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Network Rail
Supplier Engagement Programme

We’ve been supporting Network Rail to engage their supply chain and drive emission reduction

Cascading ambition through the value chain

of suppliers to set SBTs by 2025
expected reduction in supply chain emissions by 2030 through the programme

The Company

In 2020 Network Rail became the first railway company to set an approved science-based target aligned to 1.5C, with support from Carbon Intelligence. These targets span the whole of its value chain and will require collaboration to reduce carbon emissions from its own operations and those of suppliers and customers.

Through the initial target setting process Network Rail worked with Carbon Intelligence to quantify their emissions and found that two-thirds  of emissions were in the supply chain. To address this they set a target for 75% of their suppliers by emissions to set science-based targets (SBTs) by 2025.

Since 2020 Network Rail has been working with Carbon Intelligence on a Supplier Engagement Programme to educate suppliers and work with them on developing their own ambitious carbon reduction targets.

By engaging with the supply chain and asking their suppliers to set science-based targets, Network Rail’s will create a domino effect that we expect will produce a reduction in supply chain emissions of approximately 50% by 2030 and will help drive the UK closer to hitting its 2050 net zero target.

The challenge of supplier engagement

There are common challenges faced when deploying a supplier engagement programme

  • Accurate carbon data
  • Internal buy-in and education
  • Engaging with very large, complex organisations who have their own decarbonisation activities and targets

Ensuring clear objectives backed up with data enabled Network Rail to overcome some of these challenges. Having data insight that quantified the impact of individual supplier emissions on Network Rail’s overall footprint was crucial to gaining supplier buy-in for the programme and kick starting the conversation.


Scope 3 emissions can cover a vast number of suppliers from several industries. Carbon Intelligence helped Network Rail first identify the top suppliers by emissions and prioritised engaging with them first.

We identified 70 high impact companies and began collecting information to understand where these companies were in terms of their own decarbonisation journeys, and whether they had set targets. This data capture allowed us to develop a roadmap for Network Rail, for the amount of reduction that could potentially be achieved in collaboration with those suppliers.

  • Step 1
    Questionnaires sent out to the high impact suppliers
  • Step 2
    Questionnaires are returned, reviewed internally, and calls are arranged with the supplier teams.
  • Step 3
    Workshops with supplier teams to explain Network Rail’s SBT, the engagement programme and how they can become involved.
  • Step 4
    Ci assesses maturity of the supplier’s current sustainability activities and uses this information to request supplier-specific carbon data to establish targets.
  • Step 5
    Agree individual supplier targets and establish ongoing monitoring and reporting


Drive momentum for ambitious climate action

By Network Rail passing these expectations and requirements onto suppliers who in turn pass it onto their suppliers, a growing awareness and accountability of the need to decarbonise spreads in the supply chain.

Shared accountability

By sharing the task of decarbonisation and engaging with supplier teams Network Rail can learn from their suppliers and start to drive innovation to solve some of the challenges they have. Their targets become shared and this helps alleviate pressure on central teams.

Competitive advantage

If suppliers cannot show that sustainability is at the forefront of their business and they’re actively driving emissions out of the products supplied to Network Rail then they may lose business in the future. By engaging with the programme and setting SBTs suppliers can maintain their market position.

Success so far

EDF – Network Rail’s energy partner – was identified as one of the high impact suppliers. For several years EDF has been actively seeking to reduce its emissions and decarbonise the energy it supplies to its customers.

Carbon Intelligence and Network Rail were able to engage EDF through the supplier engagement programme and highlighted the importance of aligning their own SBT journey to their customers. As of December 2020, EDF’s science-based target to reduce its emissions from electricity by 2030 was approved by the SBTi. This target and the steps EDF will take to achieve it will directly impact Network Rail’s own Scope 3 reduction target.

“Being involved with Network Rail’s Supplier Engagement Programme highlighted the importance of our longstanding partnership, which we believe will help us reach our respective sustainability goals. This is a significant initiative, focused on implementing real change, and we would encourage other suppliers to embrace the challenge.” – EDF

Read more about EDF’s commitment here

Services used in this case study