Why exactly does an organization — even a small one — need a record destruction policy? Like so many other relationships, an enterprise’s relationship with its own records is complicated. Finding them, protecting them, using them responsibly — the obligations that can be generated from even the most minimal record and information management tasks just go on and on. At some point, though, an operation will have no more use for a record.
But how can a company know what should stay and what should go? A record destruction policy — and accompanying procedures — can guide employees in deciding what to destroy and how. They may, after all, be far removed from interacting in any way with the documents at issue. An organization with a meaningful and functional record destruction policy will not only be protecting itself, its customers and others, but it will also save space and decrease the size of its environmental footprint. After all, if you are not storing something, energy and other resources will not need to be expended to preserve the stored materials.
While the precise return on investment from having a destruction policy in place will, of course, vary from organization to organization and region to region, reducing the amount of money dedicated to storing records you no longer need really makes business sense. Freeing up money — and space — does, after all, tend to be a very good thing.
But how to go about it? Not all records are created equal. Some, although useful, may not contain particularly sensitive information, but others may hold customer data, confidential information or have special security requirements. A company may be legally required to hold onto some records for a certain period of time. Destroying records responsibly actually takes some careful planning.
In crafting a record destruction policy, categorize the different types of records generated by your company and then identify the ones for which special handling precautions should be taken. Also, develop a record retention schedule that identifies how long various categories of records should be maintained as active records, retained as inactive ones and, ultimately, destroyed. Disposal methods and procedures for categories of records should also be determined. What is OK to put in the recycle bin? What must be shredded? Who must approve the destruction of various categories of records?
Developing a record destruction policy and making sure that appropriate destruction procedures are followed takes some commitment and dedication — but it is an effort that will help a company operate more efficiently while using fewer of its own and the earth’s resources. One study found that 78% of Americans believe that companies should not just make money but should try to have a positive impact on society. A company’s initiative to shrink its own environmental footprint is likely to appeal to its employees as well as to its customers.