Six Trends in the Sustainability Jobs Market

by Shannon Houde

It is always refreshing to read white papers and see how companies, such as Acre Resources, research the market to give job seekers a bit of insight.  Acre’s findings about the top sustainability roles since 2005 highlights a few of the latest trends.

1. Increase in senior level sustainability roles.

In the last seven years the number of FTSE100 companies employing sustainability executives at Board level or one position below has increased more than four-fold.  This results in 20% of UK’s largest listed companies showing their commitment and top-down buy-in to this ever more important agenda.  But this also shows that 80% of the FTSE100 still don’t see this as a top led agenda which depresses me.

2. Increase in high-profile sustainability initiatives.

Some leading consumer-facing companies saw the opportunity of launching leading-edge sustainability initiatives more than five years ago.  Companies such as Unilever, O2, Sky and Kingfisher have been leading the way as they have staffed up managers to implement these programmes.


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3. Investors are asking questions.

Investors and shareholders are more and more asking for sustainability credentials when sizing up a company, partnership or investment.  This requires companies to respond with rigorous measurement and evaluation of impact of their programmes.

4. Good talent want good policies and values.

The war for talent is showing that strong sustainability practitioners and consultants are requiring that companies take sustainability seriously.  This has been one of the “carrots” that sustainability proponents have used for years.  But just as we are not seeing a big shift in consumer behaviour, I am not convinced that, when push comes to shove, candidates are making this criteria a bigger priority than salary or work environment.

5. Companies are hiring.

Acre has seen a 40% increase in its annual fee income which shows us that the mandates from companies wanting to fill roles is up.  This could be caused by an increase in roles, or perhaps that internal recruitment teams don’t have the reach or network to find sustainability specialists or technical experts.   Andy Cartland of Acre says that he thinks “new jobs will be created in the supply chains of these larger companies” as sustainability becomes more embedded in operational roles, “a cascade effect” driven by the wider sustainability agenda.

6. Up the ladder, up the pay.

The sneak peak at the results from the Acre bi-annual salary survey show that sustainability practitioners are seeing their total comp packages improve as they have been climbing the ladder over the past five years and are now in more senior roles.  So is it that the pay is increasing, or that, with the volume of the senior roles rising, the salaries do too?

Let me know your thoughts on where you think the sustainability talent agenda is moving.


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