Electronic letters cut carbon dioxide emissions in half


Electronic invoicing may decrease carbon emissions by up to 90 per cent

Itella Information has studied the carbon dioxide emissions of the electronic iPost service and the traditional paper process in Finland. According to the results, the carbon dioxide emissions from the production process of a fully electronic letter are approximately 40 per cent lower than those of a paper letter delivered in the traditional way. The paper process produces about 50 grams of carbon dioxide, including delivery. At the time of the data collection, the production of each electronic letter resulted in 30 grams of carbon dioxide being released. As the volume of electronic letters increases, however, the carbon emissions may be cut by nearly 90 per cent compared to paper letters.

For the paper process, the carbon emissions for the processing, printing, enveloping and physical delivery of letters received at Itella in electronic form were investigated. The calculations included the energy consumption of the servers, the paper, envelopes, printing and enveloping processes, air conditioning, power consumption of the working facilities, and the fuel and energy spent in the delivery process. For the electronic process, the load resulting from the processing of electronic letters, the energy consumption of the servers, air conditioning and electronic delivery was considered. The study also considered the energy used to read each electronic letter on a home computer, as well as the six-year archiving in the NetPosti service. The current evaluation was the first carbon emission comparison of the paper and electronic eInvoicing consumer services in Finland.
-The study confirms our impression that the electronic process will bring a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. However, we were surprised to find that the difference between the emissions of the electronic and paper processes was not bigger for the current production processes, says Director Miikka Savolainen from Itella Information.

Itella already uses optimal production and delivery processes for large volumes of paper letters. In the paper process, printing and enveloping produce an approximate total of 26 grams of carbon dioxide, and delivery adds another 21 grams to this figure.

- The emissions resulting from the use of materials were nearly four times higher than the emissions caused by the infrastructure. The results show that the energy efficient iPost service produces lower environmental loads than the traditional printing and delivery service, at least as far as carbon emissions are concerned, says Jonne Hellgren of Natural Interest Ltd., which carried out the study.

Finns are bringing up the rear in the adoption of electronic invoicing. The iPost service already has a complete electronic channel waiting for volumes to increase.

- NetPosti has the capacity ready for much higher volumes. When the use of NetPosti becomes common, our calculations show that the carbon emissions per one electronic letter will be nearly 90 per cent lower than those of paper letters. The environmental benefits of the electronic invoices over paper invoices will be more than redeemed when volumes increase. The challenge is the same for all electronic services, Miikka Savolainen explains.

iPost is an Itella Information service in which companies deliver materials, such as invoices, customer bulletins or payslips, to Itella in electronic form. Itella forwards the materials in the manner chosen by the recipient, either electronically or by paper mail. Consumers’ electronic letters are delivered via NetPosti. Companies receive their invoices directly in their purchase invoice processing system. In 2008, approximately 105 million iPost letters were delivered globally, most of them in Finland. Electronic consumer letters with no paper versions totalled about one million. 

The carbon emissions for the iPost service were evaluated based on the 2007 figures for Itella Information Oy’s offices at Postintaival 9, Helsinki.


For more information, please contact:
Miikka Savolainen, Director, Itella Information, tel. +358 40 753 6484
Hanna Kaustia, Director, Corporate Environment, tel. +358 40 765 7772
Jonne Hellgren, Managing Director, Natural Interest Ltd., tel. +358 40 574 6031


Itella Information boosts the efficiency of financial information flows and leads the way in electronic invoicing in Europe. Services comprise solutions for the efficient processing of incoming invoices within the organisation, and for cost-effective sending of invoices, electronically or on paper. Itella Information operates in more than ten European countries with a staff of circa 2,000 professionals. Net sales in 2008 amounted to EUR 247 million. Itella Information business group is part of Itella Group. For further information, please visit www.itella.com/informationlogistics