Sparing the trees – how electronic trade documents contribute to green credentials

Posted by Gemma Kimber

06 Aug 2014

In the years following the global economic downturn, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was less of a boardroom priority. However, as trading conditions have improved, more and more organisations have sought to find ways to trade in a more environmentally-friendly way, including corporate buyers, sellers and the wider carrier community.


While environmental improvements are not usually shouted about as a headline benefit, incorporating cloud-based trade finance platforms into everyday operations does cut dependence on paper-intensive processes. In turn, this contributes to a reduction in carbon emissions.

Globally, around US$17 trillion worth of export and import trade is carried out each year, with key documents such as Letters of Credit, Bank Guarantees and Bills of Lading all essential components in the exchange of goods, money and services. According to the Shipping Association BIMCO, an average global trade shipment requires 36 original documents, 240 copies and will typically involve 27 entities. Added together, that’s an awful lot of paper – and an awful lot of trees.

Bolero’s flexible solutions integrate easily with existing systems and accept documents in multiple formats, reducing the need for paper trade documents and in some cases eliminating them altogether. Corporate customers that use the software to create, send and receive electronic trade documents can quantify these savings and include them in their overall carbon reduction figures and corporate social responsibility plan.

Already, firms are welcoming the opportunity to use the platform to do business in a greener and more efficient way. One customer has calculated that making the switch to fully electronic documentation on Letter of Credit settlements has saved more than 110 trees over a 12 month period.

Network-wide, more than US$ 81 billion worth of global trade was carried out over the Bolero Exchange last year, which is set to grow considerably again this year. The growing popularity of electronic documents in trade finance will, in turn, see even more environmental savings being made, both in terms of trees and the considerable cost and environmental impact of transporting paper documents between counterparties.