Case Study: Union Pacific – Long-term Fueling Options

Union Pacific has always looked for the best approach to long-term fueling options because fuel is a substantial portion of operating expenses. This effort included alternative energy long before it became a mainstream topic. Union Pacific is the only major railroad worldwide with extensive gas turbine experience, kicking off a project for gas turbine-electric locomotives as far back as 1952.  In 2002, Union Pacific tested the world’s first diesel-battery, hybrid-switch locomotive, and in 2005 Union Pacific acquired its first Green Goat. Similar in concept to a hybrid automobile, which relies on both a gasoline engine and a battery-powered electric motor, the Green Goat depended entirely on its small diesel-powered engine to charge onboard storage batteries. Funding purchases on its own and in collaboration with governmental agencies, Union Pacific brought 21 Green Goat locomotives on property in California and Texas. After more than a decade of testing and use, Union Pacific discontinued operation of the Green Goat due to reliability issues. Even so, the company sees Green Goats as another valuable building block to finding the optimal fuel mix for emissions and operational performance. Knowing that each fuel has a different impact on various emissions, Union Pacific anticipates a combination of fuels and technologies will power tomorrow’s railroad.

This case study originally appeared in The GEMI Quick Guide on Renewable and Alternative Energy.

Image and Source: Union Pacific diesel hybrid-switch locomotiveup-fueling

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