Rail companies have been slow to take up sustainability reporting, although a few stand out as leaders, according to an analysis by Ethical Corporation.
Many rail firms bury their sustainability information several layers down on their websites, preventing most of the public from ever finding the data.
Elaine Cohen from consulting firm Beyond Business says that the rail sector does not have a widely recognized positive image.
But she argues that reporting can help the sector transform its public perception. Cohen says that the rail industry could position itself as the environmentally preferable option, helping to reduce traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions.
One company regarded as a reporting leader is the Hong Kong rail firm MTR. Its sustainability data is easily accessible on its website, in contrast to other major rail firms such as Eurostar.
There’s some evidence that freight companies are already doing just the sorts of environmental promotion that Cohen called for.
In June freight rail company CSX Corporation announced that it had beaten a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent per revenue ton mile. CSX was targeting the end of 2011 but says it met the goal in late 2010.
Freight rail company Norfolk Southern recently set a goal to reduce its GHG emissions per revenue ton-mile 10 percent by 2014, using 2009 as a baseline.
But last year a Carbon Disclosure Project report said the global transportation sector is behind other industries in terms of setting goals to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption. The sector is also struggling to identify and report on climate-related risks and complete carbon emissions, the CDP said.