Aerial view of train tracks through a German forest near Munich

‘Majority of European rail managers do not convey environmental targets’

Aerial view of train tracks through a German forest near Munich Pablo Joanidopoulos / Shutterstock

According to an analysis of Standard Ethics based on publicly available information, 58 per cent of the largest European rail infrastructure managers do not communicate a commitment to specific environmental targets.

The analysis was conducted by Standard Ethics, a UK-based independent Sustainability rating agency with a standard methodology. The study aims to provide an overview of the level of Sustainability achieved by the leading rail infrastructure managers in Europe. They looked at elements in the area of Environmental Social and Governance (ESG), which includes not only sustainability in the ‘green’ sense of the word but also social aspects, such as gender equality.

The analysis, published on 20 December 2023, looked at the largest rail infrastructure manager in each EU member state, as well as Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The information collected on each of the companies analysed refers to data published on their corporate websites as of 1 November 2023. 42 per cent of companies communicate their commitment to specific environmental targets, Standard Ethics found. Commitment to specific environmental targets was assessed by the inclusion within corporate documentation of defined and measurable medium-to-long-term environmental targets, such as emission reduction, use of renewable energy, implementation of energy saving, waste management, circular economy and more.

Almost half the sample published documents with binding environmental targets to be achieved in the medium-to-long term, to help reduce emissions, protect the environment, and address the consequences of climate change. “However, the fact remains that most of these companies either still have not established environmental targets or have yet to publish them transparently within their documentation”, writes Standard Ethics.

Gender equality and AI

The analysis also looked at gender equality at the senior board level at the companies, looking at the composition of the board in terms of gender. In about 35 per cent of the sample, there was an equal amount of women compared to men on the board. In three of the analysed boards, there were more women than men, but in the majority, men were prevalent. 3 out of 26 companies address gender balance or adopt a Diversity and Inclusion Policy, according to Standard Ethics research. Lastly, the study looked at whether the companies had published a policy on Artificial Intelligence (AI), which was not the case for any of the 26 infrastructure managers.

“This result may imply that these companies still do not believe they need to govern this issue organically (from an ethical, ESG and sustainability perspective), or it may be that a certain number of policies are already in force but have not yet been published”, says Standard Ethics. Possible declarations of intent regarding AI published within other documents or extra-financial balance sheets as well as declarations on objectives and targets, “while appreciated”, are not what the organisation would define as strategic corporate governance tools.

“This study illustrates that despite some promising initiatives and the current efforts being made to adapt to many of the criteria that define sustainability, numerous steps still need to be taken to bring the activity of European Railway Infrastructure Managers to a more sustainable level which is in line with the international guidelines promoted by the United Nations, the OECD and the European Union”, the report concludes.

Interested in rail and sustainability? One of the four conference sessions at RailTech Europe on 6&7 March 2023 is all about reducing emissions. View the preliminary programme here.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Former Editor RailTech.com

1 comment op “‘Majority of European rail managers do not convey environmental targets’”

bönström bönström|29.12.23|11:15

May be, but by some reason worst of shortcomings by IM:s is the railways. “Backbone” of society… and by far the most energy effective on shore mode
urgently need an offensive strategy.
(Maintaining and “optimal maintenance” is suboptimal – and defensive.)
A robust railway infrastructure, that includes redundancy and safety factors, a “future proof” railway, now devastatingly is missing.
(All other modes, those robust, upgrade for added load and lower costs.)
A New Old Railway is needed!

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