South West businesses invest in agile workplaces and sustainable growth

June 2021

David Brookes discusses our most recent Rethinking the Economy research. We look ahead at how mid-sized businesses are rethinking the way they work and whether companies are making any environmental commitments ahead of COP26 in November. 

Investing for growth

According to our latest survey results, 43% of South West businesses believe now is the right time to invest in their business. Nearly a third (30%) of businesses investment plans are focused on acquiring new sites or complementary businesses.

This is reflective of the level of M&A activity we’ve seen to start this year. The latest report by Experian Market IQ for the region saw BDO top the adviser volume table for the highest number of deals with 34. As well as deal activity, there’s a palpable focus on people and productivity with 30% of South West businesses planning investments in technology to support more people working remotely, and a quarter (26%) are investing in training for existing staff. 

Working from home remains a hot topic as 56% of businesses in the region plan to introduce agile working on a permanent basis and 43% expect staff to work two days a week from home even when the office reopens. An ONS report released this week found 85% of respondents were in favour of using a hybrid working approach in the future, with improvements to work-life balance named most frequently as the main positive.

This is a considerable, but seemingly long-term shift for businesses across sectors as executives and employees have grappled with establishing the best way to work in future.

Is sustainability a business priority?

It’s not just the commute that South West businesses plan to cut down on when it comes to travel. Nearly (47%) will not reintroduce business travel after restrictions lift. This is being driven by companies’ enhanced focus on sustainability.

This research comes on the back of the region playing host to the G7 summit in Cornwall at which world leaders committed to a "green revolution" that will limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees. They also promised to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, halve emissions by 2030, and to conserve or protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030.

As the UK looks towards the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November, mid-sized businesses are encouraged to sign up to the SME Climate Hub and cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% before 2030. The bold ambition from our world leaders is reflected in action from our regional businesses. Our own research showed 40% of companies in the region have ring fenced budget to invest in green initiatives and a third have linked executive pay and remuneration to sustainability targets.

This is a clear direction of travel for the region’s mid-sized businesses as ESG issues are rising up the agenda. As companies continue to rethink the way they work, we look forward to seeing the mid-sized businesses based here play their role in rebuilding a strong and green recovery.

You can read more about the future of the workplace here. If you have any questions or for further information, talk to our team today.


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