State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Citi’s Sustainability Strategy

By Chandler Precht


Citi has made great strides in its sustainability practices since first engaging in environmental activities over fifteen years ago—from joining the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative in 1997 to co-developing and launching the Equator Principles in 2003. Most recently in 2015, Citi announced a new environmental finance goal to lend, invest and facilitate $100 billion over 10 years towards activities focused on environmental solutions and reducing the impacts of climate change globally.

Davida Heller, the assistant vice president for corporate sustainability at Citi, described the company’s efforts Oct. 16 at the first of three speaker events this semester presented by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development.


Davida explained that Citi’s Corporate Sustainability unit develops Citi’s company-wide sustainability strategy, support Citi’s efforts in sustainability across the business and engages with external stakeholders and non-profit organizations on sustainability-related topics. Citi recently launched a five-year sustainability strategy that focuses on activities under three key pillars – environmental finance, environmental and social risk management and operations & supply chain. Citi’s strategy is forward-looking rather than reflective on previous activity and accomplishments.

Heller’s work at Citi centers on supporting the development and management of Citi’s global sustainability initiatives, including the bank’s sustainability strategy and goal setting. She maintains ongoing dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders on Citi’s sustainability activities and related issues. She also leads on Citi’s environmental employee engagement, which includes initiatives such as the Global Green Team Network and Earth Week efforts worldwide.

Heller, an Earth Institute alumna, urged students to not limit themselves by only looking for jobs with “sustainability” in the title, but to find ways to use their individual skillsets to promote sustainability from any position.

Heller’s own professional trajectory has been anything but ordinary. She was a film executive in Los Angeles before deciding to transition to a career in the environmental field, which had always been a passion. After working as a sustainability consultant in Los Angeles, she moved back to New York and pursued a graduate degree in the M.S. in Sustainability Management program at the Earth Institute, where she was one of the first class of students to go through the program..

She discussed her personal path from LA to NY and the importance of a strong network, developing key relationships with people and taking advantage of professional opportunities as they present themselves. While in the master’s program, Heller worked at the Earth Institute managing corporate relations and oversaw professional development for the Institute’s sustainability-focused education programs. She also interned with Citi during her final semester in the program.

After she graduated from the program, Heller joined the Climate Group, a non-profit organization, as head of member engagement, working with Fortune 500 companies on greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives. When an opportunity arose at Citi, she jumped at the opportunity to work with the sustainability unit full-time.

To learn more about corporate sustainability at Citi, visit their website. The seminar was part of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development’s regularly scheduled speaker series for the 2015 fall semester. For a list of upcoming speakers, visit the Events section of our website. The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development hosts these Speaker Series events, but all undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia and affiliated schools are invited to attend.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding in the interaction between natural and social systems, offered through The Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the sustainable development major and special concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.

To learn more about the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, visit our website or contact Program Manager Jessica Sotomayor at

Chandler Precht is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute. She is an undergraduate student at Barnard College.

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