Awards Spotlight: Northern Rail

Kyle MacNeill, environment business partner and David Gray, head of energy and environment at Northern Rail tell us about winning the award for Best Workplace Development

How many of your staff took environmental training, and over what time period?

The training programme took place over two years and involved the delivery of training to more than 5,000 staff members. This included everyone from the managing director to the frontline colleagues who deal with customers and work to maintain our trains. 

Did you have any challenges particular to training staff running a railway?

A lot! Facilitating the delivery of an extensive training programme to a wide number of roles throughout the north of England was a challenge in itself, but fitting this in while maintaining our daily operational train performance proved to be the most challenging aspect. We had to roll out training while having minimal negative impact on our operation and no negative impact on our customers. 

“Individuals have the knowledge, skills, tools and sense of empowerment to make sustainability improvements”

How was the training linked to the IEMA skills matrix and was this useful?

We were early adopters of the All Jobs Greener programme, which makes colleagues more aware of the role they play in sustainability, and consisted of a three-stage approach: leading with environmental sustainability, aimed at our director team and senior leaders; managing with environmental sustainability, aimed at our management team; and working with environmental sustainability, aimed at the rest of our workforce.

All directors and executive managers were to be trained in six months. IEMA has since changed the All Jobs Greener approach to Sustainability Skills, which we have also used. These amendments have improved our delivery further as exams are undertaken electronically, removing burdens on the trainers. 

Have you seen improvement in environment and sustainability outcomes?

Yes. There’s certainly been more engagement from the business. In order to embed the learning and see improvement, it has been necessary to follow up at a local level with management and frontline staff. Improvements include an increase 
in recycled waste through the new standardised approach to waste across the business. In addition, there has been greater identification and repairing of water leaks at numerous locations. 

What benefits has the company and staff themselves gained through the training, going forward?

Individuals have the knowledge, skills, tools and sense of empowerment to make sustainability improvements in their day-to-day work. For the business, it is a very powerful statement to make that we have trained every member of staff on environmental sustainability, at a time when pressure is growing to reduce our impact on global carbon emissions and improve air quality. We can now say that every single person in our business can play a part in reducing these impacts.

How did it feel to win, and what did you think of the awards ceremony?

A feeling of gratitude that we were being recognised for the hard work we put in and the positive difference we had started to make to the business. Being the first winner announced made the rest of the event even more enjoyable. The venue was excellent, with the presenters both engaging and doing what they needed to do in a timely manner. 


  • Over a period of 24 months, ARN delivered at least one level of the training to all staff
  • 400 managers have gone through a certificated two-day IEMA course 
  • More than 5,000 frontline staff have been trained.
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