The cross-Channel rail operator has successfully capitalised on being a lower-carbon mode of transport than flying. Through its broad-ranging 'Tread Lightly' programme, it has introduced a series of environmental improvements and is targeting a further 25% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per traveller by 2012. The judges felt that Eurostar should receive special credit for introducing a substantial culture change. They praised the company for taking up a mission to get more people travelling by train.
Polluting and energy-intensive businesses have been forced to address environmental issues for decades. But, by its own admission, Eurostar's green epiphany occurred only in 2006. However, the company has since shot ahead, to the point where it can credibly claim to be a leader in debate on sustainable travel and has won Best Large Company award (over 250 employees).
Eurostar's own passengers got it thinking about climate change. Corporate clients began asking for information about carbon emissions from their journeys. In response, the firm commissioned independent research.
Eurostar journeys between London, Brussels and Paris produce only a tenth as much carbon dioxide as equivalent flights, the researchers reported back. The company swiftly realised that getting more people onto its trains was not only good for business, it was also an environmental cause. The result is that Eurostar has become an environmental campaigner, dedicated to reinventing short-haul travel across Europe. 'We want to play a pioneering role in the global travel market,' it says.
In April 2007, Eurostar introduced its 'Tread Lightly' environmental programme. Capitalising on its carbon advantage relative to air travel, it introduced 'carbon neutral' journeys at no extra cost, buying carbon credits through offset provider Carbon Clear. It also committed to reducing CO2 emissions per passenger journey by 25% by 2012. It believes significant emission reductions will be possible.
Eurostar has also launched a 10-point plan to reduce its wider environmental impact and is busy making a host of changes to the way it operates. Most on-board food has been changed to increase local sourcing and the proportion of organic and fair-trade options. Waste recycling at depots has been drastically stepped up. A year ago, all waste from Eurostar's Temple Mills maintenance depot near Stratford went to landfill. Now the figure is just 5%.
These improvements have been supported by high levels of staff engagement, including the appointment of 37 volunteer 'Tread Lightly' champions. Onboard catering contractor Momentum has created its own 'green team'.
Eurostar's environmental efforts have coincided with improvements to its service. The 2007 opening of the London St Pancras terminus and associated high-speed track has shaved 20 minutes off journey times. Eurostar has also introduced marketing innovations based on its green credentials and improved service, designed to attract more passengers.
Last year, Eurostar joined Railteam, a collaboration between European rail operators designed to make travelling between countries seamless. Subsequently, it introduced UK through-fares and now offers travel from 130 UK destinations to Belgium and France.
The combined result of all this has been an 18% increase in passengers in the first half of 2008, compared with a year earlier. Much larger increases have been recorded in travel from northern English centres, from which direct rail travel to the continent was rare.
Highly Commended - InterfaceFlor p25
Web Links - http://www.eurostar.com/; http://www.railteam.eu