Companies are keen to show their CSR credentials to customers and the public at large. To do so authentically, they must demonstrate visibility, economies, and dynamic control and responsiveness throughout their supply chains. Rail freight companies provide their customers with “external logistics”. Choice of logistics provider impacts directly on a company’s supply chain performance and green credentials. Rail freight companies are also composites and syntheses of their own supply chains, so must be as sensitive and responsive to CSR issues as their higher profile B2C customers. The greenness of rail freight can only bear scrutiny if the rail freight company’s own supply chain is green. This means supply chains must be subject to rigorous monitoring and control. Companies who fail in this regard run the risk of exposure. Companies whose suppliers use materials sourced in unregulated environments or produced by ethically dubious means will reap negative publicity. The construction and enforcement of supplier audits and procurement codes of policies are typical measures companies take to lower such risks.
Ensuring fitness involves inviting and accepting work that is within the rail freight provider’s portfolio of capability and capacity without costly restructuring, significant innovation, or major investment unless long-term profit projections make such activities rational. In the case of DB SR, sales people could report a lead that after examination entails cost/complexity above that of the value of the prospective business.
For freight customers reassessing their modality choices, fitness with respect to logistics entails considerations beyond logistical efficiencies. Logistics fitness could concern general governance and CSR concerns, particularly those that relate to green and ethical matters. The relative cleanness (and, increasingly, quietness) of rail is a value that managers can publicize to stakeholders as evidence of commitment to green issues. Electrical traction is popularly regarded as a greener choice than diesel, despite the latter being technically diesel-electric and having far greater fuel/mile economy than road vehicles. Rail, for the sheer weights and volumes made manageable by a single locomotive, is a superior modality for loads that would be uneconomical, unsafe, and environmentally unsound to move by other means. The rail freight partner’s traction, wagons, and infrastructure requirements are, wherever possible, industry standard. In wagon load scenarios, train configuration is performed with due safety measures applied (tanks are interspersed with buffer cars, and hazardous materials are rarely carried with consumer goods, for example).