Thinking in terms of sustainability, acting responsibly
BLS connects regions, cities and people and seeks to act responsibly as a passionate mobility services provider and an employer with strong ties to the regions where it operates. Our sustainability principles are an established component of our corporate strategy. All of our business divisions have defined strategic areas of focus for the period from 2016 to 2020 and developed specific sustainability measures. BLS is thus pursuing the goal of firmly incorporating the principles of sustainability and corporate responsibility into its daily business activities and the mindset of its employees.
We reliably, ambitiously and sympathetically put our customers at the heart of everything we do. We offer punctual and high-quality mobility services and regularly ask customers to give us their feedback. We ensure that our passengers remain safe when they travel with us by further improving the high degree of operational safety of our vehicles and facilities.
Safety for our customers
Most of our 3,000 employees work in the canton of Bern, but we also have staff in eight other cantons, and BLS Cargo Ltd employees in Germany and Italy. In cooperation with “login” – the training association for the public transport sector – BLS also provides training to some 100 apprentices in a wide range of trades and professions. In addition, the company stages a Future Day every year.
Our sustainability principle of “We are viewed by our employees and the labour market as an attractive employer” formed the basis for the definition of several of our goals for 2020. These goals include the further development of work structures aligned with the needs of employees and the implementation of a comprehensive company health management system which, among other things, should lead to a further reduction of occupational and non-occupational accidents. A broad range of internal professional development programmes and opportunities for participation in external courses represent a further investment in our employees and the future of BLS. BLS focuses on the following values here: personal responsibility, individual learning and business-relevant decision-making and action.
Safety for our employees
Resources and use of materials
BLS utilises a variety of resources, the majority of which are the construction materials needed for our railway infrastructure. Such materials include ballast, tracks and sleepers, the lubricants and chemicals used in our workshops and the de-icing salt that we spread on our platforms.
Global resource scarcity presents a challenge to us as well. With regard to the value chain as a whole, we therefore plan to achieve major progress over the next few years with the systematic management and reduction of the materials we employ. We will also extend the service life of our production materials and increase the use of recyclables and recycled materials.
Waste and recycling
Our customers only feel comfortable if they are able to travel in clean trains, buses and boats and enjoy well-maintained railway stations, stops and wharfs. For this reason, more than 100 BLS employees remove more than 1,000 tonnes of paper, PET bottles, aluminium and other waste from trains, buses, boats and public facilities each year, and also clean all vehicles and public facilities.
However, the largest amount of waste by far – 35,000 tonnes per year – is produced through construction activities, railway infrastructure maintenance and vehicle maintenance. Our Group-wide Waste Disposal Manual lays out a professional approach to the collecting and storing of materials such as ballast, sleepers, hazardous waste and metals. Material recycling activities are carried out for us by external, certified, expert and environmentally friendly service providers.
A more sustainable approach here is to avoid waste altogether, among other ways by creating closed-loop material cycles. BLS is pursuing such an approach within the framework of its optimised materials strategy – starting with the procurement of products. For example, the new rail vehicles purchased by BLS not only have to be safe, reliable, energy efficient and low in emissions; they also have to be long-lasting and, above all, made of materials that can later be converted into secondary raw materials.
Energy efficiency and climate protection
Our mobility requirements in Switzerland account for more than one-third of the country's final energy consumption. With 55 million passengers per year, as well as 1.25 million vehicles transported on the Lötschberg line and a huge amount of freight transport, BLS is an important player in the Swiss transport system. However, BLS also makes a key contribution to climate protection, as hydropower accounts for more than 95 per cent of the electricity used to drive our trains.
Increasing energy efficiency is a major priority at BLS. The focus here is on the identification and assessment of energy-saving measures for technical systems and general operations. For example, BLS exploits energy-saving potential by improving the heating, air conditioning and lighting systems in existing trains, setting high energy efficiency standards for new trains and making engine drivers more aware of the importance of using energy responsibly. BLS is also currently developing an energy management system in order to more precisely regulate energy consumption in various areas. In addition, the company is implementing energy-saving measures for technical facilities and buildings.
It is important to BLS to take proactive measures that reduce noise emissions from trains and shunting, train-parking and construction activities. In line with this policy, BLS completed noise reduction measures on its fleet at the end of 2015: Here, all BLS passenger and freight carriages were equipped with quieter brakes made of composites, and noise barriers have been installed on nearly all rail lines.
Most of this type of work is done at night in order to keep disruptions to services at a minimum. This, however, can also lead to disturbing construction noises. BLS always makes sure it informs local residents of such activities in advance and we also develop solutions with partners and suppliers in situations where very loud work needs to be performed.
People tend to hear more noise these days due to the increase in the number of trains that now travel on the rail network, or which have to be shunted and parked, as well as the greater number of urban residential housing units now located near tracks. In addition, modern passenger trains equipped with complex technical systems and equipment make a lot more noise when parked than older trains do. BLS is looking to implement innovative solutions here – for example completely shutting down sub-systems (“sleep mode”).
The extensive rail network in Switzerland means that rail operators use a lot of land and also cut through landscapes and animal and plant habitats. At the same time, the embankments, hedges and woods along tracks offer a valuable ecological habitat for flora and fauna. Rare plants and small animals have in fact found new homes as a result of extensive upkeep measures, the promotion of ecological niches and the restoration of migration routes by BLS along its more than 490-kilometre rail network.
A special register contains the names of all locations where underlying soil has been damaged or contaminated by workshops or filling stations. These locations pose no risk to the people who live in the vicinity, or to groundwater, which is why no clean-up work is necessary.
As a mobility company, BLS is embedded in society and the environment in a special way. We therefore seek to be a responsible and dedicated corporate citizen, among other ways by taking action that goes beyond what’s required by law.
Along with our core rail business, BLS also operates an extensive bus network in the Emmental region, a Car Transport service on the Lötschberg line and boat services on Lakes Thun and Brienz. A large number of customers, whether commuters or tourists looking for relaxation or excitement, rely on our transport services every day. Our subsidiary BLS Cargo Ltd plays a key role in rail freight haulage in Alpine transit through Switzerland. With the variety of services it offers, BLS lowers the strain on the environment and conserves resources – unlike motorised private transport. It also produces comparatively lower CO2 emissions.
Dialogue with our stakeholders
BLS maintains regular contact with numerous stakeholders. Such stakeholders include our employees and customers, the cantons, the Swiss Federal Government, municipalities and also competitors and industry associations. It is important to us to know and understand the positions, expectations and points of view of our stakeholders, and we take all of this information into consideration in a suitable manner in our business decisions and activities. This approach is meant to ensure that the actions taken by BLS are better understood and accepted. However, such knowledge of the needs of our stakeholders can also lead to new and innovative solutions.
BLS maintains a transparent dialogue that focuses on continuity and integrity. Various forms of interaction and participation are utilised here, ranging from internal and external surveys to memberships in various associations right through to partnerships marked by regular and extensive contact. Conflicts of interest that may arise due to different expectations on the part of stakeholders are addressed transparently and resolved in a fair manner. For example, BLS established a monitoring group to consult with on the construction of a new BLS workshop.
BLS’s Procurement department ensures that procurement activities conform with the company's internal principles on economic, ecological and social sustainability and the guidelines on public procurement.
BLS needs to maintain cooperative and fair business relationships with the numerous suppliers from which it procures materials and services. BLS takes into account ecological, social and safety aspects when developing its product group strategies, which form the basis for procurement activities. These aspects are incorporated into the minimum requirements for specific procurement transactions. Wherever possible, BLS requires the products it purchases to be manufactured in a sustainable manner or else display sustainability attributes, whereby this applies to both public tenders and the direct commissioning of business.
BLS requires its suppliers and sub-suppliers to meet internationally recognised minimum standards such as those listed in the United Nation’s Global Compact for Advancing Responsible Business Practices. Such commitment is obtained from suppliers and sub-suppliers through contractual agreements and self-declarations. Over the next few years, BLS will more extensively address sustainability issues as they relate to product groups and suppliers.
We feel a great responsibility towards customers, employees and taxpayers. Such stakeholders therefore expect us to conduct our daily business with integrity, and it goes without saying that we comply with all pertinent laws and regulations.
For example, BLS does not tolerate bribery or corruption in any form. Our internal Compliance Guidelines describe the general principles with which BLS has aligned its business processes, as well as specific compliance tasks and areas of responsibility. A risk monitoring system ensures a focus on early recognition or prevention of compliance violations in order to avoid or reduce damage to the company as quickly as possible.
Partnerships with our suppliers are designed on the basis of internal rules of conduct towards suppliers. With regard to terms of employment, rules of conduct also exist that govern aspects such as dealing with gifts, favours, etc.
Easy boarding, barrier-free access to information, travelling safely – everyone benefits from unobstructed mobility. By the end of 2023, our passengers will be able to enjoy barrier-free access to all stations and trains throughout the entire BLS network. In this manner, BLS will meet the requirements of the Swiss Disability Discrimination Act in all of its trains and at all of its 119 stations and stops.