The green transformation of Deutsche Bahn

Article: The green transformation of Deutsche Bahn

With the green transformation, we are not only greening all our products and services, we are also making Deutsche Bahn and the way we work even more sustainable. In this way, we are taking responsibility for the environment.

Hotter summers, milder winters and unprecedented downpours are just some of the increasingly obvious signs of climate change, and they have become a recurring challenge for us at Deutsche Bahn, as well as for our customers. Now is the time to act so that we can leave the coming generations with a planet worth living on.

Deutsche Bahn is a company that has taken on responsibility. We are strengthening the rail system in Germany – for the climate, for people and for the economy. This goal is embedded in our Strong Rail corporate strategy, and we are putting it into practice via our green transformation. We know that there is only one way to achieve climate targets in Germany and Europe: By successfully transferring a massive volume of traffic to green rail services. As an international provider of mobility and logistics services, we are the key player in the shift to new forms of mobility.

A holistic approach for a healthy planet

With the green transformation, we are living up to our ecological responsibility: We successively make all of our products, our services and the way that we work more environmentally friendly.

Deutsche Bahn's green transformation is a process that we are driving forward holistically in the four environmental fields of action of climate protection, nature conservation, resource protection and noise reduction. In addition, we are also facing up to our social responsibility, which affects the entire Group.

Climate protection

Everyone at Deutsche Bahn is dedicated to an ambitious climate protection goal: Being completely climate neutral by 2040.

We have established a series of stages designed to help us reach our overall objective. For example, by 2030 we want our CO2 emissions to be at least 50% lower than the 2006 figure, and we are also working to increase the portion of renewably generated electricity in our traction current mix to 80%. By 2038, all of this energy will come from renewable sources. We have already achieved this goal for our long-distance services: Customers on these trains have been able to enjoy journeys powered exclusively by renewable electricity since 2018.

Further information about climate protection at Deutsche Bahn can be found here.

Nature conservation

We should not take a flourishing countryside, healthy woodlands and species-rich habitats for granted. Over the past few years, there has been a serious decline in the variety of plants and animals in the world around us. Insect numbers are plummeting and rising temperatures are putting pressure on our forests and grasslands. This in turn robs wildlife of their habitats and undermines the entire ecosystem.    

As a company, Deutsche Bahn is committed to counteracting these developments. We know that more rail traffic means our infrastructure also has to grow, and it is not always possible to achieve this without consequences for the environment. It is precisely this knowledge that makes us so aware of our duty. 

Whenever we have to disturb the environment to create new rail facilities, we also create new habitats. We temporarily relocate animals and plants so they are not harmed by our construction projects. Alternatively, we create a new permanent home for them somewhere else. Goats, wild horses and water buffalo help us by grazing selected sites so that rare plants and animals can thrive there. Since 2010, we have planned and implemented tens of thousands nature and wildlife conservation activities.

Further information about nature conversation at Deutsche Bahn can be found here.

Resource protection

We also see environmental protection as a call for us to use our resources carefully. That is why we have set ourselves an ambitious target for protecting resources: We intend to implement a full circular economy by 2040.

To achieve this goal, we are taking a holistic approach to resource protection and using several instruments. In the coming years, we will significantly increase the recycled content of the materials we use. For example, we will use almost twice as much recycled rail steel in 2030 as in 2019, thus increasing the recycled content from 25% to around 45%. In the same period, we intend to triple the percentage of recycled track ballast we use from 13.3% to 40%. And for concrete ties, we will use five times as much recycled material, increasing the percentage from 5.7% in 2019 to about 30% in 2030. At the same time, we will continue to keep our recycling rate at a high level of at least 95%.

By ensuring careful use of resources throughout the Group, we are joining forces to achieve our goal of having a full circular economy by 2040. That is why we are making resource protection visible for everyone with numerous measures that go beyond recycled content and recycling levels. We will, for example, only purchase vehicles that have been manufactured in a resource-saving manner, expand our sustainable food service portfolio in our on-bord-bistros and restaurants and increase the sustainability of our BahnBonus program.

Further information about protecting resources at Deutsche Bahn can be found here.

Noise reduction

People are at the center of our noise mitigation activities. Strong Rail means more trains, but this will only work if the people who live beside railway lines are willing to accept higher rail traffic.

We have responded to this fact by working with the German government to set out noise control targets for 2030/2050. Our aim for 2030 is to reduce exposure to noise for over 800,000 trackside residents. This figure represents over half the total number of people currently living near our rail routes. By 2050, we will have improved the situation for everyone who is currently exposed to railroad noise in this way.

Our 2030/2050 noise control targets are based on the success of our 2020 noise mitigation project. By the end of 2020, we installed quiet braking technology in all DB Cargo freight cars and completed noise control measures on 2,000 kilometers of rail lines that were particularly affected. Together, these two changes cut rail noise by half compared to 2000's levels.

Further information about noise reduction at Deutsche Bahn can be found here.

DB's green transformation

For us, being green is not just some kind of act. It is a mindset that shapes our actions. Every day, our employees work towards making Deutsche Bahn a greener company. At the same time, we offer our business and private customers sustainable products and services in all areas. With our environmental brand This is green. and more than 150 concrete individual measures, we are making the green transformation visible.