6 ways to get rich while doing meaningful work

by Shannon Houde

By Charlotte Cawthorne

Every day I work with current and future sustainability leaders to help them re-position their personal branding and land their dream job.  These highly intelligent, inspirational, values-driven people want to find and secure their niche in the impact sector that not only chimes loudest with their values but also pays them decent money.

I’m often asked by people -“Are my salary expectations too high?” – and I’m happy to report that they’re not according to Acre Resources’ bi-annual salary survey – based on their research into every corner of the sector, salaries for sustainability professionals are higher than ever. We enjoyed their launch event last week with key insights from panelists Andrew Cartland, Paul Burke, Beth Knight, Natalie Cramp and Sophie Walker.


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The good news is that the average salary is up 4% from £55,071 in 2014 to £57,350 in 2016, but to achieve a top salary in 2016, here are a few tips:

1 Cancel your sex change

Sadly, there’s still a big gap in remuneration between men and women but the latest figures show that since 2014 the average salary for women in the UK increased by 8% compared to 3% for men so the trend is moving in the right direction.  There’s still a lot more progress to make before we can celebrate pay equality because men on average earn £11K more than women in the UK and £12.3K more across the sustainability sector globally. There’s still a disparity in job functions too, with health & safety still dominated by men and community activities dominated by women. Furthermore, the in-house CR Directors of large companies are still more likely to be male than female.



2 Go In-House

As always, figures show that remuneration is higher if you work in-house than as a consultant.  The global gap in pay between these two roles continues to increase from an average difference of £9K last time to around £10K now (difference in the UK is around £5K).   52% of consultants reported earning salaries of less than £50K compared to 44% of those working in-house.

3 Brush off your stakeholder engagement skills

Stakeholder engagement went off the radar a bit for a few years but it’s now recognized again as an essential skill for sustainability professionals, particularly for in-house roles. Stakeholder engagement came top, for both in-house roles and consultants, as the soft skill most sought after by employers in the sector.

4 Get a Masters Degree

93% of respondents this year had a first degree and 63% had a master’s degree or doctorate, up from 60% in 2014. But while a postgraduate qualification will position you well against the stiff competition for jobs, it doesn’t guarantee that you will land your dream job, especially if your CV lacks real and relevant work experience.

5 Work in Telecoms

For all you blog lovers and phone addicts out there, your time to start earning the big bucks has arrived.  With the crash in commodity prices, the Natural Resource industry’s average highest salaries have fallen by around 10% to £91.5K.  This sector lost its place at the top of the salary league table to the Telecoms sector, which achieved a 21% increase in salaries between 2014-16 to an average of £94K. The Industrial sector also saw an increase in average salaries of 10%.  The number of respondents from these industries was low though, so don’t take this as fact.

6 Move to California

Despite all the wonderful reasons to live in our green and pleasant land, the survey tells us that the highest earning corporate responsibility jobs is not one of the reasons to stay.  Yet again those working in North America benefit from the highest pay. Also the vast majority of those earning salaries in excess of £140,000 work in-house for major companies based in mainland Europe and North America.

By Charlotte Cawthorne

Photo by PublicDomainPictures, via Pixabay


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