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Olivia Walsh: What it really means to work in Environmental, Social, & Governance

Climate Change is real, you better believe it. I am Olivia Walsh, a double major in Environmental Science and Business at NC State. I am currently participating in an internship at Ally Financial on the Environmental Sustainability risk team. Ally is a completely online bank that is known for financing vehicles. In my role, I am working with others on my team to help Ally mitigate climate change’s effects and calculate emissions in an attempt to bring the Environmental section of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) together in preparation for the SEC regulations in October.  The SEC is the Security and Exchange Commission, a government agency that creates regulations required for businesses to follow. We are not sure what these regulations will be, but expect the regulations to change the way we look at sustainability in the banking industry. My internship focuses on 5 projects: CDP, Peer Analysis, Waste Diversion, Power Bi, and Green Teams. One of my first projects was to input feedback into the CDP response. CDP, the carbon disclosure project, is a voluntary questionnaire corporations can fill out to show investors their transparency with emission factors. Ally has been publishing since 2021, which is much later than their peers started. I have been researching how other companies answer questions in their CDP response and how Ally could improve from them. Another major project I am working on is how to centralize waste at Ally. We are removing every personal trash can from employees’ desks and creating 5 centralized trash, compost, and recycling locations on each floor. So far this has improved landfill diversion rates significantly and reduced the use of thousands of plastic trash bags. Landfill diversion is taking what would normally be thrown into the landfill and moving it into compost and recycling. The goal is to educate employees on how to properly dispose of waste. I was fortunate enough to be able to sort one floors trash before hosting a lunch and learn. This allowed my colleague and I do identify common items misplaced in certain bins and educate employees on that. In order to do so I have hosted a breakfast and a lunch and learn. These are great ways to educate people without throwing too much information at them. It has been very successful with employees and people are less afraid to ask questions. We have also seen that after these lunch and learns take place the diversion rates go up! This has been my favorite thing I have done at Ally and who else can say that they sorted through trash during their internship?

Sorting trash on the Service level

At Ally, I have learned how to use Power Bi, a Microsoft software I use to create a dashboard for my team. I have done this to help organize data in relation to Green Teams. This is a team at Ally that focuses on environmental volunteer opportunities and how to improve the corporate social responsibility section of Ally. For the dashboard I have created images displaying which states volunteers are located, the top community partners Ally has worked with, and the donation amount Ally has matched per organization. Working with Green Teams I have volunteered at Envision Charlotte, where Ally sponsors their bee hives. This company is a nonprofit organization focusing on a circular economy. A circular economy is where anything that is produced has an end life that goes back into our environment so nothing is wasted. I am also responsible for planning a volunteer event with the marketing team and Green Teams. This will occur in late July and we will be taking old T-shirts and recycling them into dog toys for the animal shelter. I am also taking this as an educational opportunity to educate employees within Ally about how fast fashion is destroying the environment. It is one of the highest percentages of materials sent to landfills.

Another focus for my team is scenario analysis. Ally works with other teams in the corporation such as Mortgage Risk and Insurance. Climate change has already impacted our environment, and we need to be prepared for the impacts it may have. Scenario analysis simulates a situation that could occur and how Ally will handle it. It is essential on the insurance side for natural disasters. Ally has an office in Jacksonville, Florida. This could easily be impacted by a hurricane and Ally needs to be prepared for the impacts on the company, employees, customers financing vehicles, and customers with mortgage loans through the bank. All of these would affect the company and will cost money. This could also be an issue in the future with rising sea levels. Customers with mortgage loans that lose their homes on the coast due to rising sea levels will no longer have residual property value. This could defer customers from buying homes on the coast. Insurance needs to prepare for the possibility of people defaulting on their loans.

So far I have loved my internship. Since I was little I knew I wanted to work in the environment. My team has been super helpful along the way with any questions I may have. I have been able to work closely with the supply chain, insurance, and corporate workplace, giving me exposure to many different parts of the company. I have connected with many people including other interns and can truly say the culture at Ally is unlike any other. Not one person has said they dislike their workplace. Everyone is so kind and willing to help in any way. I can knock on anyone’s door, no matter how high up in the company. This has helped form plans in my career by solidifying I want to work in ESG. I can make a huge change in a company and reduce emissions significantly. This has allowed me to prove myself to the company and achieve a full-time role in my position. I am excited about the next step in my career and can’t wait to save the world through ESG.