Case Study: Seeking Employee Input Regarding Opportunities and Challenges – Union Pacific

There is no substitute for employee input regarding a company’s opportunities and challenges, which almost always connect to sustainability.  Employees often see the issues first-hand.

Union Pacific has found that Earth Day is a natural way to open a conversation with employees regarding environmental sustainability topics.  Each Earth Day, Union Pacific has used an Environmental Quiz to share messages and raise awareness.  About 1,000 employees take the quiz annually, opening a sustainability conversation with several thousand people over time.

The company uses the Environmental Quiz to seek employee feedback.  Employee responses to the 2013 quiz showed the importance of environmental sustainability concepts to them and measured how well they understood the company’s initiatives.  Responses also helped confirm the value of the company’s sustainability focuses and measure employee interest and engagement.

The quiz asked employees to identify the company’s greatest opportunity to reduce its environmental impact.  More than a third of employees identified reducing locomotive fuel consumption as the greatest opportunity.  Reducing the company’s fuel consumption rate is a key corporate priority.  Locomotives account for nearly all of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, and responses showed that employees understood that.

Another question asked employees to identify the company’s greatest opportunity to reduce waste.  Answers covered nearly 20 actions, and paper was identified as the greatest opportunity.  Like any large company, Union Pacific has a lot of paperwork, including that required by the federal government to operate trains. Even though the company had reduced paper consumption through employee suggestions, the quiz reinforced potential for further improvement.

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]. 


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