By Claire West
New research published by WWF suggests that, following the recession, businesses are making a permanent commitment to fly less.
Nearly half said that they had cut business flights over the past two years and, of these, 85% said they don’t intend to return to ‘business as usual’ flying. Together, these findings suggest that future business flying will not return to pre-recessionary levels.
The report, Moving on: why flying less means more for business, found that nearly all companies who have reduced their flying say it’s possible to stay profitable and competitive while flying less.
The key findings of the report were:
·47% of companies have reduced the number of business flights they’ve taken in the past two years
·Of those companies which have cut their flying, 85% do not intend to return to ‘business as usual’ flying
·86% of companies are either reducing their carbon footprint from business travel or intend to do so
·63% of companies that responded now have a policy in place to reduce business flights, or are intending to develop one
The main benefits cited by businesses of changing travel practices were cost savings and reduced carbon emissions, but these were quickly followed by the ability to work during travel disruptions, having less staff away from the office and greater staff productivity.
The switch away from flying — which saw 87% of companies surveyed increasing the use of audio-conferencing, with video and web-conferencing use increased by 75% and 63% respectively — was reportedly driven from the top with businesses making board-level decisions to reduce business flights.
Changes to the patterns of flying were also apparent in the research. Domestic and short-haul flights have proved easier to cut for businesses than long-haul flights, with improvements to the UK and European train networks resulting in a modal shift from planes to trains.
The report showed that businesses backed investment in a more affordable and efficient rail network in the UK and Europe. There was also widespread support for nationwide high-speed broadband and tax incentives to boost videoconferencing and other corporate green initiatives.
Commenting on the findings David Norman, WWF-UK Director of Campaigns, said: “Even as business picks up after the recession, companies are holding on to the gains they made by cutting flights during the downturn. Many have found that cutting business flights can be both good for the planet and good for business.
“Businesses get it — they can fly less and still be profitable and competitive. Government should support these findings by investing in high-speed broadband, backing tax incentives for videoconferencing and improving and investing in the rail network. The notion that people have to fly more to grow their business has been firmly grounded.”
The Moving on report forms part of WWF’s One in Five Challenge, which helps companies and Government cut their costs as well as their carbon emissions from business travel. Participants commit to cut 20% of their business flights within five years.