Ethical Performance
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Eurostar links up with FoE

December 2007

Eurostar has become only the second company to be chosen as an official partner of Friends of the Earth. FoE, which is normally reluctant to forge links with business, signed a deal last month which commits the parties to mutual support on climate change.

The railway company, which links London, France and Belgium, is expected to finance unspecified climate change research and will participate in FoE’s Big Ask campaign, which urges the British government to strengthen its proposed climate change law. For its part, FoE will advise Eurostar on its ‘tread lightly’ programme, under which it has become the world’s first train operator to make all journeys carbon-neutral.

The pressure group’s only other such alliance was with the Co-operative Bank last year. The pressure group recently came close to a deal with broadcaster BSkyB but pulled out at a late stage after objections from many of FoE’s senior head office employees (EP9, issue 5, p6).

FoE said no alliance partner could be perfect but that it was linking with Eurostar because it wanted to persuade consumers to use the railway for European journeys instead of flying. ‘The partnerships with Eurostar and the Co-op Bank are similar because they both involve companies at the cutting edge in dealing with climate change,’ it said. ‘Most companies we’ve approached have not been prepared to go public in calling on the government to take a stronger line on this issue.’

A source close to the company said the partnership had its roots in a Eurostar stakeholder dialogue exercise attended by FoE. ‘It was pretty much a textbook illustration of what can come out of stakeholder engagement,’ he said.

Eurostar has begun a social and environmental audit and has already outlined a ten-point plan including pledges to buy on-train food from local, organic and fair trade sources, reduce its carbon emissions by a quarter on passenger journeys by 2012, and work with suppliers to source cleaner electricity.

As part of the arrangement, it is also lobbying the government to use the climate change Bill to commit the UK to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by at least three per cent every year.

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