Ecologically sustainable design of products and services

For economic reasons alone, all Vossloh units strive to use resources as sparingly as possible. Sustainability criteria have been incorporated into the development and design of new products and services for years. Since 2021, a group-wide innovation guideline (Innovation Playbook) has been in use, which harmonizes all innovation processes across business units and aligns the existing approaches and criteria for the sustainable design of products and services in the business units and links them to concrete recommendations for action. In particular, the sustainability aspects of low energy consumption (and emissions) or the non-use of problematic raw materials are of central importance. The entire life cycle of a product, including recycling and/or disposal, is also considered from the outset. The same applies to the long-term impact of a service in the form of life cycle assessments in accordance with international standards such as ISO 14040 or 14044.

The current group-wide sustainability initiative aims to reduce the environmental footprint of products and services along the entire value chain. To this end, life cycle assessments (LCAs) are carried out for products and services in all three divisions, following the “cradle to grave“ approach. The findings are integrated into the innovation and development process for products and services as EcoDesign principles in order to minimize their impact on the environment. In December 2023, Vossloh adopted a guideline for the ecological design of products and services. The regulations formulated therein supplement the existing environmental and sustainability-related standards as well as the innovation guideline. They are applied, for example, to research, development and innovation processes. The focus of the guideline is on the design and construction phase, as these have the greatest influence on the ecological footprint of a product. Initial findings from the life cycle analyses indicate that the following ecological design principles have the greatest impact on the ecological footprint of Vossloh‘s portfolio: Use of renewable and/or recycled materials, efficient use of materials, energy efficiency and efficient logistics/packaging. Special attention is therefore paid to these four principles. The views of customers and suppliers and their needs with regard to sustainability aspects are also incorporated into the development process at an early stage in order to achieve a high product-market fit.

In the previous LCA processes, for example for the HSG-city railgrinder, the W14 rail fastening system and products made from the synthetic rubber EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer), the focus was on the CO2 emissions caused. In 2023, the results were used to calculate the factors where the greatest reduction in CO2 emissions can be expected as a result of changes. Among other things, the materials used, transportation routes and energy consumption in the manufacture and use of the product or service were examined. This has already resulted in proposals for the further development of the EcoDesign principles. At the same time, Vossloh Fastening Systems began testing the modified principles in practice: In the development of the tension clamp and the intermediate layer for the M7 fastening system, attention is already being paid to minimizing the CO2 footprint of the products.