Case Study: Gathering Employee Feedback

Case Study: Union Pacific – Gathering Employee Feedback

Employees are a powerful resource for improving a company’s environmental citizenship responsibilities.  A successful sustainability program starts with input from employees at all organizational levels. Those employees closest to the work often have the best context for reducing the company’s footprint. The challenge for Union Pacific, a company with nearly 50,000 employees located across 32,000 miles of track, is ensuring an effective exchange of ideas. In 2008, the company launched a stewardship suggestion process. By the end of 2014, more than 1,800 employees had generated more than 3,200 suggestions.

The company’s Environmental Management Group manages suggestions and formalizes this process, providing a web page for employees to submit their suggestions. Recognizing that not all employees will submit an idea online, the group also uses other communication methods. In a typical year, the company receives about 600 suggestions, and more than 40 percent result in some sort of change. Depending on the suggestion, that change could happen at an individual level, within a work area, or across the company.

Stewardship suggestions have affected Union Pacific’s environmental performance. Suggestions have increased recycling at dozens of locations, reduced printing by millions of pages, and saved energy in multiple locations. The suggestion process has strengthened employee environmental commitment, deepened engagement, and increased pride in working for the country’s largest freight railroad.

The suggestion process also provides a broader framework for the company’s environmental stewardship. At the surface, suggestions can help identify the next potentially significant area to pursue. At a deeper level, the ongoing dialogue gauges how well employees understand stewardship principles and the company’s efforts to carry them out. For example, initial suggestions were heavily focused on recycling; reinforcing the message that “reduce” offers more sustainable value than “recycle” led to a greater percentage of “reduce” suggestions.

Union Pacific’s stewardship suggestion program has added tangible value – from environmental footprint reductions to the integration of engagement throughout Union Pacific’s culture.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]

Image from UP Intranet

Case Study: Annual Sustainability Excellence Awards

Case Study: Smithfield Foods –Annual Sustainability Excellence Awards

Companies can use recognition and reward to connect with employees in order to generate employee enthusiasm for a variety of programs, including sustainability initiatives. When Smithfield Foods began developing its sustainability program, it became apparent that significant efforts to conserve resources, reduce waste, and interact with the local community were already in place at many of its facilities. As Smithfield’s programs evolved and the results materialized, management decided it would be appropriate to recognize and reward the employees and projects that best represented company objectives. In addition to recognition for work well done, this process could serve to motivate other facilities and highlight best practices across the company.

To that end, Smithfield Foods developed a Sustainability Excellence Awards program. The program is simple and straightforward consisting of a submission form and a set of scoring criteria. Employees who have been involved in a sustainability project are eligible to submit project information for award consideration. Depending on the project, this information might include costs, savings, resource conservation and waste reduction achievements, and social impacts. All the submitted information is saved and compiled making it available for other data management purposes.

Submissions are reviewed and scored by the corporate Environmental Affairs team. Twelve to fifteen winners (out of what has grown to 120 – 150 submissions each year) are selected annually and recognized at an awards banquet held in conjunction with the company’s annual Environmental and Sustainability Training Conference. In addition to plaques and certificates, each winning project receives $5,000 which helps to inspire further employee participation. The $5,000 is apportioned between the project participants ($2,000 split equally among participants) and a local charity (the remaining $3,000) chosen by the project team. All project submissions are posted on the company’s intranet site which helps to identify additional sites suitable for similar projects and serve as inspiration for new ideas.

The Smithfield Foods Sustainability Excellence Awards program has been a significant success. Facilities across the company submit applications and compete with projects and programs that have become an integral part of Smithfield’s overall sustainability efforts.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]

Case Study: Creating Accountability for Sustainability

Case Study: Perdue Farms, Inc. – Creating Accountability for Sustainability

Creating an environmental scorecard, integrating an environmental platform into the company goals and linking performance to compensation communicates the importance of sustainability and creates accountability. Based on the success of the company’s quality and safety strategy, Perdue’s Corporate Environmental Services group developed a process and collected data to measure where the company ranked on its environmental performance. The result was an Environmental Scorecard designed to define and quantify what environmental responsibility means to Perdue and provide a baseline for the company to measure continuous improvement and progress.

For each Perdue operation, the Environmental Scorecard has metrics that measure progress in two key areas: environmental compliance and environmental sustainability. These reflect what is important to Perdue – being consistently compliant and reducing the company’s environmental footprint. Regarding environmental compliance, the company reviews the results of audits, regulatory notices, and the timeliness of environmental reporting. Perdue’s sustainability efforts are aligned under three platforms: reuse and recycle, research and innovation, and community outreach. The scorecard includes challenge goals for recycling, green team activities (including energy, utility and natural resource conservation results), associate engagement, and use of an internally-developed Environmental Management System.

Since 1993, Perdue has set annual goals, a shared accountability for all associates, in the areas of People, Products and Profitability. The “3 Ps” as the company calls them, were based on founder Frank Perdue’s belief that if you treat people right and produce quality products, profitability will follow.  In 2013, a new company goal was added, a fourth “P” for Planet. The goal, to responsibly manage Perdue’s use of natural resources, has now become a corporate initiative, shared by every associate across Perdue Farms, with each associate accountable for and empowered to achieve the company’s Environmental Scorecard goals. Adding a Planet goal elevated Perdue’s environmental sustainability efforts to the highest level of accountability. The company has gone a step further by incorporating performance against the Planet goal into compensation. It is now a criteria within the Management Incentive Program, Perdue’s bonus program.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]

Case Study: Employee Engagement in Waste Minimization – Ashland

Case Study: Employee Engagement in Waste Minimization – Ashland

The right partnership and a culture of sustainability make a big difference.

Employees at Ashland Consumer Markets (ACM) East Rochester, Pa., site have taken on the challenge to decrease environmental impact by curbing energy usage, reusing, reducing and recycling waste. In the past two years, ACM facilities across the globe have combined to recycle approximately 8.3 million pounds of materials while reducing the amount of solid waste generated by 10 percent. There has been significant effort placed on educating employees on conserving, eliminating, reducing and recycling waste.

As a leader in recycling and waste reduction, the East Rochester plant initiated the program more than three years ago by establishing housekeeping and maintenance standards that eliminated many leaks and drips, thus reducing oily water shipments. The ACM engineering group even designed a drip less sample port that eliminated drips and collection buckets that were always a challenge to manage. In the past, these containers collected storm water, additives and oil that ended up as a waste stream rather than being used in product. In the past fiscal year, the site reduced its oily waste shipments by 99,000 pounds.

The team then identified the next opportunity – reduce waste generated from operations. Their mission was to make recycling convenient and easy so that it can be sustained. Employees set up a central collection area by the plant maintenance shop to collect and segregate miscellaneous waste for recycling. Teaming up with the right recycler also made a big difference. The recycler takes all of the site’s recycled materials, allowing for more frequent shipments and less storage. “If sorting materials is a challenge for other sites, consider teaming up with recyclers that will take mixed materials and sort the waste streams,” suggested Mike Critchlow, plant manager at the East Rochester site.

The results are significant – last fiscal year, East Rochester reduced its overall solid waste generation by 48 percent and increased recycled materials by 26 percent. “Our sustainable successes in increasing our recycling efforts and decreasing solid waste generation could not be accomplished without the efforts of all of our employees,” said Critchlow. “In East Rochester, our team has been extra diligent in ensuring all items that can be recycled are placed in the proper receptacle. Recycling has become sustainable and is part of our culture.”

ACM’s Ten Team and operations manager at the ACM Cincinnati facility are now standardizing East Rochester’s practices across the ACM supply chain. For example, the Cincinnati and East Rochester plants both changed their recycling companies and the new company began accepting many materials that had previously been land filled as solid waste.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]