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Our Missions

Getting to know the Sustainable Development Unit

Friday 7 September 2012

The Sustainable Development Unit is in charge of different missions. Our two main duties are to help our members become more sustainable, by providing them the right information; in the meantime, we aim at promoting railway worlwide as a solution that can meet current and future mobility issues. To do so, we organize and participate in meetings, we produce brochures and leaflets and we develop our network.

Representing the rail industry at the global level

As the global organization representing the railway sector, the UIC works closely with the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to promote the rail sector and achieve better global policies for railways.
The UIC Sustainability Unit works with the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Environment Program, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Energy Agency, and several other global institutions, as you can see in the section "Cooperation with the UN".

Our global activities are summarized below :

To promote railway at a global level, UIC had a high-profile presence in the Rio+ 20 Conference, the biggest sustainable event of the decade. For more information, please go to

Our work with the UN also consists in participating in the regular UNFCCC conferences (“COPs”) on climate change to promote the low-carbon benefits of railways. To learn more about our work with the UN, please visit our section Cooperation with the UN.

Not only do we work for the UN but also with other international instituions, such as the IEA. Indeed, the IEA and UIC worked together to track the progress of energy use and CO2 emissions and jointly published the first Railway Handbook on CO2 emissions. For more information, please see : http://uic.org/spip.php?article3005

It is important for us to work at a global level : the UIC published the first global sustainability report to summarize our members’ achievements in sustainable development. If you wish to read it , click on the picture :

Promoting and supporting sustainable development among our members

As well as representing the railway sector externally, the UIC Sustainability Unit works hard with our members to find and share best practices and to research solutions to shared problems. Some selected highlights of our work are listed below:

Energy and CO2: Through our research projects, our expert network of members, and our environmental performance database, we help members to monitor and reduce their energy use, to cut costs and reduce CO2 emissions. Go to http://www.railway-sustainability.org/spip.php?rubrique8 to learn more.

Noise and Vibrations: UIC helps members address these vital issues by facilitate good practices exchange through our expert network, events and workshops, and by coordinating joint research projects. Visit this link for more information.

UIC Declaration of Sustainable Mobility and Transport: Through this initiative the UIC encourages members make a public commitment to sustainable development and produce regular updated reports. To discover more about the declaration, please click here.

Other topics: Our unit covers a diverse set of issues such as reducing air pollution from diesel engines; promoting eco-friendly vegetation management; developing adaptation strategies to climate change; assessing the sustainability of high-speed rail; and providing guidance with the procurement of renewable energy. For more information : http://www.railway-sustainability.org/spip.php?rubrique4.

How we work with our members

The Sustainability Unit is overseen by committees of members looking at various aspects of our work. Overall direction is provided by the Energy, Environment and Sustainability Platform, which is supported by Steering Group. Beneath these bodies lie five working groups looking at specific sustainable development topics, composed of experts from our members’ companies.

This scheme sums up how we work with our members :

Brochures and leaflets

To widespread paramount information and to promote railway as the lowest carbon transport solution, UIC has published 26 brochures and reports over the past 3 years. Below is a selection of key reports :

Bearable noise limits: This report reviews the evidence on bearable limits for railway noise and discusses how these limits could be applied in European railway regulation.

Greening Transport - External Costs Update Report: This comprehensive study provides clear evidence that railways have lower external costs than other modes of transport.

Modal Shift Study: This study determines to what extent a modal shift from road to rail transport could contribute to mitigate climate change and adapt to it through the reduction of GHG emissions. Click here to get to know the study.

High speed rail: fast track to sustainable mobility, shows how high speed railways enable to fulfill the objectives of the three pillars of sustainability, offering the customers safety, capacity and sustainability.

These are only a selection of brochures and reports. If you are interested in reading more, please follow the link.

Workshops and conferences

The best way to move towards sustainability together is to meet so as to share good practices and information. To do so, UIC organizes various workshops and conferences, to discuss specific themes among members, and all meet every two years to assess progress and new strategies.

This is called "The UIC Sustainability Conference" and it is organized in order to share best practices among members and non-members. The latest is to be held in Venice, October 25-27 2012, in partnership with FS. For more information, please visit : http://www.uic-environment.org/spip.php?article1.

Another example of conference is the 1st South East Environment Workshop which was held in Belgrate, in September 2011 and organized by the UIC and Serbian Railways to discuss and share good practice on key environment topics in the region. Please click here to read more.

UIC participates in various meetings and conferences to widespread information and to try and find solutions to achieve sustainability.


The Sustainable Development Unit has various missions to achieve but its main missions are to promote railway at a global level as a solution that meets future challenges and to help support and assist our members in their becoming more sustainable.