Businesses around the world are optimistic about their growth prospects in spite of the ever-expanding list of disruptions to trade, according to research from HSBC.

The HSBC Navigator: Voice of Business report, which polled over 7,350 business decision-makers from 14 global markets, found that businesses expect to boost sales by an average of 19% in the next 12 months. The vast majority (87%) view expanding into new markets as a growth driver for 2022, while nearly half (46%) believe this will have a ‘strong impact’ on growth.

“Companies are firmly back in growth mode,” says Barry O’Byrne, HSBC’s CEO of global commercial banking. “Leaders are optimistic about the prospects of 2022, with the majority targeting sales that surpass pre-pandemic levels. International expansion is at the heart of this growth. Business leaders have astutely resisted the temptation to scale back through recent pandemic-fuelled turbulence and are increasingly recognising that a global multi-market strategy can push their business to new levels.”

This positive outlook comes despite the ongoing supply chain snarls caused by a global shortage of containers and vessel capacity. Exacerbated by sporadic port closures in Asia due to coronavirus outbreaks, shipping prices have skyrocketed and stoked fears of higher inflation and impacts on SME traders – leading some retailers and logistics companies to warn of shortages of certain items in the run-up to the holiday season and beyond.

Although 70% of the bank’s research respondents – made up of companies in the UK, Hong Kong, US, China, Singapore, Mexico, France, Germany, Canada, Egypt, UAE, Australia, India and Malaysia – said they expect supply chain disruption will reduce their income by an average of 22%, the majority (90%) expect overall sales to grow over the next year, with only a quarter saying that supply chain disruption was “a serious threat” to business growth over the next 12 months.

Indeed, the findings appear to show that, overall, businesses are focusing on offsetting any damage from short-term supply chain disruption by pushing into new markets to reach more customers.

Fully 56% of the companies polled said they are planning to increase the number of suppliers they are working with in a further move to greater diversification. This follows a similar pattern to business behaviour over the past 24 months, with over a third having increased the number of suppliers they are working with internationally in the past two years, compared to just 15% of businesses who have decreased such activity.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in the wake of the Cop26 climate summit, sustainability is also high on the agenda for businesses looking to improve revenue longer term: almost half of the respondents say they expect an increased interest in sustainability to have an impact on business growth. A third are making their business more sustainability-driven or setting sustainability targets to protect their business against future challenges and shocks, while the vast majority have either already set net zero targets in their own operations and across supply chains, or plan to do so within the next 12 months.

The findings from HSBC largely echo those of Santander’s trade barometer report, which was released in October. That report, which focused solely on British businesses, found that record numbers were optimistic about their growth prospects as they recover from the worst impacts of the Covid-19 crisis and look to new growth opportunities.

“Overall, although they face challenges, leading businesses have a plan,” HSBC says in its report. “They recognise that retaining and investing in international markets, supply chains and technology remain core elements for growth – and they are overwhelmingly positive about the future.”