Opinion

Greening payments

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Print this page By Deborah Matz, SunTrust

If you could potentially cut operating costs, improve service options and improve efficiency — all while helping protect the environment — would you?  This Earth Day, April 22, companies should take a moment to consider available payment technologies that make everyday business payments “green” by decreasing paper consumption, reducing transportation needs and improving overall operations.

Employee Payroll: Is your business still paying employees with paper checks?
Many companies still issue paper checks to employees, which can be costly. Direct deposit is a longstanding option, but the 2009 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households estimates that 25 percent of U.S. households rely on non-bank financial services, and millions of those underbanked wage-earners still receive paper paychecks. 

Depositing to a payroll card can cut a business’ costs significantly versus traditional printing and distribution methods. Electronic payroll also can significantly reduce the paper consumed during the payroll process, which also can curb usage of waste water, household trash and fuel used to ship checks and wage statements.

Check Acceptance: Is your business receiving high volumes of check payments?
According to electronicpayments.org, processing checks relies heavily on transportation systems, including trucks and airplanes. Every year, paper checks use more than 674 million gallons of fuel and add more than 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gases/CO2 to the environment. 

Paper checks remain a preferred payment option for many, but businesses can help affordably “green” the check acceptance process by implementing the right technologies.  For instance:

Consumers and businesses often can make and accept electronic payments through their online banking system — in many cases skipping the paper check process.  Accepting these Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments can be particularly useful for organizations such as homeowners associations or professional services firms that collect regular monthly payments.

Vendors also may need to investigate accepting card payments as their customers turn to cards as a more convenient payment alternative.

Remote deposit allows service companies, home-based businesses and others who receive check payments to scan checks and transmit them electronically for deposit from their home or office.  In addition to cutting down on trips to the bank, some financial institutions even extend the hours for same-day deposits when you use remote deposit.

Businesses can calculate how much fuel they can save with remote deposit by clicking here.

Automating Payment Systems: Is your business using paper-based systems to disburse and manage payments?   
Many businesses still use paper checks to pay bills; however, businesses that use electronic payments technology can make the office environmentally friendly, while also streamlining efficiencies.  For example, companies can use purchasing or corporate card programs to reduce paper consumption.  These card programs reduce the number of paper checks and remittance documents a company writes and also may improve insights into a company’s spending patterns.

Fraud Protection: Is your business more at risk by using paper-based payments?
Many businesses still think using paper systems is safer than looking to new technologies, but that’s not always the case. Reducing the number of checks a business disburses also reduces distribution of account information found on checks — helping mitigate the risk of fraud.

Going “green” often means new light bulbs, increased recycling and reducing waste.  In the case of payments, reducing the number of paper checks we use to conduct business can help businesses cut down on paper and transportation usage, but it also can mean increased efficiencies and bottom-line results for businesses of all sizes.

Deborah L. Matz, group vice president at SunTrust Bank, and her team of treasury management sales professionals provide payment system advice and solutions to companies. Contact her at (410) 986-1694 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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