One in three business properties at risk from flooding, many unprotected from climate risks

Photograph of rough seas, with waves crashing against the shore in front of houses
  • Nearly one in three commercial properties in the UK are at risk from flooding, according to Aviva data1.
  • July 2021 saw highest monthly number of commercial flood claims, double the previous high2.
  • More than half (57%) of SMEs believe climate change will impact their business within the next decade, with extreme heat and flooding the biggest concerns3.
  • Despite these concerns, three quarters of businesses (75%) don’t have a business continuity plan that includes climate risks.
  • To help support businesses, Aviva has launched a partnership with Enterprise Nation, to provide SMEs with advice on how to protect their business and improve sustainability. 

British businesses are being put at risk from extreme weather due to a lack of awareness and support, according to research commissioned by Aviva.

A survey conducted by YouGov for Aviva3 for its Building Future Communities’ report found that 57% of SMEs believe climate change will have an impact on their business in the next ten years, and a quarter (25%) believe it will affect their livelihood within the next year. However, a sizeable minority, (17%) aren’t concerned at all, believing it will have no impact at all in a decade.

According to Aviva data, on average, July and August are the most prevalent months for commercial flood claims, suggesting that heavy summer downpours are putting businesses at risk from flash floods, which are harder to predict or prevent. 

Despite their worries, business owners seem unprepared or unaware of the risks their premises may face. Three quarters (75%) of SMEs don’t have a business continuity plan that considers climate change risks, and just 38% have flood insurance in place. And less than a fifth (18%) of all businesses have implemented any flood resilience measures to protect their premises.

Yet according to Aviva’s flood map data, almost one in three (30%) commercial properties1 are at risk from some type of flooding. Analysis of Aviva’s claims data reveals an even more worrying picture. In July 2021, the insurer recorded its highest number of commercial flood claims2, more than double the previous high in January 2016.

And recent weather patterns suggest that flooding is no longer confined to the colder months. According to Aviva data, on average, July and August are the most prevalent months for commercial flood claims, suggesting that heavy summer downpours are putting businesses at risk from flash floods, which are harder to predict or prevent. 

Lack of information and incentives are barriers to taking action

The research survey conducted for Aviva showed that a lack of information and financial incentives are acting as a barrier to business owners taking preventative action. Of those without flood mitigation measures, over a quarter (27%) said they needed greater understanding of the risk their property faces, while almost a fifth (18%) said they would like incentives to help install measures before an event happens.

Aviva’s ‘Building Future Communities’4 report highlights the challenges being faced by communities from extreme weather. The report outlines seven key steps for change; actions which the insurer believes need to be taken urgently to tackle the climate crisis.

To help small businesses, Aviva is partnering with Enterprise Nation, a UK-wide small business support network with a focus on smaller SMEs, which make up the majority of businesses. As part of the partnership, Enterprise Nation and Aviva will launch a ‘Plan it with Purpose’ free educational hub, which provides free online events, advice and educational resources to SMEs on a range of sustainability issues, including an educational series on climate resilience.

Climate change is already having devastating impacts here in the UK, and extreme weather is set to become more commonplace in future. Businesses frequently bear the brunt of this damage, but are often overlooked when it comes to prevention and protection.

Nick Major, MD, commercial lines, General Insurance at Aviva, said; “Unsurprisingly, over the past year businesses have been focused on dealing with the impacts of Covid and Brexit. However, as our data shows, climate change is already having devastating impacts here in the UK, and extreme weather is set to become more commonplace in future. Businesses frequently bear the brunt of this damage, but are often overlooked when it comes to prevention and protection. Planning regulations often prioritise homes over businesses, which leaves many SMEs exposed to flooding and other climate risks.

“SMEs account for over 99% of UK enterprises5, and they are vital to the wellbeing and recovery of local communities - particularly after extreme weather - offering support, jobs and stability. It’s crucial, therefore, that businesses receive more support with better insight into the risks they face to help them safeguard their livelihoods from climate change.

“In our ‘Building Future Communities’ report, we call for actions to be taken to ensure that SMEs are sufficiently protected from the impacts of extreme weather. By partnering with Enterprise Nation, we can help provide advice and support to SMEs, enabling them to become more climate-resilient.

“But we’re also calling for action to be taken across industries and Government, to ensure that businesses, from design to construction, are both sustainable and resilient to the changes that climate change will bring, and that they are built to the right standards, in the right places.”

Excess heat also a concern

Of those that believe climate change will have an impact in the next 10 years, 42% were worried about excess heat, 37% were concerned about flooding and 35% believed storms will affect their business.

But despite these concerns, just 17% of business owners said they would consider problems from heat when choosing new business premises, and only 38% considered energy efficiency when they selected their last business property. However, large glass frontages or south-facing offices or buildings could lead to uncomfortably hot temperatures inside for workers. Some features of businesses may also pose other climate threats. For example, warehouses can often be situated next to rivers and others have basements which house stock or IT equipment. Overall, enterprises were most likely to factor in flooding (58%)when selecting a new property for their business.

More information on the Plan it With Purpose initiative can be found at



1 Aviva Flood Mapping Data 2016-2021

2 Aviva property claims analysis 2016-2021

3  Research commissioned by YouGov for Aviva May 2021

Building Future Communities’

5  UK Small Business Statistics | FSB, The Federation of Small Businesses

Media enquiries

Liz Kennett

General Insurance — Products and regulation

About Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation is the UK’s leading small business network and business support provider delivering support to more than 50,000 small businesses every month. Its aim is to help people turn their good ideas into great businesses – through expert advice (including a comprehensive resources library), events, acceleration support and networking. In 2020 it launched two high profile business support initiatives: the Amazon Small Business Accelerator and the Recovery Advice for Business scheme which collectively aimed to support thousands of small firms impacted by the pandemic. Enterprise Nation’s small business active membership grew by 34 per cent in 2020. It now has more than 120,000 members and subscribers, ten per cent of which are professional advisers from a range of sectors offering strategic support to small firms. The adviser platform sees hundreds of connections every week with small firms reaching out for advice.

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