private information. If you’re responsible for records management or regulatory/environmental compliance for your company, here’s what you should consider to ensure the proper destruction of documents in ways that fulfill all legal and regulatory requirements and also meet business goals.

It’s Time to Carefully Dispose of Paper Documents

Customers’ confidential information, details about employees and your business’s proprietary documents, not to mention your brand’s reputation, are at stake when documents are kept too long. Legal, regulatory and internal policy requirements, along with agreements with third parties, all define the time period during which documents — paper and digital — must be stored and later destroyed.

Secure shredding of paper documents enables companies to destroy the information in a timely manner and be confident that the remaining paper waste can be disposed of without additional risks.

Make the Business Case for Shredding

Businesses today increasingly create documents in digital formats for easy access and the ability to be shared across myriad devices. Yet paper remains the dominant medium used by businesses worldwide.

A few businesses might decide to scan every existing document into a digital record, and then destroy all of the original paper copies. That certainly frees up floor space, but the upfront cost can be more than most companies are willing to fund. For one of our customers, we estimated the cost to digitize all of its historical documents at an amount equal to the cost of warehousing the paper records for another 30 years. Learning that, our customer chose a hybrid approach that enables the company to meet financial goals and reduce its environmental impact while working toward reducing the amount of historical documents.

A hybrid approach involves scanning historical paper documents only when they are needed. This so-called go-forward strategy works best when companies take these steps:

  • Create active documents in digital formats so they can be frequently accessed or used in workflow processes.
  • Scan historical documents to convert them from paper to digital.
  • Follow a proper retention and destruction schedule for both paper and digital records.

Eventually, paper versions of actively used documents for which there is no vital requirement to retain the original will be shredded and disposed of according to the schedule, thus slowly removing the expense of document management and storage.

Questions for Your Shredding Provider

Many vendors offer document shredding, but before you commit, ask the following questions to determine whether a particular supplier is the right fit for your needs:

  • Is the shredding company NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) certified?
  • The certification is your assurance that the vendor follows up-to-date security procedures to keep your company in compliance.
  • Does the shredding company manage waste and recycling at each of its sites?
  • Some vendors operate shredding trucks only and do not have the capacity to provide large-scale and ongoing shredding or recycling. Other vendors operate secure trucks to haul paper documents to a central disposal facility protected by advanced security systems.
  • Does the shredding company’s waste separation align with ISO14001 certification?
  • You want a partner to help your company reduce its impact on the environment and to meet your sustainability goals. ISO14001 certification assures you that the vendor has the equipment and trained personnel to properly handle scrap paper, metal and plastic from office documents.
  • How does the shredding company dispose of scrap paper?
  • Shredded paper documents can be recycled. The scrap paper in some cases can be burned at a power plant to produce electricity or heat for local communities. To meet your goals for sustainability and cost reduction, the shredded documents should never be disposed of in a landfill.
  • What documentation will the shredding company provide?
  • Your company should receive a Certificate of Destruction for every carton that has been destroyed. This is the evidence you need to demonstrate compliance with all legal, regulatory, policy and contractual requirements. Your shredding vendor should provide the Certificate of Destruction and also be able to report on the environmental impact of your sustainability efforts. Ask for reports of regular auditing of the vendor’s shredding and disposal process.

What You Can Accomplish by Shredding

There’s a financial incentive for companies to consider shredding at the end of their business information’s life cycle. Document shredding can enable companies to reduce paper storage costs if documents are properly managed on a schedule that sends them for destruction when all compliance requirements have been fulfilled.

Beyond that, secure shredding that a NAID-certified vendor handles can be an important step toward meeting any company’s goals for satisfying compliance requirements and sustainability objectives.

Source -  1Gartner, “ECM Magic Quadrant Report,” 2011.