One of the biggest environmental impacts Aflac has made as a result of its SmartGreenSM philosophy stems from our increased reliance on technology instead of paper-based transactions.
Aflac pioneered the paperless insurance transaction with the introduction of our patented laptop-based SmartApp® application system in 1994. Aflac’s SmartApp software was a winner in the 1999 Computerworld Smithsonian Awards and is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent research collection on information technology. Since the introduction of SmartApp, we have adopted many other paperless technologies to further reduce our reliance on paper and its associated resources. Today, over 90% of our applications are submitted electronically and over 80% of our accounts receive their invoices via our online billing system.
Not only do these technologies benefit the environment, they also benefit Aflac by reducing the amount we spend on paper. At the same time, we’re also saving on the costs of photocopy toner, printer ink and postage, not to mention paying less for storage space and filing equipment. According to research published by the Environmental Paper Network, these indirect costs can amount to 10 times the cost of the paper alone. The switch from paper to electronic transactions also has provided significant benefits in terms of the quality and efficiency of services provided.
As a result of our paperless initiatives, we were able to reduce our paper usage by approximately 42,666,968 sheets (213 tons) in 2008. In other words, in a single year we saved:
- 5,112 trees.
- 873,300 kWh (11.5 billion BTUs) of energy.
- 1,917 barrels of oil.
- 12,780 pounds of air pollutants.
- 1,419,000 gallons of water.
- 702.9 cubic yards of landfill space.
In addition to these resources, we were also able to save $4,380,795 that we would have otherwise spent on paper, postage, ink and other ancillary costs associated with paper’s use. Even better, we anticipate that these savings will continue to increase annually, as we shift more and more transactions to paperless technologies.