Green bonds

Because rail is the most eco-friendly form of transport, it has a vital role to play in the ecological transition—and at SNCF, we’re committed to doing everything we can to make it a success. In 2016 we launched a major green bond programme and are now one of the leading issuers of these innovative financial instruments in France and in Europe.

Download the Green Bonds report

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What you need to know

  • SNCF is the rail industry’s leading issuer of green bonds in Europe and around the world.
  • Our green bonds came to €5.7bn—or 11% of our total debt—at 31 December 2019.
  • This will be a major avenue for development in the future.
  • SNCF Group’s green bond programme is an integral part of our commitment to CSR.
  • Our strategy is built on a robust methodology that meets the market’s highest standards—the Green Bond Principles and the Climate Bond Initiative.

Download the most recent Green Bonds Program documents

2021 Green Bond Framework (SNCF)

Financing Programmes

Published on 28 January 2021 at 16:17

SPO - 2021 Green Bond Framework (ISS ESG)

Financing Programmes

Published on 28 January 2021 at 16:17

Methodology: Evaluating the carbon impact of investment in high-speed rolling stock

Financing Programmes

Published on 22 April 2021 at 10:17

Green bonds: Key figures

Green bonds: Key figures

The image contains two key figures

  • 5.7 billion euros in outstanding green bond debt in December 2019
  • Green bonds account for 11.1% of SNCF Group’s debt
  • In March 2019, the Climate Bond Initiative presented its Green Pioneer Award to SNCF Group for the quality of its green bond reporting
  • 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent are eliminated when 1 billion euros are invested in “green upgrade” programmes

With a total of €5.7bn in Climate Bond debt, SNCF ranks among Europe’s leading green bond issuers and is the rail industry’s largest green bond issuer worldwide.

We’ve played a pioneering role over the past few years:

  • In October 2016, SNCF Réseau floated €900 million in green bonds, the first ever issued by a rail infrastructure manager.
  • In March 2017, SNCF Réseau issued €1bn in green bonds with a 17-year maturity—at the time, the longest term on the French market (businesses and agencies).
  • In July 2017, SNCF Réseau issued €750m in green bonds with a 30-year maturity—at the time, the longest for euro-denominated green bonds certified under both the Green Bond Principles (GBP) and the Climate Bond Initiative (CBI).
  • In August 2019, SNCF Réseau floated €100m in green bonds, the first 100-year issue in this market.
Photo credits: © Maxime Huriez

Putting rail to work for the ecological transition

Trains emit less pollution than any other form of mass transit. In France, where transport accounts for 30% of total carbon emissions, rail carries 10% of passengers while producing less than 1% of total emissions.

For example, travelling 1 km by train generates 8.4 g of CO₂e, versus 213 g for a private automobile.

CO₂ emissions per passenger for 1 km of travel, in grams

CO₂ emissions per passenger for 1 km of travel, in grams

The graphic shows five different modes of transport, represented by five images on the right.

To the left of each image is a green box showing the rate of CO2 emission per passenger per kilometre travelled, in grams, for a total of five numbers (one for each mode of transport):

  • A passenger travelling by train emits 6.1 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.
  • A passenger travelling by long-distance coach emits 35.2 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.
  • A passenger sharing a ride emits 64.3 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled
  • A passenger travelling by plane emits 141 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.
  • A passenger travelling alone by car emits 193 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.

In short, a comprehensive rail system is the only form of mass transport that can significantly reduce the environmental impact of travel in Europe.

Photo credits: © Maxime Huriez

An integral part of our CSR commitment

Notation extra-financière des groupes SNCF

  Rating agency 2016 scores 2017 scores 2018 scores 2019 scores Rankings
SNCF Group VIGEO EIRIS 53/100 66/100 66/100 72/100 #1 out of 22
SNCF Group ECOVADIS 75/100 75/100 75/100 79/100 Near the top
in a group
of 40 companies
SNCF Réseau VIGEO EIRIS 49/100 66/100 66/100 70/100 #2 out of 49
SNCF Réseau ISS-ESG C+ B- B- B- #2 out of 51

SNCF Group’s green bond programme is part of our broader commitment to play an active role in the transport industry’s ecological transition. We’re working toward this goal in many ways.

Finding new sources of clean energy

Making our assets more eco-friendly

  • make continuous improvements to the environmental quality of our rolling stock
  • earn HEQ (Haute Qualité Environnementale) certification for new SNCF stations
  • capture braking energy from our trains and use it to power stations and neighbourhoods

Promoting all forms of shared mobility

  • At SNCF Voyageurs SA: practice continuous improvement, improve occupancy rates and boost energy efficiency
  • At Keolis: expand any of a wide range of green transport solutions, including natural gas-powered buses in Tours (France), electric vehicles in Orléans (also in France) and 100% electric school buses in Canada
Photo credits: © VIIA

Our green bond programme: How it works

The theory behind our approach:

  • By investing in upgrades, we keep our infrastructure running at its best and ensure that rail continues to attract users.
  • Without these investments, network quality would deteriorate, causing a marked slowdown in traffic.

Investment in critical upgrades

Investment in critical upgrades

The infographic contains a series of images with arrows that trace the harmful effects of failing to invest in the rail industry.

There are 7 boxes in 4 rows, and they run left to right and top to bottom.

  • Starting from the upper left, Box 1 is captioned “No investment” with two images above it: a circular road sign with a red border and a red “no” slash across a coin and paper note bearing the euro symbol, and a frowning, empty-handed SNCF employee.
  • A right arrow points to Box 2, which illustrates the consequences of failure to invest. The caption reads “Rail infrastructure deteriorates”, and the illustration shows a railway with a tunnel closed to traffic.
  • A down arrow points to Box 3 in the row immediately below, which illustrates the consequences of network deterioration. The caption reads “Traffic slows down”, and the illustration shows a TGV INOUI high-speed train running on a track with a 30 km/h speed limit sign.
  • A left arrow points to Box 4 in the same row, which illustrates the consequences of slower traffic. The caption reads “Rail offer loses appeal”, and the illustration shows a hand holding a train ticket, with the comment, “Good offer! (But not great)”.
  • A down arrow points to Box 5 in the row immediately below, which illustrates the consequences of this loss of appeal. The caption reads “Travellers choose other options”, and the illustration shows a family of three (a couple and a child) gazing lovingly at an automobile and a plane.

Two down arrows point to Boxes 6 and 7 in the row immediately below, which illustrate the consequences of travellers choosing other options.

  • In Box 6, the caption reads, “Carbon footprint of transport sector expands”, and the illustration depicts a red car emitting a cloud of grey exhaust labelled “CO2”.
  • In Box 7 (the last), the caption reads “Rail industry revenue declines”, and the illustration shows a high-speed TGV INOUI train with a red graph line, surrounded by euro symbols and plunging at a dangerous angle.

In short: failure to invest causes rail infrastructure to deteriorate; the deteriorating infrastructure slows the speed of rail traffic; slower speeds make the rail offer less attractive; the less-attractive rail offer leads travellers to choose other options, such as planes and cars; and this change in traveller behaviour has two consequences:

  • a larger carbon footprint for the transport sector, and
  • declining revenue for the rail industry.

Calculating our carbon footprint in two steps:

  • first we calculate the carbon cost of projects the Group has committed to (direct and indirect emissions);
  • then we calculate emissions avoided through optimum use of the rail network (made possible by the projects we’ve committed to).

As part of this process, we factor in all emissions, whether they’re connected to our activity directly (e.g., construction machines and emissions from diesel trains) or indirectly (e.g., the carbon cost of the electricity and materials we use).


A two-step process

A two-step process

How we calculate our carbon footprint

  • Include direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (e.g., consumption of construction machinery) as well as upstream emissions (e.g., from production of rolling stock)
  • Extrapolate based on total amounts invested rather than calculating project-by-project impact
  • Take an “on-site” view of projects, excluding emissions from infrastructure use (which are factored into the analysis of emissions avoided)

How we calculate emissions avoided

  • Over the long term, GHGs generated in the process of upgrading and expanding infrastructure will prevent emissions when the infrastructure is in use.
  • Using the infrastructure to operate trains also produces GHGs, either as diesel emissions or from the carbon content of the electricity we use. Even so, projects that upgrade and expand the infrastructure make rail transport more competitive as compared with other forms of transport.
  • We calculate the reduction in emissions by comparing emissions with the project to emissions without the project (reference scenario).
Photo credits: © Matthieu Raffard

Where the funding goes

The funds we raise by issuing green bonds are allocated to upgrading/updating the core network and developing new lines.

Over €6 bn invested in qualifying projects in a 4-year period

The funds we borrow are allocated to investments in one of these categories:

Over €6 bn invested in qualifying projects in a 4-year period

  • Investments that maintain and update the rail system and make it more energy-efficient. Qualifying green projects:
    • renovate platforms, catenaries, and signalling
    • target core network segments (UIC 1-4) that are electrified

Between 2016 and 20191, these investments totalled 5,621 million euros.

  • Investments that expand existing lines or build new ones. Qualifying green projects:
    • improve network access for passengers and rail freight by expanding existing lines or creating new ones.
    • are similar to LGV Est, LGV SEA (high-speed Sud Est Atlantique line), LGV BPL (high-speed Brittany–Pays de la Loire line) and LGV CNM (high-speed Nîmes–Montpellier rail bypass)

Between 2016 and 20191, these investments totalled 402 million euros.

  • Investments that respond to climate change and protect biodiversity and natural resources. Qualifying green projects protect biodiversity and natural resources surrounding the SNCF network

Between 2016 and 20191, these investments totalled 0 million euros.

1 For the period 2016-2017, green bond proceeds have been allocated. For 2019, green bond allocations have not yet been made.

Why green bonds matter

SNCF green bonds reduce carbon emissions substantially.

Why green bonds matter

The graphic consists of three white boxes with 3 key figures illustrating the benefits of green bonds issued by SNCF. For a given amount, the boxes show the tonnes of CO2 avoided over 40 years and the reduction in carbon footprint, expressed as a number of people, over the same time period.

  • Box 1: On the left is a piggybank with two 1-euro coins. In the centre the figure “1 billion euros” is highlighted. On the right, the text explains that this represents 1 billion euros invested in green bonds earmarked for infrastructure upgrades.
  • Box 2: On the right, a hand pushes down on a cloud of carbon dioxide. On the far left the figure “3.7 million tonnes” is highlighted. In the centre the text explains that investing 1 billion euros in green bonds reduces CO2e (CO2 equivalent) emissions by 3.7 tonnes over a period of 40 years.
  • Box 3: On the left are a woman and a man. In the centre, the figure “7,600 French people” is highlighted. On the right, the text explains that green bonds save the equivalent of the carbon footprint of 7,600 French people over a period of 40 years.

Thanks to the investments funded by green bonds, we’ll significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transport system.

In 2019, our green bonds had an impact equivalent to the carbon footprint of 7,600 French people over a period of 40 years.