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By Mario Wijaya
By Mario Wijaya

Unlocking Sustainability Through Analytics at SunTrust

Before taking Dr. Beril Toktay’s Fall 2016 Serve-Learn-Sustain class, Introduction to Sustainable Systems, I had little knowledge on sustainability practice. I was aware of global warming but didn’t care to learn more about it. Prior to the class, I knew how carbon emissions impacted the earth but not so much about what companies were doing to reduce their carbon emissions through sustainable business practices. After taking this class, my perspective on sustainability practice changed from recognizing the impact/harm of carbon emissions on the environment to wanting to do something about sustainability whether through company action or a campaign initiative.

This summer, I accepted a position at SunTrust as Business Analyst Intern. Several weeks before my internship started, I stumbled onto an email regarding the Co-op and Internship Carbon Reduction Challenge (CRC). I read the email and decided to give it a shot to further my understanding on sustainability practice. Little did I know, for the entire summer, I would be paired with five other SunTrust interns from Georgia Tech in order to work on CRC’s project with the company.

The project itself proved to be quite challenging. As a team, we had to come up with a sustainability topic to tackle for SunTrust. After we settled on a topic (travel reduction and travel efficiency), the team worked hard to find good solutions that could be easily implemented. As the team’s data analyst, I faced many challenges throughout a course of about eight weeks. First, the data that was provided to me came from multiple sources and included a lot of information (both useful and not). It was impossible to pre-process or clean the data by using Excel, given that there was so much data. Luckily, an undergraduate course that I had taken at Georgia Tech (CS 2316: Data Manipulation) taught Python (high-level programming language used for data cleaning, analytics, etc), which proved to be quite useful. I never imagined that Analytics could be applied in a sustainability project! Second, after the data was cleaned and the analysis was done, we looked at the assumptions with which our team had come up, and then we modeled the data to provide a solid solution and proposal. Third, the team had the opportunity to present our findings to C-Suite executives. They responded positively to our presentation and agreed to the findings. Implementation kicked off soon after.

As someone who recently knew little about sustainability, I truly value having been given the opportunity to work on the Carbon Reduction Challenge. I sincerely would like to thank Georgia Tech, SunTrust, our project sponsor at SunTrust, and my five teammates (Alex Ketchum, Anjani Agrawal, Nick Rogstad, Sam Rubin, and Will Courrèges-Clercq). Though the experience had its fair share of challenges and nerve-wracking moments, my team and I are really proud of our achievements. Though our summer internships have ended, the sustainability initiatives we put into motion will continue to make a real impact on carbon reduction.

The Challenge is funded by a grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation's NextGen Committee and the Scheller College Dean's Innovation Fund, and is an affiliated project of the Georgia Tech Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain.

Mario Wijaya is a student in Georgia Tech's MS Analytics program.