Blog by Tanith Allen, Senior CR & Sustainability Consultant, Infrastructure
Last week, Acre, Flag and Carnstone had the pleasure of welcoming over 50 sustainability and corporate responsibility leaders from across a multitude of industries, at Pearson’s impressive headquarters, for the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of the CR Salary Survey.
The CR Salary Survey started as a way to support the development and growth of corporate responsibility experts and has since evolved into the definitive overview of the CR and Sustainability profession. Although the survey’s main function could be viewed in its simplest form as a quick indication of how much a sustainability professional’s role is valued against its peers, this would risk an understatement on something that provides much wider thematic insight into a multitude of factors indicating how sustainable business is evolving, including gender pay gap, the value of consultancy versus in house expertise, academics & key competencies, not just in the UK but for the first time, across our most globally diverse set of respondents.
During an informative presentation and lively panel-led Q&A discussion with the room, featuring Land Securities’ Caroline Hill and Ball Corporation’s Ramon Arratia, we caught up on how sustainability teams worldwide and their businesses attitude to the importance of their function, has evolved, perhaps devolved and where it has divested into the wider business. Acre’s own Andy Cartland chaired the presentation, while Acre’s Catherine Harris presented some surprising and perhaps some less surprising results, as discussed below.
Ramon and Caroline very neatly framed these results by contextualising based on their own broad corporate sustainability careers.
Although a gender pay gap still exists within the sector, with women earning a mean salary of £52,000 in comparison with £64,000 for men, what could be viewed as a failing could in fact be the difference in part due to – and here’s the good news – far more women being in leadership posts, but for less than a year as opposed to their male counterparts. Based on this, we would expect and hope to see the difference continue to diminish over time.
Reflecting on this and Acre’s own experiences of how the profile of the CR candidate has evolved over our 15 years in the space, “the increasing complexity of the CRS Landscape demands more – rather than less – expertise.” In addition, 72% of respondents have a postgraduate degree compared to 49% in 2007. Although relevant academics are clearly important and expected as Seniority increases, this is also now less of a differentiator, meaning that the focus on core business skills is as important as ever, in order to apply those academics and measure their commercial impact, effectively.
Specifically, the top competency identified for in-house professionals was the value of influencers over engagers. Acre has supported more and more pre-recruitment talent assessment, where clients focus on understanding and assessing the core competencies of their existing teams before recruiting positions, ensuring the right existing skills are being identified and leveraged and recruiting instead for where the behavioural gaps exist within the team. How many of your sustainability colleagues are being enabled to step up and use this exceptional skill to influence your business on the agenda?
It was exciting to see a much broader response from this region, especially considering the devolvement in commitment from the current US Administration. In spite of it, US businesses are clearly drawing parallels between their own long term material risks around resource scarcity and human capital which is helping to establish some optimistic figures around the value of CR&S; something which Acre looks forward to supporting closely through the opening of our New York office from October 2018.
Although this doesn’t immediately sound like a positive shift, Caroline linked this finding to the increased involvement of wider stakeholder groups across a business, where operational budget for sustainability has, in some cases, been integrated elsewhere in the business, whilst importantly, budget to set strategy was still owned by sustainability teams. This could certainly signify a shift to a more integrated and sustainable business model; something we know many leading corporates in the space have been working towards.
So what’s next?
2018 has been a pivotal year for sustainability within the finance sector, with Acre seeing a sharp rise in investors and asset managers hiring experienced sustainability professionals and utilising their skills towards making more sustainable investment decisions. If this isn’t enough of an indicator for those still in doubt of the clear the commercial gains of supporting a triple bottom line approach, then we may just live to witness our children commuting home down Holborn Viaduct on camel-back in a few years time – a mildly terrifying yet not completely unfeasible concept considering our very un-British Summertime weather…. Until then, stay cool and please do get in touch with any questions or to share your own observations with us