Company - Abellio

How was this solved?

All owning groups have the challenge that the range of business interests are mixed within their operating companies. As part of this, strategies set by owning groups need to enable all their operating companies to develop sustainable business initiatives in their own way.

Abellio has developed a core strategy to help all its operating companies lead the change. Whilst the strategy is not overly prescriptive in targets to be achieved, all the operating companies must hold the Sustainable Development Principles in mind along with other principles used by other sectors when setting goals and objectives. Abellio are building a collaborative process for sharing learning between all their leadership teams.

The strategy provides a minimum standard to make sure that all Abellio teams bid for contracts on the same level in a sustainable way. This consistent approach enables strong influencing and development to take place, reducing duplication of effort and enabling learning in individual operating companies, helping to accelerate the pace of change.

The strategy draws from influencers such as the Sustainable Development Steering Group, partners including WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Anthesis, customers, and professional organisations such as IEMA.

Executive champions are in place to support and encourage initiatives with the intention that the organisational communication channels are flattened as much as possible to ensure that the person developing the project is just one step removed from Abellio’s leadership team.

Overall this approach provides flexibility to adjust to the different business models and relationships, whilst providing effective channels for new ideas to flow both up to senior board members and down to the frontline staff. There is also a sideways flow of ideas between the different operating companies and networks.

As the Abellio Group has interests across Europe, it can also bring in learnings from other countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, leading to sharing of ideas between sectors.

Having a deep alliance arrangement in one part of the group has been both a help in the local area but also a challenge, insomuch as ensuring that the relationship was developed to the best effect without leading to imbalance across the group.

Merseyrail engage staff with the principles by sharing them on screen savers, posters and communication campaigns and managers are required to discuss them when they hold meetings and one to one sessions with their staff. They are monitoring progress as a staff engagement measure so they can be sure that actions will be taken to contribute to the achievement of all obligations.

This leadership is important for demonstrating that all members of the group have a role in making the organisation, and its rail element more sustainable.

What were the outcomes?

All group companies have adopted the over-arching principles.


Across all Prinicples

Asset / operations


Organisation type

Owning group