The UITP Sustainable Development Commission

Celebrating 16 years of sustainability excellence: advocating, reaching out, growing our knowledge through our networks and improving our businesses.

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From the Environmental Working Group to the Sustainable Development Commission

Towards the end of the last century, system operators, regulators and industry members of the UITP were becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and the environmental impacts on their organisations. The increasing usage of environmental standards[1] and their reporting[2] was recognised as a potential threat but also a major opportunity to the businesses.

At a Policy Board meeting in 2001, the newly elected President of the UITP, Dr. Wolfgang Meyer[3], responded by initiating the Environmental Working Group. The UITP Asia-Pacific Chair, Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC) Limited’s Operations Director, Mr. Phil Gaffney took on the stewardship for this Working Group.

MTRC was at that time championing the use of electrical mass transit to mitigate air quality in Asian cities and had chaired a significant meeting of international experts and local politicians in Hong Kong (UITP Shanghai). MTRC had also just published its first environmental report and was in the process of developing the institutions and internal methodologies to support the publication of China’s first sustainability report in April 2002[4].

Mr Gaffney identified Dr. Glenn Frommer, the Corporation’s Sustainability Manager, to lead the Working Group (Photo Wolfgang and Glenn) together with Petra Mollet and Heather Allen. Petra was the Director of Corporate Development and the Corporate Office for the UITP and Heather Allen was the Head of Press, Public Relations and Corporate Affairs at UITP. The senior representation from UITP was crucial to ensure visibility for the discussions and empowering transparency for further development of the working group. The Co-Chairs of the working group, Elaine Seagriff and Sylviane Delmas were instrumental in arranging the first meeting of the group. 

The list of invitees and participants from the first meeting, 7 May 2002, (List of invitees, Participants) shows a wide participation from UITP industry and operational members. A presentation from the launch of the environmental working group detailed the public transport role and the environment, UITP’s mission, the operational objectives and remit for the working group, the challenges for sustainable mobility and presentations by working group members and their organisations. (PPT Launch of ENV grp, min-5702).

The initial goal of the Working group was to develop a brochure with a set of fact sheets and announce an Environmental Charter at the UITP World Congress in Madrid in 2003. However, it was evident at this first meeting that the environmental framework presented too narrow a context for members, and there was unanimous consensus to consider sustainable mobility instead. With support of the UITP President’s office, the working group was renamed as the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) and refocused its efforts to produce its first brochure on sustainable mobility for the UITP World Congress.

The SDWG had a number of issues to consider:

The Agenda for the January 2003 SDWG meeting shows the breadth of the issues considered and the focus on the earliest and ongoing discussions. (Agenda Sus dev WG, SD General).

Thanks to the immeasurable efforts of the SDWG and its members, the UITP Sustainable Development Charter was launched at the 54th UITP World Congress in Madrid 2003 with the Charter being signed by 33 leading members. Accompanying the launch of the Charter was the publication of the brochure, ‘Ticket to the Future - 3 Stops to Sustainable Mobility’. (UITP Ticket to the Future) The list of signatories, group members and best practices can be found in this document.

Support from the President’s office was further instrumental in educating the Policy Board on the importance of sustainability in terms of public transport. A presentation was made by Deloitte at the Policy Board meeting in Venice in October 2003 entitled ‘Sustainable Development-from belief to business’ (UITP Venice October 2003 pjs), and was accompanied by a briefing paper to the policy board, ‘Background note on sustainable development’ background SD Pol Brd)

It was evident that the issue of sustainable development and its impact on the UITP was evolving, and the importance of the SDWG was evolving as well. (Actions, International Partnerships, Min Assnetmtg Topics for consideration, asstraSDWG, Backup of Agenda March 2004, Participants March 18th , sd meeting agenda, SDWg Rome September, Participants Rome 22nd).

The use and importance of the UITP Charter for sustainable development was growing as well. Discussions were taken with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) about developing a set of specific transport indicators for sustainable development reporting. It was felt that the financial requirements and the 2 to 3-year lag time was too cumbersome a process to guide the SDWG. As a consequence, in January 2005 the working group formed a subcommittee chaired by Michael Schemmer from Bombardier, who lead the development of a set of indicators for UITP Charter signatories (Min Ind SDBXL, )

By 2005 it was evident that the working group had matured to the point where its portfolio exceeded that of a working group and it was decided by the Policy Board that the working group be given full commission status (Update ex board Jan27). The launch of the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) was accompanied by the publication of the 2nd brochure ‘Bringing Quality to Life‘. (UITP Making Tomorrow Today). This brochure provides an overview of the broad portfolio of issues in sustainable development and sustainable mobility, a listing of advocacy work undertaken by the Working Group and the participants of the group.

As a commission, the SDC, has grown from strength to strength. It has championed sustainable mobility, advocacy outside the UITP and networking within the UITP.

[1] ISO 14001 for Environmental Management Systems

[2] The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

[3] Director of the Cologne Transport Company (Kolner Verkehrsbetriebe AG or KVB), https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Meyer_(Manager)

[4] http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/sustainability/sustainrpt/pdf/mtrsustainabilityreport2001.pdf

Indicators for the UITP Charter on Sustainable Development

The critical importance of indicators was not fully recognised when the Sustainable Development Working Group first started to focus its attention the Charter. In the early days of the working group the general feeling was that ISO 14,001[1], EMAS[2] and in particular the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), G3 (G3.1), were probably sufficient.

Formal discussions between the UITP and the GRI focused on producing a Sector Supplement for G3.1 focusing on public transport. Assessment of this way forward showed that there would be a 2 to 3-year time lag before a set of indicators could be concluded, and the development of the indicator set needed to undergo a full public consultation. The GRI had been working on a Sector Supplement for Logistics and Transportation, but it was felt that this was not fully fit for purpose for UITP members. (GRI Sector Supplement Logistics and Transportation)

Member’s experience concluded that there could be improvements in the existing reporting indicators and guidelines, and decided to develop a new set of criteria for the Charter. This work was led by Michael Schemmer, Bombardier. With his in-depth understanding of EMAS and ISO 14,001, Michael chaired the subcommittee to develop this indicator set. (UITP_MS_091005_UITP_coaching, Indicators-Agenda fin, Minutes_Indicators WG).

Amongst the questions to be resolved were the following.

After a number of discussions, the group finalised the proposed set of charter criteria (UITP Charter_Criteria_Proposal). A sample set of targets was concluded (UITP_Targets_Sample), and the proposal was concluded at the Working Group in July 2007 (Indicators WG 05072007). The indicator set and issues were launched as a new framework for reporting on sustainable development (UITP SD Framework) and incorporated into the Charter. The group leaders for this work were Gunnar Heipp, MDG, and Peter Müller-Marschhausen, LVB. 

The Framework divided requirements into 2 levels; Level 1 Mandatory Core Requirements, and Level 2, Voluntary criteria encompassing Governance, Environmental, Economic and Social issues. The Mandatory Core Requirements were sufficiently broad to encompass Industry, Authorities and Operators. It was decided that each signatory must choose a minimum of 3 indicators from each of the 4 categories in Level 2 to satisfy the requirement as a Charter signatory. The indicators themselves were developed to be Smart: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Time Bound. The commission organised training and coaching sessions to assist members in understanding, implementing and reporting their performance.

A response from the MTRC showed how an operator responded to the indicator set. (UITP Sustainability Indicators_2010).

The future use of the UITP indicators indicated the robustness of the framework. It was straightforward to link the UITP Charter criteria to later GRI indicators. (GRIG4 Linkage table UITP v1) and extend that linkage to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are several of the targets within the UN SDG’s incorporating public transport where the UITP is directly responsible for sector reporting, and there is a direct linkage between the SDG’s and the UITP reporting criteria (Paper 2c).

A work in progress is to develop a concise taxonomy for all of the criteria used by the UITP and the SDGs 4_Indicators_Overview_upd. These will be future areas of reporting for the Commission.

[1] ISO 14001 for Environmental Management Systems

[2] The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)GG

Brochures, International Meetings, Advocacy and More

Over the years the Sustainable Development Working Group and Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) have focused on promoting sustainable development through discussions of key issues and extracting best practices of all its members. The Working Group and Commission leveraged on the UITP World Congresses in Madrid 2003, Rome 2005 and Helsinki 2007 to disseminate key information. The brochures published at these meetings included summaries of the broad international advocacy work led by Heather Allen, UITP Senior Manager Sustainable Development.

The brochures have provided a rich resource of extracted data from the UITP Millennium City Database. Many charts graphs and tables repeated in other documents and circulated to the highest levels in governments internationally.

In addition to the formal brochures, the SDC collaborated with local public transport providers in Bilbao and Milan to hold the 1st and 2nd international conferences on public transport and sustainable development in 2006 and 2008 respectively, and produced a video from its commission meeting in Rome.


In 2003 Ticket to the Future was published (Ticket). The document set the scene for sustainable mobility, a cornerstone of sustainable development. The 3 stops referred to in the Ticket to the Future cited Social Equity, Environmental Balance and Economic Value. The Social Equity was described in terms of Cities, Transport and Sustainability and included UITP Recommendations and International examples. Social Equity was also explained in terms of Health and Safety with UITP Recommendations and International examples.

The 2nd stop, Environmental Balance, was considered in terms of Energy and Resources, Global Warming, Urban Air Pollution and Noise Pollution. Each of the facets within Environmental Balance were provided with UITP Recommendations and international examples.

The last stop, Economic Value, examined the Cost of Transport to the Community, again including UITP Recommendations and International examples. The document concluded with examples of UITP member’s commitment to Sustainable Development.

Members of the SDWG and the UITP staff involved in contributing to the document are listed on page 43 Of Ticket to the Future. The Chair of the SDWG was Dr. Glenn Frommer, and the assistance of the Canadian Urban Transport Association (CUTA) and the American Public Transport Transportation Association (APTA) is noted.

Bringing Quality to Life (Bringing Quality to Life) was the document published in 2005 and focused on the leadership position taken by the UITP in sustainable mobility. The concept of sustainable mobility is described through pertinent global developments. The key challenges for the transportation sector outlined within the global values were discussed in context. Best practice examples were provided in this section showing how members made it happen and how they brought quality of life.

A list of Charter signatories as of June 2005 was provided showing Full, Pledge and Association Signatories. The Commission Chair was Dr. Glenn Frommer and the Co vice chairs of the Commission were Julie Hoover and Eric Terrier. Michael Schemmer was the chair of the Sustainable Reporting Indicators Working Group with vice-chair John Pierre Charrier. The International diversity initiative was co-chaired by Elaine Seagriff and Sylviane Delmas. Heather Allen, the UITP Sustainable Development Manager developed and edited the document.

Global developments cited fairness in a fragile world and intergenerational value. Key challenges cited present trends and drivers, actions to increase the sustainable development performance of organizations and benefits. Key skills for tomorrow’s organizations new business imperatives, the roles and competencies in leadership and governance work were detailed. A discussion of the investors prospective was also provided.

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions from transportation was detailed citing cleaner technologies, but recognizing that technology will only start making a difference around 2030. Minimizing environmental damage and controlling costs were also discussed and proactive stakeholder engagement and dialogue were also described.

A risk based approach was detailed highlighting potential opportunities and noting the potential impact on reputation. A graphic was presented on page 36 showing the steps on the sustainable development journey. Statistics from a selection of UITP members committed to the UITP Charter were presented and provided insight into their initiatives.

Making Tomorrow Today (Making Tomorrow Today) mapped the progress on sustainable development and public transport sector between 2005 – 2007.

The UITP Sustainable Development Charter served as the road map for this document. A definition of sustainable development and the connection to today’s global challenges of climate change and the energy situation in developing sustainable cities was presented. How the sector implements its initiatives to impact sustainable development and demonstrate their commitment was detailed. In addition an updated list of the Charter signatories were included as was a list of best practices.

The need to report and measure performance was discussed in depth with resources focused on international certification and verification of reports. The document also described the barriers and drivers behind the implementation of sustainable principles, and the document concluded with a number of UITP recommendations. UITP’s international advocacy is also described in detail with a list of activities undertaken between 2005-2007.

The Chair of the Commission was Dr. Glenn Frommer and the Vice-Chairman was Eric Terrier. Corresponding members from the International Association of Public transport, Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), American Public Transport Association (APTA) and Associaco. Nacional De Transportes Publicos were noted. Heather Allen the UITP Sustainable Development Manager and Sophie Dryer assisted in producing the report.

International Meetings

The first UITP Sustainable Development Conference was held in Bilbao in October 2006. The urban renewal and developments in public transport in Bilbao provided an inspiring frame for the meeting (SD Conf Bilbao and CD of the Meeting). The CD of the Bilbao meeting presents a short movie of the proceedings of the full set of participants, and venue photos. The 2nd UITP sustainable development conference was held in Milan in October 2008.

Both of these conferences provided the opportunity for UITP members to interface with international colleagues in other sectors. In particular the importance of urban development, climate change and environmental protection provided a great number of mutual insights.

Video - Letter from Rome

In an effort to try something different, the SDC, produced a 4-minute video from the mid-term meeting of Charter Signatories in Rome in 2005, with examples from different organizations as to why sustainable development is important to them. If you would like to know how sustainable development and love are similar, watch the short video. (UITP.wmv)


Advocacy and outreach have always been a key driver for the UITP. It has been the means by which public transport has leveraged its information, organizations and expertise internationally. The evolution of sustainable development and sustainable mobility have gone hand in hand since the start of the Environmental Working Group in 2001. These efforts were lead by Heather Allen from the inception of the Working Group until 2011 and thereafter by Philip Turner.

The UITP’s response to world events and advocacy initiatives are summarised in the Journey of Sustainable Development on pages 7 and 8 of ‘Making Tomorrow Today ‘. A partial list of some of the UITP initiatives over the years is as follows. There are many more initiatives and related presentations. See the UITP Mobi+ for further information.

UITP Sustainable Development Conference Bilbao 2006, associated files

Getting To The Table – The Early History of the UITP Sustainable Development Commission

By Dr. Glenn Frommer, Honorary Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission

This paper was requested by the Land Transport Authority in Singapore for publication in the Journal Anniversary Edition, honoring Singapore’s 50 Year Anniversary and the vision of the Former Prime Minister, Lee Kwan Yew. The paper outlines how the work a few committed UITP members that started the Environmental Working Group in 2001 have been able to leverage UITP’s strengths resulting in the UITP getting to the table where the most significant decisions on climate change are being made.

In particular this paper outlines the vision and thinking of the UITP Environmental Working Group and the development of competencies by the Sustainable Development Commission and its Chair. The article demonstrates how passion and commitment, even with limited resources, can result in broad sectorial change and serve as a role model for other sectors.

Getting To The Table

The UITP Sustainable Development Commission through the years

April 2016, Hong Kong
22nd Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

Hosted by MTR CL in Hong Kong. Presentation was given by MTR’s chief architect and integrating sustainability principles into the design of railway stations. An update was presented on COP 21 and 22 including the Slocat Partnership. The presentation was given on sustainable procurement and a further presentation on Smart City Standards.

Associated files:

October 2015, Munich
21st Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

Hosted by Arriva. Focus on the road to Paris in preparation for COP 21. Regular updates on the Working Groups, the Charter and the EU Directive on Non-Financial Reporting were provided. A discussion on the connection between the UITP Sustainability Charter and the UN Global Compact was held.

Associated files:

June 2015, Milan
20th Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

The 3 UITP work streams of Business Intelligence, Business Orientated Management and Technological Excellence and Policy Related Activities was discussed in terms of the direction of the Sustainable Development Commission. An update on the world Congress and trends report was provided and the Work Programme was presented in agreed.

May 2013, Geneva
16th Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

Regular updates highlighted by Bombardier’s Approach to CSR and Vienna’s Ecological Footprinting. A summary of the EU Smart cities and communities initiatives was presented.

October 2009, Nantes
9th Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

Hosted by TRANSDEV/ SEMITAN. Discussions updated the indicators and the sustainable development trainings are organized by the UITP. An update on the Charter was provided and some discussion of the development of regional chapters.

March 2009, Abu Dhabi

Hosted by the Department of Transport this meeting explored the planning in future development of rail and bus systems in Abu Dhabi. Most welcoming meeting.

July 2008, Melbourne

General discussion on sustainable development is understood in Europe and a well-received presentation of the UITP Charter on sustainable development.

Associated files:

June 2008, Seoul
6th Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

Hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and much was learned that the differences between operations in the East and West. Discussions focused towards the world Congress in Vienna in June 2009.

June 2007, Brussels

Building unity through diversity-project proposal by ECHOS Communication.

Associated files:

March 2007, Stockholm
4th Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

There was an in-depth discussion of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the use of mandatory versus voluntary indicators. A timely update on the Diversity and Social Development Working Group and a follow up discussion of the detailed workshops to be held at the world Congress in Helsinki.

June 2006, Hong Kong
2nd Sustainable Development Commission Meeting

Updating the list of signatories members of the commission, international advocacy and the Working Programme. Some discussions on the Bilbao conference 2006.

March 2005, Brussels
Kick-off meeting of the Sustainable Development Reporting and Indicators Group

Also including a discussion of the mission and objectives for the World Congress in Rome 2005, actions Working Programme 2005 to 2007

March 2004, Rome

SDWG meeting discussing the agenda, participants and programme for the SDWG in Madrid. Discussions on the SD Charter and the Madrid meeting. Presentation and carbon neutral and environmental policy in fuel tax updates.

January 2004, Rome

First thoughts on topics for the SDWG working programme, signatory evaluation, monitoring and exchange of knowledge and best practices. A compendium of the agenda, meeting minutes June 2003 and working programme with the SDWG. Listing of international partnerships.

June 2003, Brussels
Association Network Meeting including UITP, UIC, UNIFE and the European Transport Safety Council

Wider discussion of environmental issues including procurement and safety focusing on areas of potential collaboration.