Net-Zero Heroes – Trainline

EcoAct CEO Northern Europe, Stuart Lemmon speaks to Victoria Biggs, Chief Communications Officer at Trainline to find out about the company’s net-zero journey, what’s behind its ambitious sustainability drive and what are the main challenges of transitioning to net-zero. Can you tell us about your role at Trainline? My name is Victoria Biggs, and I ...

Catherine Radojcin

4 Oct 2021 6 mins read time

EcoAct CEO Northern Europe, Stuart Lemmon speaks to Victoria Biggs, Chief Communications Officer at Trainline to find out about the company’s net-zero journey, what’s behind its ambitious sustainability drive and what are the main challenges of transitioning to net-zero.

Can you tell us about your role at Trainline?

My name is Victoria Biggs, and I am the Chief Communications Officer at Trainline, also responsible for corporate sustainability and how Trainline can become a greener company.

Can you tell us about where Trainline is on its net-zero journey?

We’re currently working to understand our direct and indirect carbon emissions so we can align ourselves to a science-based target and determine a net-zero target. We want Trainline to be a leader in this space, so now it’s a case of working hard to make sure we have a robust reduction plan in place. We have a green team who are looking at how we can reduce our carbon footprint and how we can really engage our teams internally to ensure everyone is on board.

What are the main drivers of your climate ambition and how does the organisational purpose of Trainline drive that?

At Trainline, our purpose is really anchored in environmental sustainability. We’re passionate about empowering people to make greener travel choices. We all know that transport is a big driver of greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe, more than a fifth of carbon emissions come from transport. So collectively the choices we make are really important. If you take a journey by train versus air, you’re saving on average about 80% on carbon emission, so we want people to make better choices in line with our purpose.

Net Zero Heroes - Trainline

How important has education and engagement been in this process?

Education has been  important on every level. You need a baseline of understanding, so you can take people on the journey. Also, staying abreast of what’s happening around us that could impact our strategy is also hugely important as it is complex and changing rapidly. There’s a need to really understand things in greater depth, for example, government commitments and the regulatory environment. Working with climate experts like EcoAct, makes this much easier to do.

What have you done to overcome barriers and increase the momentum of your climate activities?

Firstly, it’s really helpful that we have a passionate team of people working at Trainline. Our company purpose is to empower people to make greener travel choices. and our teams internally are really behind that. Looking across the business, our facilities team are making our offices greener, our internal communications teams are highlighting the importance of environmental sustainability and the steps that we can take as a business. Our investor relations team are talking to our investors about what we’re what we’re doing around climate as well. I think that the collective passion, and that sense of ownership across the business has been really important and has enabled us to increase the momentum of our climate strategy.

This is a great example sustainability moving beyond the sole remit of the sustainability team and making it part of everybody’s responsibility.

Yes, the task at hand is now much bigger and rests with multiple teams across the business. They have taken ownership of this and are driving change across all areas. For example, our products team wants to focus on how they can give our customers the tools and the services to make greener travel choices. Our marketing teams want to convey to our customers and potential customers, the importance of taking rail versus other less sustainable travel modes. It’s this ownership and collaboration around sustainability, that enables us to be a purpose-led business that is passionate about climate change and making a difference.

You mentioned that Trainline had to adapt to changing regulatory frameworks, have other external influences like the investors and other stakeholders also prompted changes?

Our investors are a really important stakeholder group that we have to fully engage with, but equally, so are our employees and customers Sustainability is incredibly important to Trainline and the questions asked by our investors, do give us impetus and help to drive us forward. Looking more broadly, we work hand in hand with governments in the UK and across Europe and with the rail industry.

Does your net-zero ambition allow you to take a longer term view in terms of investments and strategy?

Yes, a net-zero target definitely provides focus. We are just at the beginning of this journey. Having targets and milestones enables us to demonstrate our progress. As a business, we have an ambition and want to set out the goals aligned to it. And as you would a business plan, our strategy will be reviewed at regular intervals and where we can do more, we will adjust accordingly.  The world of climate change and the regulatory environment and government’s ambition seems to be changing rapidly. We have to be with fluid and responsive as well as having a robust strategy and plan in place.

How are you tackling Scope 3 emissions and are you collaborating with your supply chain and the industry as a wider body?

We have calculated our Scopes 1 and 2, and some of Scope 3. We are now looking more closely at our at our value chain. We want to collaborate with those partners that are the most material in terms of carbon emissions in our value chain, to understand their net-zero targets and their reduction, so unless we all work towards a net-zero goal, we’re never going to get there. Our approach is to be collaborative, and support our partners, and our suppliers, in putting in place kind of the targets and reduction plans that will will work for everyone.

Trainline has been very ambitious and moved quickly on sustainability, have there been any surprises along the way?

I think that the depth of knowledge and complexity of corporate sustainability surprised me at the start of our journey. Things are not always straightforward and are changing rapidly. It is also not a tick-box process but rather an ongoing one. This is a journey and there are many strands to our plan, which at times can be challenging.

Is there any advice would you give to other businesses starting out on their journey?

Firstly, you need to find the right partner to work with. I can speak for myself to say I’m constantly educating myself, reading articles and news to keep up to date with what’s happening but working with experts, like yourselves is really crucial for depth of understanding and applying it to the specifics of your organisation. Second, you need to make sure as a business, all stakeholders understand your ambition.  This has been really important for us at Trainline. We want to lead in this space, so it’s really important to us that we move swiftly and that we take effective action. From the senior team and then across the broader teams, you need to really align to the level of ambition you have and determine how quickly you want to move.