eBill: Less Greenhouse Gases from Swiss Payment Transactions Thanks to Digital Handling and Storage of Invoices

eBill: Less Greenhouse Gases from Swiss Payment Transactions Thanks to Digital Handling and Storage of Invoices

With more than 50 million transactions in 2021, eBill is now established as the digital invoicing standard in Switzerland. The environment benefits, too. Learn how much greenhouse gas digital handling and storage of invoices can save compared to paper invoices.

In Switzerland, invoice issuers still send 74% of the total 1 billion invoices per year as paper invoices. This has corresponding negative effects on the Swiss carbon footprint. With the growing prevalence of digital billing and invoicing via eBill, SIX is contributing to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to Swiss payment transactions.

Three Invoicing Methods in Comparison

A study conducted by carbon-connect AG  on behalf of SIX and published in 2022 compared the three main types of billing in Switzerland with regard to their respective CO2 footprint: paper invoices via postal mailing, electronic invoices via email, and digital invoices via eBill.

To establish the greenhouse gas footprint for the different types of billing, all relevant processes were taken into account:

  • Paper invoices: The invoice issuer creates, prints, and then sends the invoice to the recipient by mail. Payment is made either using online banking, or at a post office counter (assumption: 18% of invoices are paid at the counter). This results in electricity, printing material, and fuel usage.
  • Email invoices: The invoice issuer sends the invoice to the recipient via email, who can then pay it using online banking. Compared to paper invoices, this results in slightly higher electricity usage. Printing material usage (assumption: 20% of invoices are printed out) and fuel usage (assumption: 5% of invoices are paid at the counter) are low.
  • eBill: In contrast to paper and email invoices, the invoice recipient does not receive a payment slip when using eBill.  When a new eBill invoice has arrived in the recipient’s online banking application, it only needs to be approved. Hence, only power usage results (assumption: in the case of purely digital handling and storage, there is no need to print out invoices).

An eBill Invoice Generates 87% Less Greenhouse Gases than a Paper Invoice

With the above mentioned explanations on the types of billing as well as the underlying assumptions, it is possible to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of invoicing traffic throughout Switzerland (base: emissions per invoice, volume of invoices generated in 2021). A total of 91% are attributable to paper invoices*:  

  • Emissions – paper invoices: A paper invoice causes average emissions of approximately 76 grams of CO2 equivalents, with the main share of the emissions being attributable to payments made at a post office counter and the printing of the invoice. For each paper invoice, around 54 grams of CO2 equivalent are produced if the paper invoice is paid via online banking and almost 176 grams of CO2 equivalents if it is paid at a post office counter. The emissions for the entire invoicing process are therefore highly dependent on how the invoice is paid.
  • Emissions – email invoices: 23 grams of CO2 equivalent are produced on average per invoice that is sent by email and, according to the assumption, is rarely printed out. The rate of emissions for email invoices is also highly dependent on the payment method: If the invoice is processed digitally and paid using online banking, only around 17 grams of CO2 equivalents are produced per invoice. Approximately 139 grams of CO2 equivalents are produced for each payment at the post office counter.
  • Emissions – eBill invoices: With purely digital handling and storage, approximately 10 grams of CO2 equivalent are produced per eBill invoice. The largest share of the total emissions is attributable to invoice creation. Digital processing, i.e., without emissions for printing and without the distance traveled to the post office, would result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 87% (compared to paper invoices) and 57% (compared to email invoices).

* Source: Sustainability in Accounting, 2022

What Is eBill?

Since 2018, companies in Switzerland have been able to send invoices via eBill from SIX and enable their customers to receive, check, and pay them entirely digitally. With eBill, they no longer receive their invoices by post mailing or email, but directly in the recipient’s online banking application – exactly where they pay them. More than two million Swiss bill recipients currently use eBill.

60% Less Greenhouse Gases by 2028 Thanks to eBill

SIX aims for 80% of all invoices in Switzerland to be paid via eBill by 2028. Given the calculations presented above, this could result in an emission reduction of around 60% for Swiss payment traffic if the invoice volume remains unchanged. With an annual storage capacity of about 6 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per hectare of forest, this would correspond to 7,000 hectares of forest area, or about 0.5% of the Swiss forest.