Small businesses slashing travel amid environmental and financial concerns

Two in five small businesses are keeping the “lockdown mindset” towards business travel amid concerns about the environment and financial pressures, new research reveals.

The poll of more than 1,000 business owners by Novuna Business Finance showed that of the companies that used flights to travel pre-pandemic, 43 per cent vowed to keep flying to a minimum now.

This was higher than the proportion that would be returning to the same levels as they were pre-pandemic (36 per cent), or the proportion that would increase their flight usage (12 per cent).

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By sector, this rose most among businesses in the medical (51 per cent), manufacturing (45 per cent), and hospitality sectors (43 per cent).

During the lockdown era, a moratorium was put on all non-essential travel as most businesses adjusted to remote working. While many aspects of life returned to normal after restrictions fell away, the research suggests many small businesses became more efficient during the lockdown era.

For those firms cutting back on travel, the main reason given was greater concern for the environment and an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint. Financial pressures were also a dominant factor with 29 per cent looking to rein in costs, while 33 per cent were concerned about fuel prices.

For those who are either returning to normal or increasing business travel, rebuilding the business and seizing opportunities were the primary motivation. Here 34 per cent said they will be travelling more to rebuild their business, while 18 per cent said that since Brexit they have had to diversify into new markets.

Jo Morris, head of insight at Novuna Business Finance, said: “The small business community is varied and, in some sectors, travel is essential.

The research suggests that many firms are cutting back on business travel in an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint. Picture: Ian Georgeson

“What our research suggests is that for many office-based enterprises, small business owners have re-thought travel. Technology has normalised remote meetings and helped drive productivity and efficiency.

“Enveloping all of this, greater awareness on the importance of sustainability and climate action reinforce the case for small businesses to reduce travel as part of their carbon plan.

“For many, business life before Covid was about a relentless run of meetings. During lockdown, many learned how to work differently and some of the best practices will continue.”

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