Have you ever wanted less paperwork for doing business and for engaging in international trade? Running a business can entail filling lots of forms and printing documents for managing procedures and relationships with customers, suppliers, government offices, and other stakeholders. This is even more so when making international trade to play a role in business operations. According to some studies, cross-border transactions require exchanging 36 document and 240 copies on average. To reduce paper waste and enhance business efficiency in international trade, business support organizations have been mapping out standards that can support small businesses to go paperless. Like other standards (see guide on standards), standards for cross-border paperless trade are the result of collaborative efforts among public- and private-sector institutions to validate best practices in using digital means for commercial transactions, logistics, payments and other operations involved in trade. This guide will further discuss aspects of standards for cross-border paperless trade covered by the Standards Toolkit for Cross-border Paperless Trade developed jointly by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
Standards for cross-border paperless trade can be transversal in nature or specific to the actors participating in supply chains. The Standards Toolkit provides a list of the most commonly and widely adopted paperless trade standards and identifies five types of standards that are more practical for small businesses. These are summarized below:
Adopting standards for cross-border paperless trade can save your business from significant costs associated with managing operational procedures in paper format. For example, formstack statistics indicate that managing paper files can take up to 40% of workers time in addition to high expenses that companies have to spend in printed forms and documents. Paperless trade standards can also help your business to access finance and facilitate data and information exchanges between supply chain actors that may be relevant for your current and/or future international business activities. As these standards aim to digitalize your key information flows and present them in widely recognized formats, your business can reduce costs and improve efficiency while gaining trust with business partners and customers in new markets. By moving from paper to digital, you can amplify your business opportunities to engage in international trade.