Canadian National Railway – “EcoConnexions” Employee Engagement Program

Project Lead: Chantale Després

As a leading transportation services provider CN makes thousands of safe and efficient connections every day.  Our extensive network and alliances connect three coasts and our customers to their markets.

In 2011, CN launched EcoConnexions, a program to engage its 24,000 CN railroaders in environmental action and stewardship. Central to the program –and to the principle of sustainability – is a spirit of partnership and collaboration.  We are reaching out to employees to help achieve CN’s sustainability goals and partner with leading organizations to help us along our journey.

Partnerships have been key:

  • CN partnered with Earth Day Canada to develop and implement EcoConnexions, with a focus on three pillars: conserving energy, reducing waste and improving housekeeping at CN yards and offices across North America. We identified and trained “EcoChampions” in our yards who could deliver and facilitate the program at the local level. These men and women are the ambassadors of the program who educate, engage and recognize fellow employees on measures to reduce our impact on the environment, improve efficiencies, and encourage innovation.
EcoChampions engage employees with free stainless steel water bottles, stamped with tips for each of the program pillars.

EcoChampions engage employees with free stainless steel water bottles, stamped with tips for each of the program pillars.

  • We’ve partnered with GreenNexxus on a web platform that informs employees about EcoConnexions and inspires them to implement environmental and sustainability practices at work and at home.  We hold quarterly challenges on the website tied to each pillar to further build program momentum.
  • Our collaboration with CN’s internal Public Affairs group has been instrumental in delivering a comprehensive and integrated employee communications plan that promotes the program and recognizes successes.  Vehicles include web banners, posters, computer desktop campaigns, bi-weekly articles in the company’s electronic newsletter, CN Spotlight, and quarterly stories in CN People magazine. Our goal is to highlight EcoChampion achievements and best practices that can be reprised across the company.

CN has also collaborated with organizations who are helping drive results in each of the pillars:

  • B.C. Hydro: eliminating energy waste and using technologies to improve energy efficiency.
    • Manitoba Hydro: leveraging energy data to better understand consumption.
    • Heritage, Cascades and International Paper:  helping reduce waste sent to landfill.
    • Acklands Grainger: improving housekeeping for a cleaner, safer, more efficient workplace.

Resounding results drive momentum

  • Since 2011, more than 7,000 CN employees have attended EcoConnexions launch events and 550 EcoChampions have been trained.
    • CN employees have completed 209,000 acts of green on our website, avoiding over 5,770,000 kgs of GHGs.
  • Reducing Waste: Of operational waste generated, we have achieved approximately 90% in waste diversion. In 2013, CN recycled approximately 223,154 metric tonnes of scrap metal, recovered and recycled over 3.4 million litres of used oil, and diverted over 2.46 million rail ties from landfill through cogeneration facilities.
    Conserving Energy: We have achieved a 20% reduction in energy consumption at CN’s Thornton Yard in Surrey, B.C., and annual savings of $182,000 as a result of our partnership with B.C. Hydro. CN’s partnership with Manitoba Hydro has resulted in 3,000 tonnes of GHG emissions saved.
    Improving Housekeeping: Over 400 housekeeping projects have been completed across the system. In Memphis, one housekeeping project alone identified over $270,000 worth of useful inventory.   In our Winnipeg car shop, housekeeping projects reduced injuries caused by slips, trips and falls by 6% in 2013.
550 CN EcoChampions are helping to deliver the program at the local level.

550 CN EcoChampions are helping to deliver the program at the local level.

Manager, Waste and Resource Conservation, Reid Bodley oversees the installation of new waste and recycling bins at our yards, and provides training on waste conservation practices.

Manager, Waste and Resource Conservation, Reid Bodley oversees the
installation of new waste and recycling bins at our yards, and provides training on waste conservation practices.

CN Mechanic Pascal Lemelin takes pride in a tidy shop.

CN Mechanic Pascal Lemelin takes pride in a tidy shop.

  • Innovation:
    • In 2013, CN’s CEO supported the launch of a $5 million revolving “EcoFund,” reinvesting the significant cost savings generated by EcoConnexions into new capital projects that support employee ideas for energy conservation and waste reduction.
    • At CN’s Harrison Yard in Memphis, employees are successfully collaborating with customer International Paper(IP) to collect recyclables from the yard and turn them into IP products. As a result, CN diverts approximately 44,000 pounds of recyclables from landfill every month.
    • Building on the success of EcoConnexions, CN launched EcoConnexions –  From the Ground Up in 2012 to help municipalities and First Nations communities across Canada green public properties with its partners Tree Canada and Communities in Bloom. Also in association with Tree Canada, CN is involved in mass forestation projects in which 300,000 to 400,000 trees were planted in several locations in 2013.
    • In addition, CN is currently piloting an EcoConnexions Customer Sustainability Program in which it will partner with and recognize customers who share a mutual commitment to a clean, efficient and more sustainable future.
CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau at a From the Ground Up ceremony.

CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau at a From the Ground Up ceremony.

EcoConnexions is playing an important role in increasing efficiency in CN buildings and yards and fostering a cleaner and healthier work environment. The success of the program stems directly from the collaboration, innovation and commitment of our employees and external partners, strengthening our culture of sustainability.