Is ESG a Good Career Path?
Who cares wins in the modern corporate battlefield, where it is no longer enough for businesses to report on financial metrics alone. Today’s ethically conscious society demands a fresh corporate philosophy that drives sustainable growth and future-proofs against the risks of climate change. This clamour for products and services that put people and the planet ahead of profits has prompted a corporate commitment to invest in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues – from CO2 reductions to anti-corruption.
Businesses have reacted to the momentum behind this sustainable investment movement: more than 90% of S&P 500 companies now publish ESG reports in some form, as do around 70% of Russell 1000 companies. It’s not just businesses, stakeholders and the environment that are benefitting from this contemporary criteria; a realisation that it’s a corporate priority has seen an explosion in the number and variety of ESG roles available to job seekers.
A record 35,000 British job vacancies centred around ESG were created in 2021 – and this pace is expected to accelerate. Take PwC for example, which has announced a $12 billion plan to develop 100,000 new jobs – a third of its total workforce – in ESG by 2026. PwC’s main competitors – Deloitte, EY, and KPMG – are also boosting their ESG intake, albeit at a slower rate.
This high demand for ESG analysts, ESG strategists and other ESG professionals is playing out against a backdrop of chronic labour shortages – great news for anyone with the skills required to fill this plethora of positions. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics in January showed there are 1.2 million unemployed people in Britain, leading to an unemployment rate of just 3.7% – but that’s only half of the story. Labour shortages are being exacerbated by a surge in the number of people classed as "economically inactive": those not looking for jobs and not available for work – a post-pandemic trend that has been unique to the UK.
What does this mean for salaries in the sector? It’s good news for ESG job seekers amid a hiring spree that’s enabling them to leverage labour shortages by demanding larger pay packages. Take the apex of the ESG jobs market, where a battle is being waged over top-flight talent, with sought-after professionals commanding eyewatering salaries. In the financial services sector, for example, heads of ESG at asset managers can expect base salaries of at least £150,000, with some firms offering candidates total compensation packages of up to £500,000 for global positions.
What does the future hold?
If we gaze further into the future, it’s clear to see that a career path in ESG will be a dynamic and rewarding one. This is a burgeoning sector that businesses must take seriously or they will face a backlash – from reputational damage and investor apathy to disenfranchised employees. According to a PwC report – ‘Beyond compliance: Consumers and employees want business to do more on ESG’ – 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.
Businesses can’t be seen to be resting on their laurels around such emotive issues as climate change, anti-corruption, and diversity in the workforce. Therefore, ESG professionals will find themselves working in a well-funded and well-respected field, in which there is scope to make a real difference – both to the business or organisation they work for and to society and the environment.
ESG isn’t yet another hollow corporate acronym that’s spouted by senior executives who want to sound current; it’s an essential element of a business’s strategy for planning, growth, and development – and you could be at the forefront of this essential ethical journey.