Circular economy.

SBB is playing a pioneering role in the circular economy and therefore helping to transform Switzerland into a sustainable society and economy. 

Many of the industrial goods produced worldwide are made from non-renewable materials and are usually recycled, dumped in landfill or incinerated after being used. This leads to a considerable amount of raw materials being irreversibly destroyed. The circular economy, on the other hand, takes nature’s material cycle as its model and aims to produce products without harmful emissions, to use products for as long as possible and to recover raw materials from products that are no longer usable so that the materials can be reused an infinite number of times. The circular economy is much more than simply recycling: it is an economic model that reduces the consumption of raw materials and conserves and supports the regeneration of natural resources. 

SBB is one of the largest providers of external contracts in Switzerland with an annual procurement volume of CHF 6 billion, meaning significant material and energy use. An analysis carried out on material flow underlines the importance of the circular economy for SBB. With over 77 million tonnes of material, SBB possesses one of the largest material banks in Switzerland. The material flow resulting from SBB’s activities has considerable impacts on the environment and the climate. By achieving a circular economy, a large part of this material flow can be avoided and the resulting environmental impacts greatly reduced. For this reason, SBB is in the perfect position to play a leading role in the circular economy. 

Since January 2021, SBB has been running an interdivisional Centre of Excellence focused on the circular economy. The team implements a wide range of projects, supports the initiation and development of circular business models, develops expertise throughout the Group and, where appropriate, collaborates closely with the Waste Management Centre of Excellence and its own recycling centre. On the basis of the Group-wide material flow analysis, opportunities and potential will be systematically addressed, rated on an ecological and economical scale and put into action in a targeted way over the coming years. 

How can we get to a circular economy?

The use of circular business principles means that SBB can reduce its costs, secure important resources for the long term and help rail operations become more sustainable. The transition from the linear to the circular economy offers great potential.

SBB wants to take the circularity of products and services into account when making procurement and investment decisions and introduce circular business practices in the following three ways: