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How much you can earn in sustainability and environmental roles

Specialist salary survey for sustainability and environment has some surprises

Exclusive: If women are still being underpaid in sectors of the economy it’s not showing up in sustainability and environmental roles.

According to the inaugural Environment and Sustainability Remuneration Report by Talent Nation, which claims it’s the first specialist report of its kind in Australia and was based on a survey of around 200 companies, women are not only on a par with men in salary terms but generally outperform them.

The bias shows through in most of the senior roles surveyed.

This goes from the lowest senior role of sustainability adviser where women are paid very close to $100,000 and male salaries linger at $92,690. At the senior sustainability manager level, employees earn $154,454 if they’re a woman and $151,498 if they are men.

And even at the very top of the tree, salaries for heads of sustainability fall the same way: $316,003 for women; $308,887 for men. It’s only in the mid range job of sustainability manager that men outperform women on the payscale: $184,122 for men and $179,179 for women.

Average total package

Sustainability Advisor97,226
Senior Sustainability Advisor153,544
Sustainability Manager178,835
Head of Sustainability314,159
Environment Advisor103,068
Senior Environment Advisor151,999
Environment Manager186,662
Head of Environment255,317

Is this revolutionary? Probably.

According to managing director of Talent Nation Richard Evans you can pin much of this down to the relative newness of these professions and at least in property, their early dominance by women.

In engineering, for instance, where men are more deeply entrenched, payscales are likewise deeply skewed in their favour.

Also surprising were the salaries being paid at the top of the sustainability tree.

Mr Evans said sustainability and environmental roles had slowly evolved over the past decade from operational and reporting to strategic.

Gender remuneration data

RoleTotal RemunerationRatio
FemalesMales
Sustainability Advisor99,34292,6904:1 females:males
Senior Sustainability Advisor154,454151,4982:1 females:males
Sustainability Manager179,179184,1222:1 females:males
Head of Sustainability316,003308,887Slightly more males
Environment Advisor105,202100,713Even split
Senior Environment Advisor154,526148,642Even split
Environment Manager186,470188,0252:1 males;females

But what had shifted far more rapidly was the sense of importance of sustainability and environment roles, particularly in the finance and so-called extractive or mining industries.

These outperform all other sectors in the survey.

“What is rapidly shifting is the sense of movement generated by investors, the TCFD [Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures] and responsible investment,” Mr Evans said.

“It’s becoming more prevalent and it’s bringing sustainability into the boardroom.

“You are seeing things change.”

Today’s sustainability leader needs to be able to brief the boardroom and the investors. “They have to speak their language”, Evans says.

“If look at the financial sector the remuneration is really strong.”

The higher salaries are not so much in the fixed component but in the incentives being paid, which rely on a mix of personal and company performance.

But the higher salaries are also because of a change in status.

“These roles are being pushed higher up the organisation so they fall into a different bonus pool.”

Industry sectors doing more than others

Among the various sectors, property is not at the top.

“Property salaries are not as high as I thought they would be, they’re around the mid point,” Mr Evans said.

“They’re not the highest but also not the lowest. It depends on the role and where it sits.”

At the top are the finance and extractive industries and at the lowest level are government, education and not-for-profit sectors.

So, about the male female divide on salaries?

Mr Evans said the gender split is more even than in other industries especially compared with traditionally male dominated sectors.

Partly it’s about the relative newness of the profession and he agrees that there were more women than men present in its early development.

“Definitely within the property space it was more dominated by women.

“You don’t have the historical baggage that you do if you look at engineering for instance. It’s an emerging field; it’s been a lot more balanced.

“In other areas that have been male dominated for years, for a female to get ahead they’ve had to work really hard.”

Mr Evans said his company had spent several months on the work.

It came in response to the lack of reliable information in the market relating to sustainability and environment roles, mainly because of the “fragmented nature” of information about where these roles sit within an organisation.

Obtaining good quality data on salaries was essential to building strong and stable teams, he said.

Organisations need to have “skilled, motivated and purpose-driven people onboard,” he said.

“To attract and retain this talent, it stands to reason that a competitive salary package must be offered, in line with what the candidate could receive from competing organisations.”

The survey covers roles such as advisor, senior advisor, manager and head of department level across environment and sustainability, in Australia and New Zealand.

The respondents have matched their positions against the position descriptions contained within the report, to give an accurate representation of the salaries across environment and sustainability, he said.

In the past knowledge around what these salaries were, and how they are structured, has been limited because they have been benchmarked against unrelated disciplines.

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