Stagecoach unveils new sustainability strategy

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Stagecoach will give back to communities by allocating 0.5% of profit before tax to charity and other good causes such as the Captain Tom Foundation. RICHARD SHARMAN













A new Stagecoach strategy aims to leverage the power of public transport to create better places to live and work

Stagecoach launched a new long-term sustainability strategy on 23 August with a call for ‘radical behaviour change and incentives to reward the right choices’ to make national government net zero ambitions a reality.

Publishing its roadmap to becoming a carbon neutral business by 2050, the operator also warned that national and regional governments needed to address the ‘contradictory policies and mixed messaging being sent to citizens’ over climate change action.

Stagecoach said its strategy – Driving Net Zero: Better Places to Live and Work – aims to help create a greener, smarter, safer, healthier and fairer country. It sets out plans to achieve this by leveraging the power of public transport to address climate change, support post-Covid economic recovery and boost prosperity for employees and communities across the UK.

The plan will see investment in new zero-emission fleets and other green technologies over the next 15 years to reduce the impact of the company’s operations on the planet, as well as initiatives to cut waste, boost recycling and conserve water. Stagecoach says it is aiming to decarbonise its business by around 70% by 2035 as well as targeting having a zero-emission UK bus fleet by that date. It follows a 14% reduction in the firm’s carbon emissions between 2014 and 2019, supported by investments in LED lighting, intelligent building heating control systems and renewables. The company’s ambition is to go further and faster, as the UK looks ahead to hosting the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021.

In addition, Stagecoach has confirmed plans to sign up to the global Race to Zero campaign and has also started working towards setting science-based targets for ratification by the Science Based Targets initiative, consistent with the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050. The phased plan to fully decarbonise the company’s operations will see a switch away from diesel power to zero-carbon technologies, including electric and hydrogen. Stagecoach has already invested in around 7,000 new greener vehicles in the last decade, including one of the biggest orders of e-buses in Europe.

Other new key environmental targets include:

  • Purchasing only 100% renewable energy for Stagecoach buildings and fleet
  • Aligning energy management systems with the international standard ISO50001 by 2027
  • 95% of waste diverted from landfill by 2026 and 98% by 2031
  • Reducing resource use by further digitalising systems
  • Progressing a climate adaptation programme to risk assess and protect facilities

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive, said: “Stagecoach is a force for good and our strategy starts with what we can do in our own business to help transform society for the better. But we also need to make changes individually and work together to achieve our goals. The country will not deliver on its ambitions by grand strategies or technology change alone. We need radical behaviour change and incentives to reward the right choices to make net zero a reality. We need to be more honest about the scale of the challenge and the changes we will need to make to how we live now. Governments need to get real and stop cherry-picking the easy wins. We urgently need practical changes by national and regional government to address contradictory policies and mixed messaging currently being sent to citizens. We need an end to the ludicrous situation where some clean air zone plans effectively tax bus passengers making a sustainable choice but do nothing to address diesel cars contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of people in our communities every year.

“Our current tax system and approach to road management puts cars first and is directly resulting in higher fares for people doing the right thing and choosing greener bus travel.The biggest opportunity to address climate change and protect our communities from extreme weather, poor air quality and the road traffic gridlock strangling our economy is not from electrifying Britain’s transport system. It is from incentivising the country to switch from cars to greener and healthier public transport and active travel.”

Last year, as part of a six-point plan to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, Stagecoach called for a ‘grown-up conversation’ to re-examine fiscal policy as the Government considers how to pay for the coronavirus pandemic, including a complete transformation in how journeys are taxed. It would see a ‘polluter pays’ principle, with sustainable behaviours and use of public transport rewarded to make these modes more affordable and accessible to all.

Social responsibility

The new Stagecoach sustainability strategy also includes a package of investment in its employees and measures to build on the company’s annual contribution to the country’s economy and communities, which was independently assessed before the Covid-19 pandemic as totalling £1.6billion a year. This includes:

  • Helping transform diversity in the transport sector by ensuring women make up at least 40% of the company’s leaders and 25% of the wider workforce are from ethnic minorities by 2026
  • Securing independent diversity and inclusion accreditations
  • Boosting safety performance with a further 15% reduction in passenger and staff accidents by 2025-26 versus 2018-19
  • Supporting policy development at local and national level and improving customer and stakeholder advocacy for the business
  • Giving back to communities by allocating 0.5% of profit before tax to charity and other good causes
  • Focused initiatives to promote health and wellbeing, support young people, skills and employment, address loneliness and social isolation, and increase accessibility and opportunity

Stagecoach is also putting in place enhanced governance arrangements to drive and monitor change. These include a new Sustainability Steering Group, immediate compliance with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and a target of achieving Carbon Disclosure Project “A” rating, with annual goals to improve performance.

Martin added: “This is far more than a climate change strategy. It is a plan to deliver better places to live and work in the towns and cities we are proud to serve across the country. We need the support of Government, our customers, our employees, our supply chain partners and a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic to fuel the investment needed to make real change a reality.”