CSX Pride in Service: CSX
In 2018, CSX was emerging from a period of significant transition. The company had a proud, more-than- 200-year history of serving customers on America’s rails. But in recent years, it had faced strong headwinds: the entire rail industry was undergoing a wholesale transformation; a dynamic new CEO had taken the helm but tragically died months later; and operational changes and subsequent restructuring had shaken and reshaped the company’s workforce across its 23-state footprint. At the same time, while the company had a solid history of giving back, its programs and nonprofit partners were disparate and not connected to the brand or aligned with the business, leaving employees and stakeholders unclear on what they company truly stood for.
The opportunity: CSX was determined to emerge from this transition period stronger. It was the perfect time to renew its commitment to community investment. CSX embarked on a journey to create a unifying, companywide social impact initiative that would act as a central rallying point and purpose for employees, while enabling CSX to simultaneously reunite corporate culture, reinvigorate the brand, and renew relationships with local communities, boosting its license to operate in key markets.
In selecting an area of impact, the team uncovered several key insights:
- Approximately one in five CSX employees had served in the military in some capacity
- The company employed its own police force, making relationships with local first responders critically important
- Its headquarters, Jacksonville, FL, as well as much of its rail network was in close proximity to military bases and areas highly concentrated with military families.
As a case was building for a cause-focused on “serving those who serve,” the team also turned to employees, surveying them on personal passions as well as how they would like to see their company make an impact. Employees responded that supporting veterans, military, and first responders were among the issues of greatest interest.
The solution: Given this unique marriage of employee passion, geographic opportunity, and business interest, the company created CSX Pride in Service: an employee-led initiative to honor and serve those who serve our country and our communities—our nation’s veterans, active military, and first responders. In developing Pride in Service, CSX set three core objectives:
1. Positively impact military, veterans, first responders and their families in communities where CSX operates, connecting heroes and families with resources and support CSX Business Objectives
To meet this first object, CSX partnered with Blue Star Families to establish new Chapters in CSX key markets Jacksonville, Baltimore, Chicago, and Nashville. The Chapters connected military and civilian families through year-round engagements including outdoor recreation, reading programs, cultural activities, and career development.
In partnership with Operation Gratitude (OG), the company hosted large-scale packing events, engaging both CSX and community volunteers, to pack pouches signifying their gratitude to community heroes while forging important bonds between CSX and local police and fire departments in CSX service territories.
Together with partner First Responder Children’s Foundation (FRCF), CSX launched a scholarship for children of fallen or injured first responders available across the CSX footprint.
Also in partnership with OH and the FRCF, CSX gave critical financial assistance to families, including military and first responders experiencing times of great need. The partners also provided back-to-school supplies and new baby gifts to military families through Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigades and Star-Spangled Baby Showers to ensure these momentous transitions could be joyful rather than stressful.
In addition, CSX Pride in Service became the founding sponsor of the Wounded Warrior Project’s Carry Forward 5Ks in Jacksonville and Nashville – an innovative peer-to-peer fundraising event in which participants carry with them a weight of their choosing – be it a flag, a dumbbell or another even another person.
2. Boost employee engagement and forge unified corporate culture, starting in HQ and hub markets
To meet this next objective, CSX employees who served were first to receive OG packages through the program.
Each new CSX BSF new Chapter launch was inaugurated with a family fun day – a bicycle build in Jacksonville; a visit to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore; a zoo scavenger hunt in Nashville; and a “Boo at the Zoo” costume party in Chicago. CSX families and military families came together to celebrate and connect. For CSX, these events served as a much-anticipated revival of the CSX family fun days that had existed before the transformation. Reincarnating these events as part of Pride in Service breathed new passion and purpose into the experience.
Hundreds of CSX employees in each hub market rolled up their sleeves through on-site volunteer and fundraising events. Year-round, employees wrote personal thank you letters to those who served.
CSX created an always-On Volunteer Hub online and regularly posted new volunteer opportunities and relevant employee profiles. In addition, CSX utilized the full range of online (e.g., social, email intranet) and offline (e.g., video displays, flyers, posters, team meetings) channels, to create compelling content to introduce CSX office and field employees to Pride in Service and help them find avenues for engagement.
3. Gain awareness for CSX Pride in Service among key audiences, particularly local communities of operation
To meet this final objective, CSX celebrated the launch of ‘Pride in Service’ on the eve of Veterans Day Weekend 2018, with a patriotic ceremony in the lobby of CSX’s Jacksonville HQ, bringing together all five nonprofit partners with service community, local leaders, local and military-focused media.
As part of the development, launch, and execution of the CSX BSF Chapters, CSX held engagement events with community influencers and local service members, forging and reinforcing important long-term relationships. All local activations included local leaders, policymakers, police and fire chiefs, to make critical connections with CSX’s own special agents and government affairs leads.
CSX integrated Pride in Service into customer events through both communications and volunteer opportunities, demonstrating the program’s centrality to CSX’s strategy.
CSX also sponsored and conducted outreach around service events in key markets, including the Jacksonville Veterans Day Parade, the USO Military Appreciation Night, and the Jaguars Military Appreciation Game.
As a result, CSX reached 100% of its employees with Pride in Service messaging and received overwhelming positive support.
The company also reached 1.2K employee participants through volunteer and family fun events, translating to nearly 5K hours, sparking 2,000 letters of gratitude written by CSXers.
In a survey following a Pride in Service event, 95% of employee volunteers said they would participate in a future Pride in Service event and that they would recommend the experience to others.
The effort supported more than 90,000 military, veterans, first responders and family members – nearly reaching the 2020 goal a year ahead of schedule!
The company donated nearly $3M in one year to 5 nonprofits and directly benefitted military and first responder families in 23 states and benefitted service families nationwide through event sponsorships and resources.
CSX funding helped to provided grants to 1,500 military families and 28 children of fallen/injured first responders and gifted 1M+ items to 45K+ first responders, military, expecting moms, and military family school children.