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25th July 2012


7 Ways to Maximise Your Salary in a CSR or Sustainability Job

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On a daily basis, I am working with a diverse array of top-notch jobseekers. The main thing they’ve got in common? The desire to find a values-based career that pays decent money.

Judging by my own experience as a sustainability and CSR career advisor, I’m certain that a job that combines both environmental and social responsibility with a good salary isn’t too much to ask for.

And the research agrees. According to Acre Resources’ recently released bi-annual salary survey, sustainability is getting a more prominent seat at the boardroom table.  The report itself peeks into every corner of the sustainability sector, revealing the details on salaries, job function, job satisfaction, education, and more, and providing an invaluable resource for employees and jobseekers alike. We enjoyed the launch event last week along with survey partners including the sustainability consultancy, Acona, CSR communications agency Flag and global CSR B2B news service, Ethical Performance, who were all there to roll out this exciting new report.

The good news is that the overall average salary was up 14% from £49,600 in 2009 to £56,350 in 2012.

So, in response to this, today’s blog is asking, “How can CSR and sustainability professionals maximise their salaries?”

To answer this question, I’ve digested the detail from this year’s survey and come up with seven evidence-based tips to give your pay packet a boost in the CSR and sustainability sector.

1. Be a Man

The gender balance data was disappointing for women in this year’s survey, if not a bit contradictory, since achieving gender equality is often a goal of company CR programmes. But despite this aim, women are finding themselves concentrated outside of the best-paying, senior roles: according to the survey, the average salaries for men and women were £67k and £57k respectively. This gap is more than in other sectors, even those that don’t have a gender equality focus to their function, such as financial services. What’s more, while female employees remain a majority in the CSR workforce, we nonetheless see that there has been a decline in their dominance, down 4 points to 52% over the last two years.

2. Go In-House

Consultants are paid on average £9k less than their in-house counterparts, which is similar to the gap we saw in 2010. This is the case across all regions. If you compare total remuneration including bonuses, 5% of in-house employees earn more £180k or more compared to 2% of consultants in the same bracket. The roles, however, are very different: in-house staff must gain internal buy-in and implement strategies, whereas consultants are under pressure to build new and retain existing business, often stepping away before the implementation stage of a programme or project.

3. Work for a Big Company

The highest in-house salaries are concentrated in the largest companies (by number of employees). These practitioners also reported having the biggest budgets. But it’s important to consider the pros and cons offered by big companies before launching your career strategy to reach for the FTSE. Big brands offer a great name (and experience) for the CV as well as the HR structures, but you may still depend on your small team of colleagues for your personal happiness and job satisfaction. Also, the competition to get into a FTSE company will be greater, as will be their negative and – potentially – positive impacts.

4. Build your Strategy Skills

When Acre looked at the tasks and function of practitioners and consultants, they found that strategy development and implementation was at the top of the list for both. In-house roles focused on the environment second, and thirdly on community investment, while consultants did more technical tasks in auditing/assurance and carbon/energy management. These lists are very useful to career-changers wanting to translate skills and highlight the sustainability issues that they are knowledgeable about.

5. Get a Degree

This sector is known for having well educated professionals in its mix – nearly 88% of respondents have a degree or postgraduate qualification. This is a slight increase on last year, with 55% having a Master’s/doctorate and 13% with MBAs. Getting back into education can be a good investment in terms of building knowledge and networks, but it will not “get you a job” in this sector. Work experience will. So if you decide to take on the opportunity cost of a further degree, leverage your opportunities to do real projects for real companies, either as part of a course or pro-bono during your studies. And reach out to your network of alums that have already landed their dream job. But remember, networking is give and take, so always find something that you can do for them too.

6. Work in Industrials or Natural Resources sectors

If you’re ready to put on your hard hat then this may be your chance. The 2010 survey showed the Construction, Property and Technology sectors in terms of the highest pay, but this year, the Industrials and Natural Resources industries have moved into the top-paid positions with average salaries at £93k and £95k respectively.

7. Work in Rest of Europe, not the UK

The UK is actually at the bottom of the CR regions’ pay league. The Rest of Europe overtook North America as the highest-paid region, with average (mean) earnings of £69k, compared to £56k in the UK. I’m not sure that the money is reason enough for the Brit-based among us to quit our jobs and move elsewhere, but the weather certainly is!

Thanks for reading and good luck “making it rich” while living your values

About Shannon: Shannon Houde, MBA, has coached, hired and trained CR professionals for more than 10 years. She has worked with sustainability professionals at all levels – from recent graduates to senior management to help them drive their career forward. To find out more about her Career Coaching services, follow this link.

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