NEW research published today by WWF Scotland today (Thursday 3 March) suggests that, following the recession, many of the UK’s leading companies are making a permanent commitment to fly less. 
Begins a spokesperson: “Nearly half said that they had cut business flights over the past two years and, of these, 85 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent do not intend to return to ‘business as usual’ flying
• 86 per cent of companies are either reducing their carbon footprint from business travel or intend to do so
• 63 per cent of companies that responded now have a policy in place to reduce business travel, 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.
Commenting on the findings Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: “Why hang about an airport when you could be working on a train or video conferencing from your own desk? Out of choice or necessity, companies have been reducing their flying over the last two years and most have realised that cutting business flights is 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 to do business has been firmly grounded.”
Terri Vogt, group head of CSR at First Group, said: “We operate throughout the UK and North America so some business air travel is unavoidable.
“However, as part of our group-wide Climate Change strategy, we have reduced the number of business flights by 33 per cent and increased our use of audio conference technology by over 30 per cent.
“Of course, I’m pleased that we’ve been able to reduce our carbon footprint but one of the benefits we’ve found is that avoiding travelling can help our staff be more productive and improve their work/life balance.”
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 The report can be downloaded at:
The report contains the main findings and conclusions from the resulting survey, based on 158 interviews from a sample of the largest 500 companies by market capitalisation in the UK.
The switch away from flying – which saw 87 per cent on companies surveyed increasing the use of audio-conferencing, with video and web-conferencing use increased by 75 per cent and 63 per cent 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
 FirstGroup and GlaxoSmithKline both appear as case studies in Moving on. FirstGroup, in the financial year 2009/10, achieved a reduction of 33 per cent in business flights, which has resulted in a 41 per cent reduction in travel spend.
In the same period, the company has reduced carbon dioxide emissions associated with business air travel by 57 per cent.
GlaxoSmithKline, which has made a significant investment in reducing business travel, has seen a decrease in distance flown of 38,622,606km and 37,804 fewer one-way flights from 2008 to 2009. This has reduced the company’s environmental impact, saving an estimated 7,151 tonnes of CO2.
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Contact: Mandy Carter
Phone: 01350 728200