Business travel will not return to ‘normal’ within the next few years, major employers have stated, with overseas trips likely to be cut by at least a third.
The vast majority of respondents (89%) said their company’s overseas travel in the next two to three years would be significantly reduced compared with pre-pandemic levels.
The analysis by non-profit organisation the Climate Group, which works with global businesses to promote green initiatives and cut emissions, indicated a potential average decline in international business trips of up to 40%.
More than three-quarters of those surveyed (79%) said they thought business travel would be cut by at least one third.
One hundred of the world’s leading private sector sustainability professionals working at multinational organisations in finance, tech and retail were surveyed.
Researchers for the Climate Group calculate that in addition to the reduced environmental impact, the cut backs in business travel could also save businesses more than $500bn.
Only one in 10 professionals said their company would undertake the same amount of international travel as before, and even fewer (1%) thought their travel would increase in the long-term.
Overall, almost all respondents (99%) said their company would permanently alter some business practices as a result of the virus outbreak. This included 34% who reported their firms were already looking to reduce the real estate footprint of their offices and, more obviously, 86% who saw a major shift to more sustainable remote working options.
Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist at Adobe, said: “We have a unique opportunity to put climate action at the forefront of recovery efforts. Adobe has committed to upping the ambition of our science-based targets to align to a better-than-1.5C future, which includes reducing our business travel emissions by 30% by 2025.
“By reducing our energy consumption, powering our business with renewable energy, and enabling digital solutions that help our customers work remotely and operate their own businesses sustainably, we’re committed to helping pave the way for a zero-carbon economy.”
The desire among the respondents not to return to pre-Covid-19 workplace culture was particularly striking, said Mike Peirce, director of corporate partnerships at the Climate Group: “We know from our partners in business and government that they don’t want to return to ‘business as usual’ – we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild a greener, fairer future and they want to grab it.
“Businesses have seen there are many digital solutions available to them that allow for remote working to be effective and collaborative, while cutting costs and emissions from travel – something we all thought was in the hard-to-do box before the pandemic. It makes sense that they carry this mentality forward after travel restrictions have lifted.”
We’re committed to helping pave the way for a zero-carbon economy” – Vince Digneo, Adobe
Some aspects of business operations, however, had not changed. Nearly all respondents (97%) said their long-term sustainability strategy had not been altered, while 80% said their company had been able to maintain their current climate actions during the crisis. Nearly 100% saw climate action as just as, if not more, important now compared with pre-pandemic times.
Despite the desire for change revealed in the Climate Group survey, other sectors have spotted different trends. Hospitality giant Accor for example, recently published a study showing that business travel would return to pre-Covid levels within six months, led by domestic travel.
Jonathan Pettifer, director of corporate sales and TMC Partners at Accor UK & Ireland, said: “The hotel industry will be gratified to hear that corporates believe their business travel programmes will recover within 12 months, with many anticipating it will happen much quicker. Face to face interactions with clients and business partners are vital in many industries and we know there is significant pent up demand from corporates wanting to get their executives back engaging directly with key contacts.”