“The majority of European railway managers do not communicate their environmental goals”

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

A standard ethics analysis based on publicly available information shows that 58% of Europe’s largest rail infrastructure managers have not expressed commitment to specific environmental objectives.

The analysis was carried out by Standard Ethics, an independent UK-based sustainability rating agency, using standard methodologies. This study aims to provide an overview of the level of sustainability achieved by Europe’s leading rail infrastructure managers. They considered elements from the field 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 managers in each EU member state, as well as Norway, Switzerland and the UK. The information collected for each company included in the analysis refers to data published on the company’s website as of November 1, 2023. According to Standard Ethics, 42% of companies have committed to specific environmental goals. Commitment to specific environmental objectives is assessed by including defined and measurable medium- to long-term environmental objectives in corporate documentation, such as reducing emissions, using renewable energy, implementing energy savings, waste management, and circular economy. Ta.

Almost half of the sample issued a document setting out binding environmental targets to be achieved in the medium to long term, with the aim of reducing emissions, protecting the environment and addressing the effects of climate change. “However, the fact remains that most of these companies still do not set environmental goals or transparently publish them in their documents,” Standard Ethics writes.

Gender equality and AI

The analysis also investigated gender equality at the senior board level of companies, examining board composition from a gender perspective. Approximately 35 percent of the sample had an equal number of women as men on their boards. Three of the message boards analyzed had more women than men, but the majority had more men. According to the Standard Ethics survey, 3 out of 26 companies are committed to gender balance or have a diversity and inclusion policy. Finally, the study looked at whether companies had published policies regarding artificial intelligence (AI), and none of the 26 infrastructure managers had published policies.

“This result may suggest that these companies do not yet believe that they need to manage this issue organically (from an ethics, ESG and sustainability perspective). A certain number of policies may already be in place but have not yet been published,” Standards of Ethics states. AI statements of intent and declarations of purpose and goals published in other documents or within the non-financial balance sheet “may be evaluated” but are not defined by the organization as a strategic corporate governance tool .

“This study shows that despite some promising initiatives and current efforts to adapt many of the criteria that define sustainability, European railway infrastructure managers are trying to make their activities more sustainable. “This study shows that many steps still need to be taken to bring the world to a more sustainable level, in line with international guidelines promoted by the United Nations, the OECD and the European Union,” the report concludes.

Interested in railways and sustainability? One of the four conference sessions being held at RailTech Europe on 6th and 7th March 2023 will be about reducing emissions. Check out the preliminary program here.

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