On the Right Path While Building America

By Maqui Parkerson, AVP Labor Relations & Sustainability

Large Retina | Inside Track: Insights: Building America Report

Most U.S. companies refer to their annual report on Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) efforts as their "Sustainability Report." At Union Pacific, we call this annual ESG report card the "Building America Report," because it reflects how our company is applying sustainable practices to the way we run our business, which in essence, is how we’re building America.

Our just-released 2021 Building America Report is focused on our most important ESG topics and reflects changes in how we’re approaching our sustainability strategy, called Building A Sustainable Future: 2030.

Last year, Union Pacific completed a comprehensive materiality assessment to determine which ESG topics were most important to our stakeholders. We started with 500 ESG issues that covered every aspect of how a company operates, and thoughtfully narrowed them down to 16 relevant topics. Then we conducted an online survey with internal and external stakeholders and engaged in follow-up interviews with selected stakeholders to discuss these topics.

Our findings were interesting, but not surprising. Internal and externals stakeholders aligned on the three most important topics to our business.

  • Health, safety and well-being was deemed most important. Safety always has been a priority in our operations-focused environment but was particularly relevant during the pandemic.
  • Business ethics and conduct was the second most important topic. Union Pacific has always valued ethical business conduct and recently rolled out training on its ethics policy, called “The How Matters,” to all employees. The overwhelming majority of our team members work in the field, so training everyone was no simple task. But, we got it done.
  • Cybersecurity was the third most important topic. Like other industries, working from home has become part of our lives. As more technology has been implemented into our operations, our ability to protect our systems and our data is paramount. We significantly increased investment in technologies to support our cybersecurity efforts and have implemented an industry-leading qualitative cybersecurity risk management process to guard against potential cyberattacks.

Taking these three topics together, along with one more – risk management and internal controls – demanded we augment our sustainability strategy with an additional pillar called “Building Responsible Foundations,” that reflects what our stakeholders identified as foundational to our business.

In addition, compared to our 2019 materiality assessment, stakeholders asked for more focused information about our talent management practices and environmental actions. As a result, we issued two additional ESG reports: The Climate Action Plan and the We Are One Report. These reports, along with the Building America Report, provide a comprehensive look not only at how we’re doing reaching our ESG goals, but the steps we’re taking in the future to meet them.

The materiality assessment was an excellent stakeholder engagement exercise. It allowed us to ask our employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers and communities what they thought was important to our business. We’ll keep asking these questions as we continue with our ESG journey, determined to follow the most sustainable path toward Building America for this generations and generations to come.

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