NS Vows to Pursue Sustainability

Norfolk Southern may favor black locomotives, but its top executives were seeing green during their remarks at the annual meeting held last Thursday.

CEO James Squires focused on the carrier’s “digital transformation” and sustainability initiatives during his speech.

“Having made significant progress in our company’s transformation, technology remains at the center of our strategy,” Squires said.

“We are moving quickly to lead the industry in innovation, launching our Digital | NS initiative, and building the digital railroad of the future.

Squires said the company’s goals, both short term and long term, reflect a pursuit of operational excellence as well as a deep commitment to sustainability as core to its business.

“We are excited to move forward with our transition to diesel-electric hybrid cranes at our intermodal facilities, advance plans to further reduce fuel consumption, and develop our science-based target to reduce emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Squires said.

“By combining these measures with innovative initiatives such as our industry-first issuance of green bonds, we’re partnering with our customers and investors to reduce our respective carbon footprints and business costs while pursuing responsible growth.” 

A shareholder proposal requesting that NS management report on how its lobbying activity aligns with the Paris Agreement on climate change received support from a majority of the shares voted at the annual meeting.

“Our board of directors will determine appropriate next steps, but it’s important to note that sustainability and political transparency are already areas of strength for our company,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Vanessa Allen Sutherland.

“We have committed to set a science-based target for emissions reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement, and recently issued $500 million in green bonds to fund investments in sustainable business practices. We also have been consistently recognized as a leader in corporate political transparency by such organizations as the Center for Political Accountability.”

Squires also said NS is well positioned to offer superior service and enjoy financial gains as the economy improves.

“We’re now accelerating our implementation of precision scheduled railroading principles to drive the productivity and efficiency of our organization even further, helping us better serve customers, support growth and drive long-term value,” Squires said.

NS shareholders elected 13 directors for one-year terms expiring in 2022.

They include Thomas D. Bell Jr., chairman of Mesa Capital Partners; Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University; Marcela E. Donadio, former partner and Americas oil and gas sector leader of Ernst & Young; John C. Huffard Jr., co-founder of Tenable Network Security and Tenable Holdings; Christopher T. Jones, former corporate vice president and president of the technology services sector of Northrop Grumman Corporation; Thomas C. Kelleher, former president of Morgan Stanle; Steven F. Leer, lead director, former CEO and chairman of Arch Coal; Michael D. Lockhart, former chairman, president and CEO of Armstrong World Industries; Amy E. Miles, former chair and CEO of Regal Entertainment Group; Claude Mongeau, former president and CEO of Canadian National; Jennifer F. Scanlon, president, CEO and director of UL; Squires; and John R. Thompson, former senior vice president and general manager of Best Buy.com.

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