Pressure from investors has motivated Australian employers to offer generous salary packages to professionals who can help them drastically cut their carbon emissions, but they are struggling to find enough staff to fill the vacant roles.
The average salary for a Head of Environment role, responsible for an organisation’s environmental compliance, jumped 35 per cent to $360,600 over the past two years, Talent Nation’s FY22 Environment and Sustainability Remuneration report found.
Richard Evans, managing director of Talent Nation, says demand is outstripping supply.
The survey conducted by Talent Nation, a specialist recruitment firm for sustainability and environment professionals, found sustainability managers’ average salary increased 23 per cent to $233,730, followed by the head of sustainability, whose average salary package increased 9 per cent to $366,250.
The sector is one of many that is struggling to find skilled staff, with companies searching for qualified professionals to manage environmental risks and net zero targets, and ensure human rights are upheld across supply chains.
Environment and sustainability professionals in the mining and materials sector were the highest paid, with an average total salary of $259,560, the report found.
Professionals in the financial and banking and the real estate sectors followed, averaging a total salary of $217,520 and $197,220 respectively.
Talent Nation’s managing director, Richard Evans, said the demand for environmental and sustainability professionals was outstripping supply as investors placed more weight on companies’ climate strategies and social obligations.
“People have options. Historically, where there may have been one or two roles that someone is considering, at the moment they may have four or five roles that they have been approached about,” Mr Evans said.
While base salaries have increased across the sector, the size of the average total remuneration package was dampened by COVID-19. Incentive payments made up just 4.8 per cent of the average overall salary package last year, the report found.
Despite the hit on bonuses, hiring has remained strong throughout the pandemic.
“During the GFC, everyone with sustainability in their title was nervous, and rightly so,” Mr Evans said.
“During the pandemic, there were hardly any redundancies in sustainability, even in organisations that were standing down staff.”
The report also identified a gender pay gap. Women’s fixed salary was on average 8 per cent lower than their male counterparts.
Tied to strategy
Skill sets had also shifted as ESG roles had been elevated from a “nice to have” to a senior leadership position that interacts with the board and investors, Mr Evans said.
“If you look back 10 years, sustainability roles were often running volunteer or recycling programs, and they were cost centres,” he said.
“Now it is tied into the business strategy, and they are developing profit centres because this is intrinsic to the performance of the organisation.”
Salaries have also been driven higher by incumbent employers making counteroffers to retain staff.
Mr Evans expected salaries for environmental and sustainability professionals would continue to grow as companies increased their headcount.
“Where there might have been one person in a function, now they need specialists across climate, human rights and sustainable procurement,” he said.
“We’ve seen teams grow from a sustainability manager plus an analyst to having a dedicated team of half a dozen people.”