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Accelerating progress in social and environmental sustainability

Valerie Smith

Head of Corporate Sustainability, Citi

Where are They Now?

In the early 2000s amidst 9/11 and the dot-com bubble, Valerie Smith took a huge risk when she turned down the stability of a full-time job with a big name firm in pursuit of a more purpose-driven role. The possibility of unemployment did not deter her as she knew that she would persist until she could find a job that would truly be fulfilling for her. That job would be working in sustainability.
Upon graduation from Kenan-Flagler, she worked for the Kenan Institute for 6 months as a consultant before moving to Houston, Texas for her then-boyfriend’s (now husband) job. Initially, she worked at a non-profit research institution until one day her fiancé uncovered a job posting at Citi that he shared with her. Val knew this was exactly the type of job she wanted. At this point in time, Citi was one of the few companies in the private sector focusing on sustainable growth.  Val leveraged every possible connection she could think of to prepare for the interview process – reaching out to Kenan-Flagler colleagues who had gone on to do investment banking with Citi as well as professors who had done consulting for them. Her passion and desire for the role stood out and an interview and flight to New York City were offered.  Now, she’s been with the company for 14 years and cannot imagine herself anywhere else.
As head of Corporate Sustainability, Valeria focuses on the company’s overarching sustainability strategy regarding environmental finance, environmental and social risk, and their operations & supply chain. She is in charge of driving certain initiatives, monitoring progress against those goals, and then communicating the goals to the greater company.

Life Moments

“I had decided to get an MBA because I wanted something that would be a differentiator for me among my peers in the non-profit sector. In the early 2000s, I had no idea I would go into the private sector”
“Moving to New York City was one of the most exciting times in my life. I started working in July, got married in November, and found out I was pregnant in February!”