How do sustainability professionals’ salaries compare to the national average?

The average salary for UK-based sustainability professionals has fallen over the past two years after a period of overall low wage growth for the nation, a new survey has found. But, how do the industry's levels of pay, job satisfaction and gender equality compare to the national average?

The latest iteration of the biennial Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS) Salary Survey, released on Wednesday (August 1), sheds some light on the question by revealing the results of a survey of 1,277 professionals – 57% of whom live in the UK.

The survey, now in its seventh edition, found that the average salary for workers in Britain’s environment and sustainability professions had fallen from £57,000 in 2016 to £56,000 in 2018.

Nonetheless, this figure remains considerably higher than the UK average across all professions, which the Office for National Statistics puts at £27,271.

The report additionally revealed that in-house sustainability professionals in the UK earn, on average, £7,000 more than their counterparts who are employed via consultants.  

Globally, the average CSR salary rose slightly from £61,000 to £63,000 over the past two years, with every other major region including mainland Europe and North America seeing a rise in average mean salaries, the survey notes. Employees in North America were found to be the best paid in the world, with an average salary of £90,000 a year.

The survey, produced by recruitment consultancy Acre, management consultancy Carnstone and creative agency Flag, partly attributes the fall of the average UK-based CSR professional’s salary to a fall in wage inflation across the first quarter of 2018.

“As this 2018 edition of the survey notes, the CRS agenda continues to mainstream powerfully, despite political riptides,” said Volans’ chairman, John Elkington in a statement.

“The relevant activities are no longer consigned to the care of a separate function, hidden away in a remote corner of head office, or outsourced to a specialist consultancy – instead, we have witnessed the rise of a highly skilled and motivated body of practitioners committed to seeking a long-term career in the sector.”

Gender agenda

The profession has shown signs of closing the gender pay gap that has been exposed on a wider scale.

The global average difference between men and women’s earnings shrunk by 6.2% between 2016 and 2018, according to the survey. Nonetheless, men in the profession are still set to earn an average of £8,720 more than women this year.

On a national scale, the survey found that women working in CSR in the UK were found to be earning an average of £12,000 less per year than their male counterparts, taking home a mean annual salary of £51,598, compared to the £63,660 average for men.

This is roughly in line with the UK’s average gender pay gap for full-time and part-time workers, which stands at 18.4%, according to the latest Office for National Statistics figures.

Despite a disparity in pay, the survey results show that women are now in the majority in all generic CSR job categories, except for in director-level roles in consultancies. The report concludes that this mismatch between role seniority and pay levels could evidence a “major failing on the part of the sector to put its rhetoric about equality into practice”.

‘Til I can get my satisfaction

As for job satisfaction, more than seven in ten UK respondents to the survey claimed to be “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with their roles, above consultant Robert Half’s national average response of 67% and the CV-Library’s 60%.

Eight in ten of these respondents also said they felt either just as secure, or more secure, in their role than they did two years ago.

Global sustainability body IEMA’s chief executive Tim Balcon previously told edie that job satisfaction in the sector comes from the fact that bosses tend to “recognise and reward dedication and the ability to make positive change”.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie