Demand for sustainability specialists drives salaries upward | FSS 

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The average salary for heads of environment in Australia has jumped to more than $300,000, with potential average salaries crossing $360,000, according to data from Talent Nation.

Specialist recruitment firm Talent Nation has released its FY22 Environment and sustainability remuneration report, which aims to provide a benchmark for employers and staff working in the environment and sustainability sector.

The report found that organisations in the mining and minerals sector continue to have the highest rates of pay in terms of fixed remuneration, and short and long term incentives, with the average salary for heads of environment and heads of sustainability at $259,560. Financial services and banking were the second highest sector, at $217,520, while the government, education, healthcare and NFP sector paying the least, at $167,120.

Historically, environmental and sustainability positions in mining and minerals have been the highest paid, but Talent Nation managing director Richard Evans noted the strong growth in financial services salaries.

“We are seeing an upward trajectory in the financial services because of the increased focus of investors,” Evans said. “These roles are more strategic, less about compliance obligations and more about how does it align to the overarching biz strategy?

“We’re seeing announcements that sustainability roles and VC firms and private equity firms, so I think the number of roles that are being created certainly mean that the financial services sector is punching above its weight in those roles.”

Heads of environment tend to have higher remuneration than heads of sustainability. Heads of environment saw a large jump in average total remuneration – in FY2022, the average actual total remuneration was $313,690, compared to $255,317 in 2020.

Interestingly, the report found a slight reduction in total remuneration for heads of sustainability for FY22, at $309,990, compared to $314,159 in FY20, the last year that the report was published.

Evans says he expects increased pressure on salaries going forward.

“There is a real shortage of talent and a war for talent and employers making sure they’re looking after people,” Evans said. “The next survey will show that salaries are definitely on the increase.”
Evans noted that not only are salaries in sustainability and the environment increasing, people are being promoted into roles more quickly than in the past.

“Rather than having years of experience, employers are looking at the relevant experience,” he said. “Even if you have only a couple of years’ experience, but you’ve worked on net zero strategies and climate risk, you’re in demand.”

The 2022 data showed a disparity in the gender gap, which found that women on average were paid 8% less fixed remuneration than male counterparts across the sample – average total remuneration for men is $309.360, against $286,000 for women.

“We’re pretty disappointed with the gender gap,” Evans said. “Certainly, from the new hiring that we’re doing, we don’t see that at all, so there’s obviously some legacy issues there that we’re still needing to cover off.

“Certainly, there is something that is front of mind of organisations, ensuring that there aren’t gender pay gaps with any new recruits and trying to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process as well.”

However, the survey found that in roles such as head of environment, women are paid equally and, in some cases, more than male counterparts, the survey found.

In terms of representation, women were more likely to hold junior positions such as sustainability advisor (63%) and consultant (60%) while men dominated senior positions such as director (consulting) (68%) and head of environment (71%).


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