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Sustainability and innovation have been used in the same sentence for a long time now. The Harvard Business Review was writing how sustainability is a key driver of innovation way back in 2009.

Not much has changed – we still hear a lot about the two alongside each other, but are businesses actually looking at it in the right way?

Every day, you can find a new article about a company and their plans for net zero. These plans are essential, as they attack large strategic issues that are built into procurement or other processes.

We see an opportunity for businesses to tackle some of the smaller issues – which can still make a cost effective and lasting impression on the overall carbon footprint. We’ve written about how sustainable marketing can play a big part in this – and why its here to stay.

In this article, learn why digital business cards are a key innovation to sustainability or ESG goals, and how eco-friendly digital card management can be for large enterprise companies.

The ESG Focus: How countries are forcing Enterprises to become more sustainable

The Environment Act, Cop26 and NetZero commitments all made headlines in 2021, as policies over air quality, water quality, resources and wast management (including business waste). Another interesting element of this was requiring businesses to report on emissions and ESG. Companies should now expect to be judged internally and externally on their eco-friendliness.

The most obvious impact has been on plastic use in packaging and materials. There are similar considerations on paper production – which is a key component for traditional cards.

Paper business cards used to be the only option. You could choose heavy weights, the GSM of the paper, glossy printing and more. It was a cost effective way to share details at the time – a time and format that now dates back some few hundred years.

Printed business cards, while not the sole cause, will get caught up in the same arguments around the environment, deforestation and carbon emissions.

Innovation Focus: Large Projects vs Quick Wins

Decision tree showing the difference between a quick win decision vs a large project requiring more resources and resulting in more impact.

With a large business buying and printing thousands of paper business cards every year, the impact on paper production is notable. Digital business cards fit this narrative much better than their comparative printed, paper options.

Large projects take time, huge budgets and often over-run. Whilst attacking these, it is highly beneficial for an enterprise business to also explore opportunities for quicker wins that assist large changes to environmental impact.

Visible environmentally friendly change, such as eco-friendly business cards, shows positive progress to employees and partners in addition to affecting your ESG numbers.

What’s the issue with paper business cards?

Now there’s a question.

There is notoriously high carbon emissions throughout manufacturing. Its estimated that over 300 litres of water is needed to make one kilo of paper. One kilo is around 200 sheets; and paper production typically creates 10,000 sheets per average tree. On the chemical side of production, bleaches and toxins are common in printing ink which have their own negative effect on the environment.

After that, transport and posting add extra emissions on top of the above. Finally, paper cards become more difficult once thrown away.

Sustainable business cards: What does this include?

If you are reading this, you’ve likely explored a lot of business card offerings already. Paper business cards are still where many businesses go, although many are looking for recycled materials or an optimised printing process or manufacturing process that adds up to an eco-friendly alternative.

In short, they come in many forms. Finding materials locally, recycled business cards or eco-friendly paper stock, to naturally sourced, organic cotton or bamboo cards and other more lasting material such as plastic are all offered as a range of sustainable products. Recyclable and re-usable cards are a positive step, but can they be considered truly ‘green’?

All of these – including more durable material such as plastic or bamboo – require manufacturing and printing.

This requires environmental cost across machinery, ink and wider process that increases emissions – while negating some of the later effect. Additionally, these paper cards all have to fit in your wallet or pocket to be taken to events, an extra weight and hassle that can be avoided.

Additionally, a lot of these cards still end up in landfill after being thrown away. Paper decomposes and releases methane – a gas 20 times more potent than CO2.

Digital Business Cards: How sustainable are they compared to traditional business cards?

So are digital business cards the environmentally friendly alternative you’ve been looking for?

Set up correctly, a digital business card provider (like Doorway) can be the only style of solution that is net-zero, leaving no carbon footprint. This uses your phone to carry your professional cards, instead of traditional business cards.

The process has some computing energy cost, but this is often negated by the eco-friendly provider to reduce carbon emissions. This means the process for creating cards becomes incredibly simple, especially for a professional setting:

  1. Create a card on the portal, using a template or custom images. This gets sent automatically to your employees.
  2. They save to their Apple or Google Wallet
  3. Use their phone to share their details immediately – and repeatedly.

How do I create a truly sustainable digital business card?

The most sustainable choice is through an end-to-end digital business card solution. This way not one tree is harmed, there is no waste or printing, and you can track your positive impact toward saving trees.

The benefit of a digital business card platform and digital business card

A dedicated platform should have all the digital features that a business will need, including global or local management, HR integrations, the ability for data and contact details to be shared electronically – as well as providing accountability for their carbon emissions or environmental impact.

Roll out to the whole company in one go

Card design toolbox in the Doorway admin portal

A digital business card platform allows you to rollout or manage a global program with ease, making any localised or individual changes at scale. This reduces reliance on print, shortening time-scales and reducing printing costs, paper usage and waste.

Most will also connect with HR tools and personal information data storage tools like Workday, Okta or Azure Active Directory.

  • Create a professional and working brand across multiple offices
  • Manage users at scale
  • Store different versions or designs of digital cards

This can help with global updates, through a process that ticks multiple

Real-time updates

A digital business card will always have the advantage over a traditional business card here.

From your platform you can:

  • Update contact info
  • Change a brand image
  • Store and share company details or links to landing pages or documents
  • Update social media profiles for global events
  • Add a QR code or other digital options to your email signature

This is especially useful for any brand department, where contact details, a logo or other elements might need to be altered or changed based on your networking event. Unlike printed versions, there is no waste created when you change this on an electronic business card. This reduces the environmental impact of any mistakes, re-designs or great ideas that come along late in the day.

The majority of digital cards make use of a QR code that is put on their cards.

  • Static will mean that it is a one time creation (similar in a way to a printed card), and if you want to change any details you will need follow the original download process again (create a card, access or save it through your app, save the card or cards to your phone wallet if possible).
  • Dynamic QR Codes will auto-update and push the new code straight onto the business card.

Both these options control information and share it in an environmentally friendly manner, but we prefer the Dynamic QR Codes – they give our customers more flexibility.

Doorway’s Sustainable approach: Supporting Communities by Planting Trees

Image showing trees being planted and the caption "Planting trees with Doorway"

Estimations suggest that 42% of wood harvested is used to make paper. A huge amount of carbon is absorbed and then stored in trees, and reforestation projects are an important global strategy to try and reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

The National Geographic reported that reforestation and technology was a ‘must’ in the attempt to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Doorway plants trees for every customer. This is done through programs that focus on reforestation in critical areas to help the environment and create jobs for the local communities.

This means that Doorway is a truly sustainable option, reducing the environmental impact of ourselves and our customers. Last year alone, we planted over forty thousand trees. Each tree is specifically suited for the area in which it is planted, benefiting the local environment and providing local jobs.

Environmental Benefits of Digital Alternatives

We hope you can now see the true comparison between digital business cards and paper cards.

A business card with a digital element, will always be better for the environment and produce less waste when set up properly for a true digital business.

First Place: Digital business cards like Doorway

The true eco-friendly business card, digital cards will keep and share contact details that are up-to-date much longer, with no need to print on any physical card or paper.

Second Place: NFC business cards

NFC business cards, with contactless technology, can be argued as in second place due to the enhanced longevity they provide. A company dealing in NFC cards still has significant printing overhead versus digital options, but their users do benefit from the additional reduction of waste, additional app and general reduction in environmental impact compared to old business cards.

Last Place: Traditional paper business cards

A paper business card is not the sign of a digital business in 2024. With significant waste paper created, no digital benefits and limited use cases and time of use, getting business cards printed is not cost effective. and reduces the networking and business level impact

Hear more about digital business cards and sustainability

With so many option now available, any business can and should do better than the old paper business card. If you want to learn more about digital business cards or Doorway’s eco-friendly solution, get in touch through our contact form.

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