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  • David MacNeil

Social Positioning Analysis #3: Canadian National Railway

Updated: May 27, 2022

David MacNeil, Marketing Officer

CN Rail employs a team of approximately 24,000 railroaders and transports more than $250 billion worth of goods annually for a wide range of business sectors across Canada, solidifying the company as one of the backbones of the Canadian economy. CN Rail is responsible for moving goods across a rail network of approximately 20,000 route-miles across Canada and mid-America.

CN Rail

Canadian National Railway Company is a Canadian transportation and logistics company and is one of the largest in the industry on an international scale. It has over 80 distribution centres across North America and transports an estimated 1,500,000 freight containers each year.

With transportation being the primary function of CN Rail, prioritizing environmental sustainability is one of the company’s key focuses. As stated on the company website, to remain successful the belief is that it must be proactive in mitigating the impact of its carbon footprint by consistently finding ways to improve the operating efficiency of the locomotives used by CN Rail.

CNR actively uses social media to provide updates to the public on news, events, and investments that are relevant to the company. Additionally, its social media outlets are often used to promote sponsorships or charitable partnerships that CNR is involved with to communicate the ways that they are giving back to communities across North America.

Hiring diverse teams is important to CNR, and it tries to be inclusive and representative across all levels of the company, stating that this allows for a better understanding of the needs of all its stakeholders.

In 2019, CNR had its Moving Celebration, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the company. Throughout the year it highlighted its contributions to Canadian Heritage, its impact on the economy through job creation, and what revenues are generated both directly and indirectly from shipments.

Canadian National Railway suffers from Protests and Blockages

CN Rail has been no stranger to public criticism as of late after their decision to lay off approximately 450 workers in Eastern Canada made headlines across the country. CNR claims that these layoffs occurred as a result of railway blockages due to the recent protests against Coastal Gaslink, a company responsible for approximately 670km of pipeline across British Columbia to transport natural gas. However, many believe that CNR is using this situation as an excuse to lay off workers that they had already planned to get rid of months earlier.

Complaints were made in the past about CN Rail using First Nations land to lay railroad tracks, and now Coastal Gaslink is in a similar situation finding themselves under fire for wanting to run their pipeline through Wet’suwet’en land – a First Nations Community in British Columbia.

It originally appeared that some of Wet’suwet’en’s Hereditary Chiefs were against the pipeline, stating that the company had no authority to implement the project in these areas. However, on Sunday March 1st, Wet’suwet’en Chiefs and senior government ministers came to a proposed arrangement for the project, the details of which have not yet been announced to the public.

Despite this proposed agreement, these protests have already had a trickledown effect which has impacted CNR. Many have taken to social media to voice their displeasure with the decision to lay off the 450 Canadian workers.

At Orenda, we were interested in evaluating how these decisions and social media conversations have impacted CNR’s social positioning scores. As shown in the graph below, we have observed that CNR has suffered a steady decline in all 8 areas of our framework. While the company has started to recover slightly over the last few days, the damage appears to be done.

We see an extremely significant drop in social positioning scores between the dates of February 11 – February 13, which is the same time that the news of the blockades began to heat up.

These events remain to be a hot story across Canada, and it should be interesting to see how Canadian National Railway continues to address the situation. The details of this proposed arrangement between the government and Wet’suwet’en Chiefs will be critical in determining if these railway blockages will continue and if more jobs will be affected. If no resolution is found in the coming days, we expect that CNR’s social positioning scores will remain on the lower end of the spectrum – an undesirable position for any company.

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