The climate train to Glasgow on October 30th, what did we learn?

What is the climate train?

Last saturday the Climate Train departed from Amsterdam, all the way to Glasgow where the two week long UNClimate Change Conference – COP26 – is taking place, as we speak. The climate train is an initiative organised by Rail to the COP, a campaign by Youth for Sustainable Travel (YFST), in collaboration with European (international) train operating companies; Prorail, Eurostar, NS and Avanti

The aim of the Rail to the COP campaign is to promote and facilitate the transition towards a sustainable future for travel. When we came across this inspiring initiative, we didn’t hesitate for a moment to join the movement. In preparation of the journey, we co-designed an on-board program to spark meaningful dialogue between youth, civil society, industry and policy makers. Did you recognize the canvases on the train as our signature?

The program and workshops were designed to create a dialogue, awareness and understanding between 500 participants spread over multiple coaches of the train, where 15 workshops were running simultaneously, spread over 2 rounds. As Strategiemakers, we are familiar with facilitating sessions, but facilitating a session in the coach of a train, is a whole other/new dimension.The energy of so many people gave us goosebumps and we are proud to be part of such a large sustainability movement.

What were the outcomes of the climate train?

The main topic of the train was to design a better future for sustainable travel. The workshops on a bunch of ‘how might we’ questions generated rich ideas. We clustered the output around three stakeholder groups: what can the policy makers / the rail industry/ everyone willing to change?

Some of the highlights of the 15 workshops:

  • Policy makers: encourage biking, subsidize and invest in sustainable modes of transport, tax aviation according to the damage , ban short-haul flights, ban flight-ads (e.g. The Hague started banning advertisement from bus and tram shelters), and stop discounting flight tickets.
  • Rail industry: increase train branding on the benefits of train travel, create a sexier appeal and better user experience for train travel, reward sustainable travel with e.g. a loyalty program on CO2 reductions, enhance the functionality of train stations (compare it with the best airports or places to work), go solar, and create one seamless international ticket booking app.
  • Everyone willing to change: slow down, stare at the sky more, lead by example, take the train, question the necessity of traveling, switch to a green bank, dare to only travel sustainably, be an activist; as an entrepreneur: no greenwashing, real intentions, implement sustainable travel policy, eliminate the use of fossil fuel by employees, grant time for working on trains.

What did we learn as a company?

Being part of this bigger sustainability movement feels special and fulfilling. Listening and talking with activists and railway companies, hearing them brainstorm about sustainable solutions and talking about the challenges ahead gave a sense of fulfillment. Because there is not one right answer. There is not one company with the almighty solution which will fix all challenges belonging to sustainable travel.

These conversations made us reflect on how we can improve our business operations.  How we operate is continuously work-in-progress, and since we all have our individual internal role contributing to the business operations, we all felt responsible. So how can we make our (travel) activities more sustainable? We thought we were on a right track, however this also made us naive in exploring new alternatives. 

For instance we motivate colleagues to travel outside of rush hour, stimulate cycling to work,  we encourage each other to use public transport and always ask ourselves if a meeting or activity has to take place in real life or if digital is a better alternative. Preparing and joining the climate train made us more aware again, specifically on the travel theme. We’ll have to step up our game. How can we be more sustainable? For example, should we stop flying at all? How can we turn our company itself more towards net positive? Everyone, every company has to contribute and be conscious about their decisions and actions.. We are not there yet, and are willing to learn. We invite you to reach out and share how you ensure sustainable travel in your business operations!


Let us know what you think 

As a society, we are embarking on this system transition in making our world more sustainable. And every company is responsible to contribute to accelerate this transition. How do you personally and professionally help the transition to a sustainable future? Do you know a company that is a great example? Let’s together share our learnings. Reply in the thread or send us a message: Pascal, Myrthe, Martine, Roxanne or Merel.

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