Norfolk Southern’s Connections

At Norfolk Southern, we believe in ties that bring us closer together: Wooden ties on tracks that span 20,000 miles, connecting us to ports, highways, and warehouses, and invisible ties that are just as strong, connecting us to communities, the land, and each other.

Our business is intricately connected to jobs, economies, environmental benefits, and more efficient delivery of goods. These connections create lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with our communities, our employees, our customers, our environment, and our economy.

As we seek out and create these connections, we use every tool within reach to hone and improve operations all along the Norfolk Southern line. As a result, we do business in innovative ways that are more efficient, less resource-intensive, and sustainable now and for generations to come.

Ultimately, everything we do is connected. What sustains us as a company is what sustains us as a people, an economy, and a planet. We’ll continue to do our part to create a better world, and show that Norfolk Southern is in it for the long haul.

A Song About Connections

Employees all across Norfolk Southern contribute to the company’s sustainability efforts. In 2013, the Norfolk Southern Lawmen, the railroad’s corporate band, made a musical contribution. The band’s song “Footprints” highlights our connections to the environment, the economy, and communities. The Lawmen are part of the railroad’s community outreach and also perform at company functions.

Esi Waters: Sustainability is Her Mission

Esi Waters joined Norfolk Southern in September 2013 as manager of corporate sustainability. In her previous job, Waters worked in the green building industry – she is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-accredited professional specializing in existing buildings.

While Waters knew little about railroads initially, the more she learned, the more she liked the environmental benefits of freight rail and the company’s efforts to be a responsible corporate citizen.

“I never anticipated working for a railroad. I just knew I wanted to work for an organization whose core business was in keeping with the environment,” said Waters, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental science and management from Duke University. Waters grew up in Maryland and learned early the importance of environmental stewardship through lessons in school about the Chesapeake Bay. “I like it that Norfolk Southern is trying to operate in a sustainable way and is putting its money where its mouth is.”

One of Waters’ key roles is serving as an internal resource to expand sustainability efforts across the company. She has worked with NS business marketing groups to engage customers in how Norfolk Southern trains can help them reduce their supply-chain carbon footprint as compared with shipping by truck. She also has met with NS purchasing employees to discuss the sustainable business practices of our supply vendors. In another instance, she helped the assistant superintendent of our Toledo, Ohio, terminal identify benefits of replacing dot-matrix printers with more efficient laser printers.

Another important part of her job, Waters said, is engaging employees to contribute to the company’s sustainability efforts.

“I don’t necessarily know the best way to implement a recycling program at one of our locomotive shops, but the employees there will know what would work,” she said. “I really get excited when I get emails from employees who are doing things to support sustainability.”

Waters also reaches out to external stakeholders. Those include nonprofits and conservation groups that Norfolk Southern might partner with on community projects, such as our proposed “living shoreline” on the Elizabeth River at our Lamberts Point coal pier in Norfolk, Va. In addition, she coordinates the company’s voluntary reporting of details about our corporate sustainability program to groups such as CDP and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

One of her primary goals is to help people understand the role that freight rail plays in today’s economy and in reducing greenhouse gases from U.S. transportation sources.

“Trains are almost this invisible backbone that holds the economy together,” she said. “They get things to the places where they need to be. It’s so cool to be part of an industry that touches so many other industries.”